The University of Lynchburg’s Annual Senior Art Thesis Exhibition opens Monday, May 9, in the Daura Museum of Art. A reception and awards ceremony will be held from 4-5 p.m. The exhibit runs through Tuesday, May 17. Admission is free and the public is invited.
The work, all by senior art majors, will include photography, sculpture and ceramics, graphic design, animation, and paintings.
As she worked with the students over the past semester, Chelsea Tinklenberg, assistant professor of studio art and sculpture at Lynchburg, started to see some common themes emerge.
“Overall, I’ve been impressed with the vulnerability of this group,” she said. “The work ranges in media, but a common theme is work dealing with mental health. I don’t believe this struggle is unique to our students. Coming out of years of isolation during the pandemic, everyone has experienced some degree of loss.
“I think art has allowed our students a conduit to express some of their experiences and I’m proud of what they have accomplished. Some work is directly dealing with the darker, negative side of this, while others approach coping mechanisms or more lighthearted work to counter the negative.”
Lauren Bland ’22, of Mathews, Virginia, used her sculpture — a 3D mosaic in the shape of a boat — to show “transcending through a dark time of despair and into the light” and “overcoming negatives in life.”
The sculpture is made of wood, mosaic tiles, and broken glass, and over its length dark colors merge into lighter ones. Bland described the piece as a “vessel of emotion, encapsulating what I’ve gone through and what others experienced in life.”
Hailey Bayne ’22, a Westover Honors Fellow from Chase City, Virginia, based her five-painting series on what she describes as the “five core emotions”: sadness, anger, happiness, fear, and disgust.
Bayne also went a step further, subjecting herself to 25 days of isolation over the last winter break. “I finished each piece by isolating myself for five days for each painting,” she said. “Twenty-five days to create the core emotion[s]. …
“I conceptualized and executed each painting in isolation. … I learned a lot about what triggers my emotions, because I had to plan this out without knowing a lot about how to trigger myself. It was interesting to see what techniques really brought out the emotion. Also, after I finished each piece, I got to experience all these emotions and felt very clear afterwards.”
Kayla Zinski ’22 wanted to “capture pain and tension” through her series of sculptures. “I cast my hands in painful poses, like bending fingers back, pinching the skin,” the Goode, Virginia, resident said. “You have to hold it in place for several minutes at a time, so that definitely hurt. I like the idea of freezing this moment of tension forever.”
Zinksi also damaged some of the pieces and by doing so made them more personal. “Especially through COVID and whatnot, I had struggles with anxiety and depression,” she said. “The hands are my hands and they’re inflicting the pain on each other. Breaking and slicing show self-destruction.
“The whole idea that the pain isn’t gone. It’s always going to be there, but at least it’s seen.”
A digital print series created by Jarrett Murano ’22, “Catharsis,” addresses common feelings of the COVID-19 era. The 18 images “all depict very strong emotions,” Murano, of Roanoke, Virginia, said. “It’s a catharsis, very strong images related to isolation, anger, and general negative feelings.”
Murano added that the images include phrases that “guide the viewer” in a particular emotional direction, “but … the audience is supposed to interpret them specific to them. There’s not a set meaning.”
Some students took on lighter themes. Kate Duncan ’22, for example, created paint-by-number images from online memes. The idea originated, she said, when classes at the University were being held online due to COVID-19. “I have ADHD, so I’m not good at staying still,” she said, referring to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. “Online class didn’t help that.”
To occupy herself, Duncan started doing paint-by-number paintings during class. Later, when she was looking for an idea for her senior show, one of her art professors, Siobhan Byrns, suggested she make her own paint by numbers.
“She said, ‘Make your own series; make it fun and weird,’” Duncan said.
Duncan, who also co-designed the University’s official tartan last year, created 10 paint-by-number canvases and had five art professors and five of her housemates fill them in however they pleased. The only rule was that each number correlated with a color, although which color was up to the individual.
“The whole point was [that] with a paint by number you can be as little or as creative as you want to be,” Duncan said.
For the exhibit, Duncan also created a large, blank paint-by-number canvas that visitors to the art gallery can fill in.
Baleigh Nichols ’22 created a marketing campaign aimed at people who release their pets into the wild. “Giant goldfish, dangling from a crane, with people taking pictures of it,” she said, describing the images. “Cats on a pile of dead birds. Snakes coming up from a swamp area, eating dogs. Birds causing plane crashes.”
Using the hashtag #stopbadowners, Nichols said the series of posters — which she described as “over-exaggerated, but sends a message” — addresses the negative impact that releasing pets into the wild has on the ecosystem.
Olivia Smith ’22, of Sellersville, Pennsylvania, created dramatic portraits of horses for her project. In the large-scale images, horses ridden by the University of Lynchburg’s championship equestrian team are photographed against a black background.
Smith, a member of the equestrian team, compared the photos to “fine art portraits” and said they are “kind of like a school portrait for horses.”
Jessica Head ’22, of Wake Forest, North Carolina, based her interactive exhibit on the music of Harry Styles. Head said it gave her the opportunity to give the English singer-songwriter a “little bit of rebranding.”
“A record player will be playing his music, and I’ll have poster board with sticky notes for people to write their favorite lyrics on,” she said, adding, “I redesigned his album covers and designed a T-shirt and redid some of his marketing.
“He helps [me and] a lot of people to be able to accept yourself and learn to be who you are. If people judge you, that’s OK. Do whatever makes you happy.”
Other seniors exhibiting their work in the show include Caroline Gerke ’22, of Alexandria, Virginia; Madison Beneux ’22, of Springfield, Virginia; Alexis Burks, of Rustburg, Virginia; Tyree Kennedy ’22, of Chesapeake, Virginia; and Evan Holland ’22, of East New Market, Maryland.
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