AURORA — While scanning the sculptures and various pieces of art placed around a gallery, Wells College visual arts professor Theodore "Ted" Lossowski saw the work produced by a career he had been told to avoid.

Lossowski, who has been teaching at the Aurora-based private college for decades, said his parents and guidance counselors in high school tried to steer him away from pursuing art as a career, arguing he wouldn't be able to make a living out of it. While there had been times when he wasn't making a lot of money and he wondered if his parents had been right, Lossowski stuck to his guns. He saw the collection of work around him as a reminder that he successfully followed his goal.

"I'm both proud of many of the things that I've accomplished over the past 40 years and also just excited over that fact that I'm a professional artist," Lossowski said.

An exhibit acknowledging Lossowski's career at the String Room Gallery in the Main Building on Wells' campus kicked off with a reception Sept. 6, with the gallery set to remain open until Oct. 11. A news release from the college said the gallery is in recognition of his upcoming retirement in May 2020 after 31 years as a faculty member. A total of 27 pieces spanning Lossowski's 40-plus year career are featured in the gallery.

The artist and educator, who was born and raised in Rochester and lives in Victor, said he had always enjoying working with his hands and creating things. Due to those adult influences talking him out of going into the arts, however, he tried to pursue the school of forestry at Syracuse University. He did not get into their program, he said, but opted to go to a community college with the intention of taking his core classes before transferring to Syracuse.

He went to Monroe Community College in Rochester, where he was able to to take an elective art class. He took another and then another until he "wound up majoring in it," he said. He eventually transferred to SUNY Brockport, where he received a bachelor's degree in ceramic sculpture. His background also includes a master's degree in ceramic sculpture from the Rochester Institute of Technology. 

Lossowski eventually got the opportunity to be a adjunct professor for Monroe Community College in Rochester, where he stayed for 12 years. He also taught at institutions such as SUNY Geneseo, but landed a position at Wells in 1989. One of the factors that kept Lossowski at Wells for so long is the students, he said.

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"I look forward every day that I get up to meet with my students and have intellectual exchanges with them and help mentor and guide them," Lossowski said.

Something Lossowski said he learned from teaching is that critiquing a student's work can have both positive and negative impacts on the students. Initially, he would focus on what a student's art could be improved upon. A former Wells colleague, Bill Roberts, gave him the advice to tell students what about their work they are doing right in addition to what can be improved upon. 

Many of Lossowski's works at the gallery feature doughnut shapes, often placed slightly off instead of directly on top on the piece. He said he is drawn to the shape due of the philosophical concept of a continuum, as a "circle basically never ends or stops." Another recurring pattern in his work are two posts holding up a shape, which he sees as metaphor for a doorway or "for me, a passage from one state to another." 

Lossowski plans on further pursuing his art after he retires, as he said teaching can limit the amount of art he can devote time to.

The gallery came about after Katie Waugh, associate professor of studio art and the gallery's director, "thought it would be a great idea if I went out on a high note," before retiring, and Lossowski wanted to do a retrospective gallery.

He said the gallery was "a little bit nerve-shattering" and exciting.

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.