2021 Studio Art Senior Capstone Exhibition opens in Kohl Gallery

By Betty Yirga

Elm Staff Writer

The 2021 Kohl Gallery’s Studio Art Senior Capstone Exhibition premiered on April 23 at 5 p.m., on YouTube Live.

The exhibition was introduced and facilitated by Tara Gladden, director and curator for Kohl Gallery and lecturer in studio art. 

“It’s important to emphasize the long-term process of this venture. It could not have been completed without the steady focus commitment of students to their individual visions and developing artistic practices,” Gladden said.

On behalf of the art and art history department and Kohl Gallery, Gladden congratulated this year’s graduating studio art seniors, Liane Beckley, MacKenzie Brady, and Harrison Ernst on their accomplishments and milestones in their artistic careers. 

“A major unifying theme in this year’s exhibit is that all three artists identify their work as self-portraiture, through the exploration of self-portraiture, each artist in their own way interrogates their personal identity through relational layers of the self, family, and others within the theater of domestic space,” Gladden said in her introduction of the exhibition. “Life has played out day after day for the past year. The resulting exhibition embraces a brave, vulnerability, as it grapples with universal emotional themes of isolation and connection, independence, and interdependence reflected through internal and external realities.”

Beckley’s first piece, “How Things Look After You’ve Cried,” is a triptych photo series. 

“I was interested in the way that the images were distorted and blurred and it looks similar to how the world looks after you’ve cried and that is how this series came about,” Beckley said during her interview featured in the exhibition premiere.

Beckley also created a video installation that explores self-portraiture as short films of everyday repetitive actions that are performed by Beckley. These videos were inspired by her connection with an influence of select close family members.

“In a way, I think I was trying to challenge myself to do something that I, in the past, was not very comfortable doing… I could try to say that no, quarantine didn’t have any influence, but I think trying to determine that would be impossible…I know it certainly influenced, for example, taking the stills and not having another person either pose for the images or help me take the images…I had to do all those myself,” Beckley said during the premiere interview. 

Brady’s art installation includes archival photos of her and her siblings, a self-portrait painted from an image taken by someone else, and an installation that emulates a living room scene, which includes a recliner and a tube TV playing a credit reel of her life.

In her exhibition premiere interview, Brady said that she has, “been thinking about what it means to create and present the self in different forms, and in different settings and spaces, and then what it means to bring all those things together.”

“I couldn’t have made this work my freshman year. It never would have happened if I hadn’t gradually pushed myself through revealing information and titles or materials lists, or displaying a thing and saying absolutely nothing about it just putting it, out there and walking away. Not seeing the consequences of it has, over time, given me the ability to do a much more on display version that I can talk about and not freak out about it,” Brady said in the premiere.

Ernst presents an installation of paintings, personal furniture, and objects that he described as a self-portrait and visual journal that represents his life over the past year and a half. 

“This is my installation… a journal of my last year and a half. The language of the journal is essentially the emotional baggage, the slice of life that was occurring when these paintings were made, and really sticks with the paintings. A lot of times like I can’t see anything but the emotional context behind them,” Ernst said during his interview in the premiere. “I make a point to not share the emotional meaning behind them, which can feel super vulnerable, almost like I’m carrying out my dirty laundry to share the explicit meaning.”

According to Ernst’s interview, his process is “this ever-growing snowballing monster of just trying to keep creating and realizing that if I’m not going to show them meaning, I definitely should be showing how it goes from the sketch to the completed painting… and I really just wanted to highlight the process because I feel like it’s an underplayed part, and for a lot of people’s art, you just get the final result. I’ve always liked to see the sketches, and like the raw components that go into it, so I figured I would share that with my pieces.”

“As far as inspiration, I’m just trying to keep it constantly going, and I look at everything almost like stories, textures, colors, etc…it’s literally anything…it’s all a response to the materials, how I’m feeling in the moment, so it can be very meditative. It does just allow you to really trust the process and it’s a little cliche at this point but like you do just trust the process,” Ernst said.

The event came to a close with Gladden thanking everybody for coming and “for supporting the work of this year’s graduating studio art majors.”

Habitual Portraiture and Other Reflections will be on display at Kohl Gallery through May 13.

Gallery appointments can be made on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. by emailing tgladden2@washcoll.edu.

Featured Photo caption: Harrison Ernest’s self-portraiture piece containing paintings, furniture, and objects that tell the story of his life in the past year. Photo by MacKenzie Brady.

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