Nash ramblers

After years of study and preparation, this year’s BFA. candidates show their stuff

Beth Nawrocki

It’s all about the students. That’s the unofficial theme surrounding the spring 2003 Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibitions at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery in Willey Hall. All of the artists’ academic endeavors, studio and darkroom work and innumerable hours of reflection on their pieces culminate in this event. The students can finally exhibit their work, and it is no easy process.

Bachelors of Fine Arts candidates must submit a portfolio for review by faculty prior to being considered for the degree program – meaning much of the journey takes place even before enrollment. Upon acceptance, students work with their advisers to help achieve their curriculum and creative goals. Once students have satisfied requirements to graduate and their advisers approve their work, they can begin the planning process to exhibit at the Nash Gallery. The exhibiting students choose their location in the gallery on a first-come, first-served basis. The real work then begins – deciding on how to use the space for their work.

Gallery director Nick Shank compares the exhibitors to performers.

“The exhibition is to the artist what a performance is to an actor,” he said. Most exhibitors know six months before the show they will be displaying. All their preparation has been directed toward this one moment.

Jessica Shimek, one of the show’s 11 artists, finished her last piece just before the show. The development of her exhibited work began, however, in the summer – evidence of the long and arduous preparation that goes into this endeavor.

The students choose their own approach and install the work themselves, truly creating their own presentation.

“These kids do very fine work. The show is the equivalent of a final paper or exam,” Shank said. “It is the last major hurdle before graduation. And for many this is the first time exhibiting.”

Artist Taylor Costello has wanted to paint since he was five years old, when he received his first set of paintbrushes. However, when he came to the University he gave up on brushes.

“Before I went to the University, I was very much into realism, but I soon came to hate to use brushes,” Costello said. His first painting class was in abstract painting. He said his professor taught him to “loosen up,” and, since that class, he has used everything but traditional tools to create his paintings. He still practices “paint on canvas,” but he now incorporates alternative chemicals into the process to achieve different effects. After graduation Costello plans to try new things to keep his art fresh. More than 90 percent of artists stop creating art for one reason or another after school, and with statistics like those it is important to keep art fresh and vital. Costello plans to secure canvas to the front of his car, drive along the interstate and immortalize the bugs. The titles of the pieces will reflect the stretch of road on which he was driving when the bugs were collected.

Each area in which the artists display their work is a showcase of their style and persistence. Most of the pieces are quite intricate, and one can easily perceive the hours put into producing them. Each artist stands close to his or her work, ready to answer questions. Their pride is obvious. It is not, however, just the artists that radiate pride. Parents, family and professors who come to the show in support of the featured 11 beam with pride also.

“These exhibitors are profoundly good,” said Curtis Hoard, a senior faculty member in ceramics. “The department is proud of these students. Their future is really bright, and graduate school calls.”

The exhibition encompasses many different mediums. Artist Brian Hurley works with a variety of print forms. Bokyung Kim, Michael Stenerson and Jessica Shimek display various media with a concentration in photography. Nicholas Schroetter, Max A. Thomas and Elissa Cox employ multiple media with emphasis on ceramics. Finally, Nick Brandt and Emily Widi use a multiplicity of materials, including wire, wood, bronze and light sources in their sculptures. Widi is showcasing “finger boxes” that encourage viewers to interact with the art by opening the boxes to expose creative uses of light such as nestling the light source within beads or a bird’s nest.

Another example of art interfacing with technology is the use of digital imaging by Jessica Shimek. The artist has been taking photographs since she was a child, a fact to which her mother emphatically attests. Shimek frames her images within windows and renders photographs open to interpretation by using varying techniques. Shimek explains that everyone sees things differently through “windows,” and each individual interprets her work differently. She admits, though, that people close to her will recognize each image as an event or situation that has touched her life.

“People that really know me and really know my life will know a story,” she said. “And the people that know me will automatically know what part of the story is being represented.”

Shimek notes that her desire to move from traditional photography, which she continues to practice occasionally, to digital photography grew from a digital imaging class she took at the University with professor Gary Hallman.

“He helped me see images differently and completely changed my perspective,” Shimek said. She hopes eventually to teach.

Most artists choose concepts that are abstract and conceptual, but artist Trudy Dubois likes to focus on the simple things. Dubois is a 66-year-old grandmother who decided to return to school because she wanted a renewed relationship with art. She enjoys working with different media, but the majority of her works chosen for exhibition are portraits of her grandchildren. Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, who found pleasure in the simple things, has influenced DuBois.

“Cassatt painted treasured memories and pictures of common daily things,” said DuBois, who also attempts to immortalize precious moments. “It is important to highlight the gifts in our lives when there is so much misery in the world.”

There is an atmosphere of energy as eager spectators take in the exhibit. Some are awestruck by the talent of the exhibitors, others don pensive looks and whisper to each other as they attempt their own interpretation of the artwork, and the exhibitors continuously move their arms and hands in explanation of their vision. The buzz in the Nash Gallery is a testament to the value and creativity each student brings to the University art department and the art world.

For Jessica Shimek, the exhibition is not the culmination of her art. She says this particular project is not completed and will require more work in the future.

“From everything I’ve learned and figured out, there’s always more to figure out,” she said. For Shimek, the Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibitions is not the end. It is a work in progress.

Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibitions through April 11, Katherine E. Nash Gallery,

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