By Alisa Samadani, A&E Editor Originally published in Issue 12, Volume 33 of The University Register on April 23, 2021

The Edward J. and Helen Jane Morrison Gallery recently opened the doors to its last art exhibition of the academic year, the 2021 Senior Art Exhibition, titled “Unprecedented.” The exhibition featured the works of eight seniors, and the gallery will continue to hold these pieces on display until May 15. As per usual, the exhibition does not charge for admission, and will be open for viewing during their regular hours, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as by appointment on Saturdays.

“Unprecedented” holds the works of Justice Anderson, Ace Elsen, Tayler Kalthoff, Keisha LaRue, Brittany Lormis, Molly Otremba, Belinda Threadgill, and Velora Wilson. Many of their works are listed for sale in the gallery, so I am doing my part by including their artist statements and one or their pieces here, in the hopes that they will receive more foot traffic before kicking off summer vacation. Please note, some of the pieces are on the balcony level and require walking up a short flight of stairs.

Justice Anderson “My diverse work offers a reprieve from the current state of society and all of its chaotic, uncertain feelings. The realization that much is out of our control implores us to seek some modicum of control over our lives, even in small ways. The ability to create strict, crisp boundaries, both in clay and on canvas, helps further illustrate and relieve this desire of control for myself. My work in painting and ceramics can be described as heavily structural and vibrant, especially with the new exploration of bold, contrasting colors. This is evident in my investigations of the elements of art, particularly with the repetition of polygonal forms, both with and on the surfaces. My mind is always open to my surroundings, and while my recent work does not directly seek to represent nature, it is heavily influenced by the contrast of naturally occurring sharp lines and organic shapes. My work seeks to find the balance between the chaos and orderliness of nature. Despite the uncertain events that are unfolding both in society and in my personal life, I draw inspiration from the fact that nature has a never-ending cycle of stability that can always be counted on.”

Ace Elsen “Art that stands out to me is the art that is especially meant to be literally eye-catching. Bright colors, eccentric shapes, and exaggeration are the key principles to the art I enjoy and the art I strive to create. The sort of art I make revolves around bright colors and often relates a lot to pop culture. My art is very heavily visually influenced by animation, in this regard, as the rules of animation are a bit different from the rules of art of what keeps audience attention. In terms of content, my art unpurposefully tends to wind up being about eccentricism and chaos, or at the very least with relevant elements. I love telling stories with my art, often making stills of scenes and allowing the audience to guess the full story. At the end of the day, I’m a storyteller. I find art is a good way to talk about things I am interested in; in a way that’s better articulated than with words.”

Tayler Kalthoff “In both traditional film and digital photography, my work often takes the form of portraiture and uses dramatic color to thematize the fears and anxieties of going through the teenage years and transforming into a young adult. Change can be very difficult to accept, so my work is an avenue for processing this transition. Digital and film photography are both used interchangeably throughout my body of work as methods to carry out the motifs described above. My camera of choice for digital photography is the Canon 77D; with film photography, I use the Canon FTb and the Mamiya RB67. When working in the darkroom, I often overexpose the gelatin silver paper and lower the levels of contrast in order to create haunting qualities in my works. Creating works that are aesthetically pleasing, meaningful, and technically polished are all equally important to me. It is imperative that the viewer appreciates the aesthetics of my work, but I also want the viewer to acknowledge its deeper meanings. My work has changed drastically during my college career, and I have tended more towards color photography. The latter has solidified and enhanced the motif of the loss of innocence throughout my body of work.”

Keisha LaRue “My artwork revolves around death and the concept of an afterlife as something a person cannot ignore or escape. My work portrays hints of religious subject matter related to good and evil. This dichotomy ties into my interest in the human soul. I believe that the body houses the soul and what you do in this life, good or evil, affects where you end up in the afterlife. This belief is important to me and many others, having been engraved into us since childhood. The deeds you do in this life determine where your soul goes. My oil paintings reference universal religious symbolism to subtly remind the viewer of the good and the evil in the world, and hopefully, in turn, make them reflect on their actions. Borders are added to give the work referencing old portraits and to give them a fantastical feeling. The dark and somber subject matter depicts the human figure in dramatic but peaceful scenes to leave a lasting impression on the viewer. Thus, reminding people that their deeds, both good and evil, will eventually catch up to them.”

Brittany Lormis “The relationship between man and the natural world has gone on for centuries, and the importance of the impact humankind has made through the construction of architecture has continued to change further and further. My work process includes gathering source images from the internet or photographs I have taken myself, or collected from friends or family depending on location. Since I have always been influenced by the use of text on architecture (graffiti, murals, etc.), it has influenced my retro style of sign work and landscape representations throughout the past few years. For me, art has always had a sense of meaning in some form or another. It is both calming and a way for me to have a form of expression that allows me to experiment and adjust what type of artist movement I best feel represented as I go onto creating more work like my current work in the future. I intend for my work to highlight communities, sharing their significance rather than simply being a spot on the map whether being big or small. Stylistically they mimic the vintage aesthetic of murals seen across the United States, reflecting important points about the town represented.”

Molly Otremba “I walk in the shadow of a generational degenerative disease, Huntington;s Disease (HD), that has tormented me for the past three years, with the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not I have it. The manual engagement of creating three-dimensional artworks allows me to cope with debilitating emotions and help with understanding the science of HD. Constructing complex forms that are bimorphically inspired by HD, offers a means of healing through vulnerability. Process-orientated mediums such as clay, metal casting, and resin 3D printing are used to create elements of interior and hollow contagious forms. I assign the ‘hollow form’ to the loss and grief I experience. I am continuously finding unconscious reasons for why I am drawn to specific aspects of creating these ‘layered’ sculptures. For example, the strong parallel between the intricate interior form seeking exposure and my need to express traumatic torment while also wanting to shield and protect myself. When life can be so unpredictable and overwhelming, building sculptures gives me the opportunity to be in control, even when the result is determined by the process.”

Belinda Threadgill “In today’s world, race issues are in the forefront of the collective conscience. Many reasons are given to justify the injustices, racism, and crimes against humanity in our world. I use the visual arts as a means to educate and remind people what hate leads to -- loss of human life. As a Native American artist, I work to create pieces that make a visual statement, tell a story to the viewer and provide unique ways to share my culture. I strive to make truthful statements using both 3-D and 2-d formats based on historical evidence and facts. I allow my subject matter to lead me in the direction of expressing itself through sculpture, panting in oil or acrylic, printmaking, or mixed media. I believe in the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” My goal is to achieve millions of words, ideas, and actions to spark a new depth of understanding the value of human life and the cultural diversity that exists in our world.”

Velora Wilson “My work emphasizes happiness. The fact that my work is influenced by things that bring me joy, is one of the reasons I continue to have passion for the creative process of art. I love the vibrant colors I experiment with, and anything that is centered around them, as I find it to be one of the most important qualities of my pieces. Since I’m more of a formalist, I feel more attracted to different uses of color, texture, pace and lines. I enjoy using these different elements in my pieces. I want the viewer of my work to see the different layers in my art and the different mediums that I’ve worked with so they can see I sometimes like to layer my work. Being able to add layers and textures lets me add more to my artwork instead of having them look leveled. When you see all the different layers of colors I use in my pieces you can tell how I was feeling when I made them. Most of my pieces are colorful because I love colors and they make me happy. Being able to see the different colors I can combine in my pieces makes me feel good. When you see my art you may notice that I don’t use faces, the reason for that is because I like having the viewer of my work use their imagination. To me, that adds more fun to my artwork!”

Image courtesy of UMM Flickr