CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — School of Art and Design graduate students will present artwork that represents the culmination of their graduate education in an exhibition at Krannert Art Museum.
The School of Art and Design Master of Fine Arts Exhibition will feature the work of 13 MFA students in design for responsible innovation, industrial design and studio art – painting, sculpture and new media. The exhibition opens April 2 with a reception from 4-6 pm and runs through April 23.
It is the first in-person exhibition for MFA students since 2019.
“There’s no substitute for being in the museum,” said Laurie Hogin, a professor of studio art and the director of graduate studies for Art and Design who is working with the exhibiting graduate students. “The essential characteristics of so many of these works are material and related to scale, space, the architecture that frames them and the physical relationship to them in real time. There are aspects of the material qualities that can be inferred from digital images, but only have their full effect in person – the specificities of color, texture and gesture. And there’s the social aspect of how viewers relate to the works and then to each other in their presence.”
The MFA exhibition website that was created during the pandemic will continue to provide virtual access for remote attendees and archive the shows, Hogin said.
Nathan Grimes is a multidisciplinary artist and musician who uses painting and sculpture in a way that is both figurative and abstract. His recent work his is autobiographical, reconstructing his understanding of his identity his and chaotic childhood his.
Grimes created art for the exhibition using construction debris. He often resurfaces the debris by covering it with paint, adding texture and pattern, and then sanding it to reveal the layers that he’s built up underneath.
He painted or texturized 34 fragments of different sizes and attached them to an armature for “People Pleaser.” For another piece, he covered a discarded cabinet door in a pattern, painted it and hung it so it angles out from the gallery wall. Grimes attached books that have personal meaning to several of his works of art his. His work is positioned at different heights on the gallery walls, representing his height his as an adult and as a 7-year-old child.
He said his artwork reflects the fragmented and abstracted memories of those who have experienced trauma, and it tries to create an emotional understanding of them. He said the message it communicates is: “Life breaks us. What do we do with our pieces?”
Katherine Hair’s sculptural work examines the impact of humans on animals, including through climate change.
“Using animals in storytelling is accessible to a lot of different people,” Hair said. “It’s a really useful tool in talking about these difficult things we’re experiencing but sometimes have a hard time to start conversations around.”
One of her installations, “Turtle Derby; You Can’t Go Home Again,” is a group of box turtles that are wax casts in molds created from turtle shells. Hair mixed the wax with soil collected from locations around the country that hold turtle derbies, where people race turtles that they have caught. Each turtle shell includes soil from one specific site.
“The ritual of giving each wax turtle soil from a home range feels important to me. Box turtles have very specific home ranges and strong site fidelity. If you remove them, they have a really hard time adjusting,” Hair said.
She often uses coyotes in her artwork, and “Watershed” is a coyote made from concrete that appears to be trotting along the gallery ceiling, with neon string spilling from its eyes as though it is crying. “We All Live Downstream,” installed in the garden in front of KAM, features coyotes gathered around a fountain.
Sydney Vize said she is drawn to sculpture because of the transformational possibility of the silicone, foam and clay that she uses. Her work reflects the conflict in moments that are both pleasurable and distressing, and how those seemingly incompatible feelings can exist simultaneously.
“Mannequin Trio: A Male Mannequin Will Be the Death of Me” comprises three mannequins made from expanding foam that has a bubbling quality. “They are these globs on the floor with silicone and beads embedded in the foam,” Vize said.
She was inspired to make them after researching how most mannequins, CPR dummies and crash test dummies are modeled after male bodies, with real-life effects on women, who aren’t as protected in car crashes or who aren’t administered CPR in public emergencies as often as men are, Vize said.
“Alone in the Elevator, Option One” and “Alone in the Elevator, Option Two” are clay works with bits of cast silicone that stand near one another in a corner. One curves away from the wall in two dips, and the taller work of art bends at the top and then goes straight down to the floor. Vize said they represent being in an enclosed space that feels both comforting in its aloneness and also threatening.
Shuning Zheng is a jewelry maker who is studying industrial design to learn more about the product-making process, including developing a prototype and designing with a computer.
She said jewelry making often focuses on the decorative and on cultural meanings, but consumers also expect a practical function. She is interested in creating smart wearable products or practical accessories.
Her project, “TimeIt,” is directed at multitasking millennials who have difficulty managing their time, especially with pandemic changes in work habits and more people working from home. It’s a simple clock function in the form of either a watch or a pocket watch that also can be worn as a pendant. Its simplicity is the key, Zheng said, giving it the advantage of being less distracting than a phone or smartwatch with similar functions.
Through an app, the user can set their schedule for the day, and the timer indicates by vibrating when the time set for a task or a break has ended. The timer can be set for different intervals to use for the Pomodoro time-management technique, which calls for working for set intervals with short breaks and can help one maintain focus and decrease distractions.