Ten studio art students showcased their work in the senior thesis exhibitions on April 24 and May 1 in the Mazmanian Art Gallery.
Their work uncovered internal and external forces that have been holding them back from expression and relief.
Meagan St. Laurent “established a link” between painting and bees, creating eight encaustic beeswax tiles to help raise awareness over environmental issues, such as declining bee populations. She said her work was meant to “create a sensory experience that includes and implicates the viewer.”
St. Laurent said she first started her project a while back using a bigger platform made of wood and acrylic. Her idea transformed into something more organic – a harder process which involved a heat gun to mold layers of beeswax together, stopping her work from cracking apart.
Each tile was significantly different than the next, but each visually captured a snapshot of the effects of neonicotinoids on bee populations.
The tiles were either hexagonal or pentagonal shaped in comparison to the shape of the neonicotinoid chemical compound. St. Laurent drew the neonicotinoid chemical compound into the shape of bees on some tiles and formed the compound, including some research articles about the chemical, in the background of others. She also molded dead flowers onto the tiles.
Her work also comprised of a pile of wax-made bees next to a white wax-made flower, which took her almost a month to finish. Two of the bees sit on the flower, as to establish the importance of bee pollination, while the rest lie dead next to them in a pile, half with wings, half without.
St. Laurent said when bees die, their wings tend to fall off. This not only made her work easier, since she didn’t have to create wax wings for every bee, but it portrayed a strong message to viewers.
“I believe that the power of art, its ability to convey complex and meaningful content, and its ability to speak to a diverse audience is vital. Art has the capacity to capture attention and to be a catalyst for change. I hope to use this agency to change minds and help inspire action,” she wrote in her abstract.
St. Laurent passed out flower packets, asking everyone to plant the seeds in sunny patches around their yard to help the survival of bees and the environment, since bee pollination helps maintain life.
Sergio Lopez also used external forces in life to inspire the creation of his artwork.
Lopez used eight canvases and spent almost three months creating two self-portraits. The paintings were “overtly autobiographical” and documented “the various changes and constant evolution” of his personality.
“The act of painting is a liberating process as much as it’s about self-discovery. The paintings embody what I conceal,” he said in his abstract.
During this process of “self-discovery,” Lopez painted himself looking directly forward and looking to the side. He painted textiles and curvature floral patterns in the background of his portrait as well as the inclusion of cloth squares and a great deal of color.
His portraits made it seem as if he was looking at himself, and away from himself, for acceptance and closure.
Lopez wrote, “Painting is a tool for me to cope with issues of self-esteem and confidence, as well as discovering and coming to terms with who I am.”
Alexandria Krause painted the most insecure parts of her friends’ bodies, spreading the message of self-love and confidence.
“I want to live in a world where everyone should be appreciated equally no matter their flaws,” she wrote.
Krause used watercolors and gouache in the background of some paintings to create a more “uniformed” pigment. She painted five parts of the body, highlighting “flaws” such as stretch marks, scars, rashes and weight.
She said it took a six hours to a week to create one painting, depending on the intricate coloring of the skin tones and shading.
The “idealized” body image is increasingly commercialized, forcing people to look at their own bodies and compare it to unrealistic commercial images, Krause said.
“Individuals face deep internal struggles with their own bodies that leave them scarred. They are left with the inability to see their bodies for what they truly are – beautiful despite their imperfections,” she said.
Jessica Meek said she had been “struggling to fight off internal misery with forced positive thoughts” for years before she started painting.
Her portraits of an older man, smiling, are constructed to cause different emotions, all up to interpretation.
Meek said the person in her paintings was someone she once trusted, but now, the memory of their relationship is destroyed.
Meek would make a figure and then “tear him down” to destroy the memory, she said. She used oil paints and dripped Gamsol down her paintings before placing another layer of paint over the image. She repeated this process until she felt satisfied with her work.
Meek said she normally is a “realistic” painter. In one of her paintings, she left the old man’s eye unfinished because her teacher told her to stop working on it. The white spot was an “undertaking of the face” and symbolized her message – deconstructing the man further into the core of her work.
“Through the process of painting, of constructing and deconstructing his face, I am afforded a degree of agency,” she said. “I have the power to decide what happens to him and can channel despair into an artwork. I can reveal a side that no one sees. Through painting, I allow myself some closure.”