Senior studio art majors draw on their past work and experiences at FSU

Courtesy of Rinnie Natanel

In the late hours of the night, as the May Hall maintainer finishes up his final rounds, studio art majors are wide awake, covered from head to toe in craft supplies, putting the final touches on their latest projects for the senior thesis exhibitions displayed April 22 through May 3. 

Senior Rinnie Natanel said, “I think not a lot of people realize how much time art majors spend working. … I spend a lot of nights here. The janitors, at this point, are my biggest fans. I think that’s not seen by people or other professors that aren’t in the art department. … It’s just sort of hard to juggle everything when it’s such a time-consuming practice.” 

According to Natanel, the classrooms in the basement of May Hall are currently being renovated into personalized studios for senior studio art majors.  

Before the construction of studios in the basement, senior studio art majors, getting ready for their senior exhibition, often left their work in the classrooms of May Hall. 

Natanel said her own exhibition paintings have been damaged while left in the classrooms – whether it be a smudge in the paint from a professor accidently knocking it over or a bend in the canvas while a worker, waxing the floors, throws it carelessly on top of a pile of other work. 

“The second I heard the basements were open, I was the first one to move in here,” Natanel said. “We just felt like the upstairs place, with everyone working and constantly having to put your stuff away, was really hindering people from getting stuff done.” 

Although the studios in the basement aren’t finished, senior studio art majors who have moved their projects into the studio space feel as if it has helped their process – some even stating how they felt more “motivated” to complete their work.  

Natanel said for her exhibition project, she is creating nine large paintings of Jerusalem based off of photographs she took while visiting. She is primarily playing with color, scale, and shifts in perception.

Natanel, who grew up in Jerusalem, said her paintings are a “shift from what I remember it looking like when I was really young, to my return when I was 12. … With a different mentality and a different stage of egocentrism, I realized how different both experiences had actually been.

“I liked the idea of making everything really big and colorful and from the perspective that you’re looking up at it,” she said. “These had to be electric or neon because they’re so personal to me. They kind of have that childlike reference.”

Before she declared her major two years ago, Natanel said she never painted. 

“I always looked at a painting thinking, ‘I know exactly how I’d execute that,’ or trying to figure out exactly how I would,” she said. 

Natanel said she has an internship lined up in Jerusalem right after she graduates, where she will be working in a museum, as a real estate photographer, or in a school. After her internship, she is going to spend some time finding a studio space, applying to get her master’s in Poland or the Netherlands, and possibly attempting to move to New York.  

“They say your memory is best retained in the time before your career. So, for me, I kind of don’t mind the idea of having a long path before my career. It’s honestly very attractive to me and I think that I just have to be positive about it,” she said.

You can view Natanel’s work at Rinniestudios.com.

Hannah Nesbitt, who is currently working on textile and tapestries for her exhibition project, said she takes up half of the studio with the amount of cloth and supplies she needs. 

“I feel like my life is a tapestry,” she said. 

Nesbitt, who double majors in apparel design and painting, is creating tapestries and quilts as a way to show the relationship between coping with trauma and textiles. 

Last summer, Nesbitt said she went to South Africa on a mission trip with her church. While there, she made 15 to 16 memory blankets for mothers and their babies, and handed them out to women in the township of Lavender Hill. 

“Some of these tapestries in the exhibition have remnants of the actual quilts that were handed out. It’s all in conversation with each other,” she said. “I’m a trauma survivor myself, so I can say personally that textiles have really helped me. …  It’s the way I relate completely. The way I communicate. The way I understand. The way I hope.” 

Nesbitt is also designing a wearable art dress made of quilts for the senior exhibition. 

After she graduates, she hopes to go on a retreat with Alabama quilters who are descendants of slaves. “Those are the women that make me work hard,” she said. 

Her next step is to get into design school to get her master’s in textiles.

“I think for me, at this point in my life, it’s a good place to be here [at FSU] in a sense because I can pursue personal things. I can explore trauma in my artwork, and at the same time, focus on technical skill,” she said.

You can look at Nesbitt’s work on her website, thetextilesqueen.com. 

Kierstyn Brady said Nesbitt’s artwork is “her favorite.”

For the exhibition, Brady painted four large-scale self-portraits.

Brady’s work comments on non-authentic versions of the self. She said she introduces herself in the paintings to make people feel as if they should be skeptical of her. Using different levels of pixelation in her paintings and scaffolding under the pixels, Brady reflects on the way people edit the authentic version of themselves on social media. 

“I believe before you can comment on anything, you have to start with yourself. So, in many ways, commenting on yourself is the only way to comment on the world as a whole because it’s the only truth you’re ever going to know,” she said. 

Currently, Brady is a studio assistant intern at Community Kiln, a community ceramics school which includes sponsorships for people who have run-ins with the law to attend different art classes.

Brady said she plans to attend Lesley University next year for expressive therapy, with the hope that she can open her own expressive therapy center, teaching art through the lenses of mental health.

“Art is the best way to express yourself. It’s an active meditation. It’s being in the moment with what you’re doing, which is very rare – a lot of people just work without paying attention and it’s easy to miss hours of your time,” she said. 

You can view Brady’s work on her Instagram @Kierstynbradyart. 

Kaela Henderson said she started painting when she was in high school, but only started to find her way through painting once she reached college. 

“My sketches have become much looser. The different classes I’ve taken here really got me thinking about what fits for me, what I’m more comfortable with, and how I can express myself,” she said. 

Henderson said she is making collages of black people she finds online and in magazines, rearranging their facial features by incorporating different images such as food and plants. 

To contrast the collages, Henderson is also adding positive statements about black people in her exhibition project. 

“I’m primarily showing that throughout history, black people have been oppressed and everything they’ve gone through – slavery, and racism, and segregation – has made them confused about their image,” she said. 

Henderson said at first, she started the collages using a lot of browns, but now she is using different colors to “show the diversity between black people as well as their skin color and hair.” 

In the future, Henderson said she wants to be a professional artist with her own gallery. Right now, Henderson is saving up enough money to go to graduate school and is searching for an artist’s residency. 

Natanel said she went into the major knowing that 90% of studio art majors quit making art after they graduate, but FSU has taught her to shift her mentality. 

“I learned a crazy amount. I felt I learned more than I would have in any other major because it really stuck with me,” she said. 

FSU studio art graduate Emily Bowling said, considering her senior year was really stressful. After graduation, she took a break from making artwork and managing her social media accounts, looking for non-art related jobs, finishing up her freelance work, and fixing up her home studio. 

“I started to feel stressed out about not creating new artwork even though I was still really burnt out and frustrated,” she said. “This was probably my biggest struggle since finishing school, and going from a full classroom setting every day to making work for myself and my portfolio rather than graded assignments.”

She said she started making small goals for herself, creating two-minute pen and marker drawings and small watercolors. She also started experimenting with sewing and photography, and kept up with other artists’ work online.

“I think it’s really important to keep feeding your creative energy even when you don’t feel like making art,” she said.

Bowling said she has found a few online communities and groups of artists who spread information about upcoming events, classes, shows, and artists sharing freelance work. 

“It’s so important, now more than ever, to use social media and the internet to your advantage,” she said. “You can show your work to an infinite amount of people so quickly and effortlessly, and so many online platforms are free.” 

FSU studio art graduate Sergio Lopez had a similar experience to Bowling’s. He said after graduating, he found a nine-to-five desk job and art became his secondary practice.

Lopez said, “Don’t stop painting. Things get in the way – like your 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. desk job – but don’t let that become an obstacle in creating your art. There won’t be anything to look at it if you don’t make it.” 

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