Inside their art, inside their heads

MFA students find inspiration in taxidermy, sidewalk cracks, life

Katie Wilber

Art exhibits showcase the works of the artists, but they rarely offer insight into the artists’ inspiration.

Here four of the five Master of Fine Arts students answer questions about muses and future plans, undergraduate degrees and art forms. Consider this your guide to all that couldn’t fit on the plaques next to their works in the Nash Gallery.

Jonathan Bridges works with everything – porcelain, brass, stoneware, photography. Forget Barbie’s Dream House; his “Surreal Fantastic” looks like a photograph of the inside of Barbie’s trailer. The compromising position in which we find the two little figurines isn’t exactly how you’d want Ken and Barbie to end up.

Bridges originally is from Kansas and earned his undergraduate degree at Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y.

He works in ceramics, and he’s inspired by “everything around me in my life, like movies and media,” he said. “I can’t control it.”

As for after-graduation plans, he said he’s going to be “planting seeds and seeing what soil is correct for me.”

Eric William Carroll’s work in the exhibit ranges from sculptures and photographs to concept work. His neon “1-Hour Photo” sign belongs on a storefront, while his “This Darkroom’s Gone to Heaven” belongs in the laboratory of a mad scientist.

Carroll hails from the Twin Cities, so that’s partly why he’s here for graduate school.

He got his undergraduate degree in philosophy from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“It’s a small college sandwiched between a Purina plant and a Quaker Oats plant, so it either smelled like dog food or Crunch Berries, depending on the day,” he said. “I came to the ‘U’ because there wasn’t a dog food plant nearby.”

He’s inspired by simple things, like the way a shadow plays on a wall or when someone trips on a sidewalk crack.

He plans to tour the Midwest with his band, Tim Rally Gold, which is releasing its third record, after he graduates.

“I’ve also got a few artist residencies set up, which are a pretty sweet deal,” he said. “I get to go somewhere where they’ll put me up and just let me make art.”

At first glance, the work of Patricia McMeans seems to be just big white boards. But a closer look reveals delicate, detailed work that uses matching white beads, pearls, thread, sequins and satin.

McMeans, a Stillwater native, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film studies from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. After that, she studied sculpture at Ohio State, Virginia Commonwealth and in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“I chose to finish grad school at the ‘U’ because the art department has such a range of old and new ways of thinking,” she said.

McMeans works in whatever medium her idea or experience dictates. She’s inspired by “still moments, experiences that creep up on you out of nowhere.”

Kirsten Peterson’s enormous oil painting is an incredible combination of colors and shapes.

Although her artwork is a little loud (in a good way), she’s a little quieter when it comes to discussing her hometown.

“Don’t repeat this to anyone,” she said, “but I’m from Fargo, N.D.”

She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and enjoyed her experience there so much she wanted a similar grad school environment.

For now, she focuses on painting, printmaking and drawing. She’s inspired by many things, from the simple to the complex.

“I get inspiration from formal issues like color and composition, or even social concerns like war and global disaster,” she said. “The challenge is trying to integrate the two into a compelling image.”

Her after-graduation plans are simple – make artwork.