On Wednesday, March 12 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in Main Hall 23, three recent fine arts graduates of Wagner College will return to Grymes Hill for a discussion with current students about their lives as artists. The alumni are Robert Geronimo ’09, Sirena LaBurn ’09 and Shauna Sorensen ’10. Everyone is welcome to sit in on this conversation.
Wagner College arts alumnus Robert Geronimo ’09 is no stranger to us folks who follow Wagner media.
In 2008, Geronimo won the Art Department’s Robert Gaffney Memorial Grant, given each year to support student work in the arts at Wagner College. He used the grant to help stage an exhibition of his work the following spring, “All Their Engines,” along with fellow degree candidate Sirena LaBurn. The show consisted of 10 watercolor portraits on paper by LaBurn, nine sheets of comic-book art in pencil by Geronimo, and one oil painting on canvas by each artist.
Three years later, at the beginning of 2012, Staten Island Advance arts editor Michael Fressola profiled Geronimo and his growing exploration of comic book art in “Meet Staten Island’s Comic Book Crusader.”
Later that year, Wagner Magazine editor Laura Barlament helped Geronimo team up with fellow arts grad Colleen Venable ’02 to work up the alumni magazine’s first comic strip, “Ode to the Anchor,” about the history of our much-painted maritime landmark.
Now, Robert Geronimo is venturing into new territory of his own with his first illustrated children’s book, “Little Maia and the Coral City.”
“Little Maia” is a wordless picture book, created in the same vein as David Weisner’s “Flotsam,” Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” and Winsor McKay’s “Little Nemo & the Adventures in Slumberland.” The tale begins as Maia wakes up, scared, during a thunderstorm. The world floods, and her house is swallowed by a giant sea monster. Luckily, she finds the thriving Coral City inside the monster, full of fish-people. She is greeted by Walter, one of the city’s residents, and the pair roam Coral City together. With the help of her new friend, Maia devises a plan to return to her world.
“Robert chose a young girl as his main character, to illustrate the empowerment of girls,” said Bruce Degen, artist and co-creator of the “Magic School Bus” series.
Sirena LaBurn came to Wagner College from Port Neches, Texas, to play volleyball, but she left the team after her sophomore season. She took her first art lessons when she was 9 years old and continued taking art classes at Wagner, including an independent study course with fine arts professor Jennifer Toth.
As an arts administration student at Wagner College, LaBurn completed three internships — one at the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, a second at the Stark Museum of Art in Orange, Texas, and the third at Heart of Brooklyn, a partnership of the leading cultural institutions located near Grand Army Plaza in central Brooklyn.
In the spring of her senior year, LaBurn joined with Rob Geronimo to stage a joint exhibition, “All Their Engines,” in the Spotlight Gallery.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in arts administration, LaBurn returned to Texas as the collections catalogue assistant for the Stark Museum of Art. She subsequently moved to Germany, became fluent in the language, and spent 2 years pursuing her art there. After a short trip to the United States for the opening of her first solo exhibition in Texas, she received a generous offer to attend the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. LaBurn returned to New York City in the fall of 2012 to earn her MFA.
Shauna Sorensen is an artist who combines traditional art media with nontraditional subject matter and composition. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Wagner College in 2010, where she had a solo exhibition of new works titled, “What the @#%$ Happened?!”
“I was just really trying to explore more serious themes using humor,” Sorensen said. “It's a series of oil paintings, and I also experimented with installation display and rhinestones, which I started using last semester for the junior art show.”
Sorensen is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Hunter College in modern and contemporary art history, focusing on Asger Jorn’s early ceramics.
While her degree work proceeds, she is working as a grant writer for Brooklyn’s Open Source Gallery, a contemporary gallery focused on socially engaged artwork and accessibility. She is also a co-organizer of the Ligo Project’s “Art of Science” program. The Ligo Project is a nonprofit organization aimed at making science more accessible and increasing the rate at which scientific innovations are applied to real world problems. The Art of Science program pairs artists with scientists for a 6-month residency program where artists visit the lab and create work inspired by the research. This year, Sorensen herself is participating as an artist in the Art of Science program.”
About her current artwork, Sorensen says, “I focus on painting subjects from the natural sciences in constructed or fantastical settings. My work strives to emphasize the conflicted and often disturbing relationship that man has with nature. I think that humor is a valuable vehicle to address ideas about history, natural disasters, and violence to question the depiction of history and one’s personal experience with it.”