Campus / News / April 22, 2010

Senior Art: Color, fantasy, material and media

For studio art majors, the culmination of their studies is an open studio class in which students spend hours a week putting together a senior art show. Four seniors — Heather Kopec, Saori Moriizumi, Spencer McNeil and Kaylin Maanum — each presented those shows this past Friday as part of “artist talks.” Hosted each spring by the art department, assistant professor of art Mark Holmes emphasized the importance of the studio shows.

“We think it’s really important that artists learn to talk about their work, particularly to audiences that might not know much about it,” he said.

Kopec was the first to present her work, showing slides of large, colorful geometric pieces installed directly onto walls. She described herself as someone fascinated by colors as well as playing with shadows and light.

“I like making — I’m a maker,” she said. “I literally began to carve shape and space out of paper.”

Kopec viewed her work as having drama without being overly theatrical. She drew on the playful and witty elements of the artists who most influenced her, concentrating on creating a work that “feeds both [her] inner minimalist and inner expressionist…it truly reflects [her] personality, interests and experiences here at Knox.”

Kopec anticipated continuing the journey of her artwork.

“Much of my work is experimental — while a picture may be worth 1,000 words, it can never capture all my work,” she said.

Moriizumi was the next to give her artist’s talk.

“In my work, I explored the boundaries between the fantasy and the actual,” she said, displaying works clearly constructed by such ordinary objects as canvas and paint while managing to create a fantastical atmosphere. “When something doesn’t hide that it’s fiction, it’s most real to me.”

Moriizumi, who is from Tokyo, drew on her experiences in the massive city.

“There’s an emptiness that comes from being surrounded by masses of people and not knowing them,” she said.

Moriizumi used that feeling to create pieces that ended up distancing the viewer by overwhelming them. One piece she created, an installation piece in the basement of the Auxiliary Gym, used blue cups of water to force the audience to observe the piece from the front and prevent them moving around the sides.

It also involved brightly painted shower curtains, elements Moriizumi said were inspired by a pipe leaking hot water. During her open studio experience, she began to use natural objects such as branches in conjunction with these more artificial materials.

McNeil, who presented after Moriizumi, took a very different approach to his work.

“My work has been materially driven from the beginning,” he said, noting that the forms of his artwork were driven by his material choice rather than the other way around.

This use of materials took him on a long exploration process. At first he was preoccupied by the idea of function, in one case removing the top of a coffee table and hanging it from a wall.

“I tried to remove it as far as possible from its functional state,” he said. He later created a table without four legs, wanting to “challenge the way [he] thought furniture could function.”

This led to McNeil’s removing function entirely, creating solid concrete pieces. However, a lack of connection with the finished product lead him to create actual spaces, using bricks and beams to create mini-versions of strange architectural houses. McNeil’s goal, he said, was to “make the viewer wonder how they were holding themselves up.”

However, McNeil still felt something was missing.

“I wanted to utilize each material to the best of its own personal qualities…I was still missing the puzzle aspect of putting together objects I didn’t create,” he said. This led him to the creation of many works displayed in his show: chairs assembled out of many other chairs he chopped up and then reassembled using favorite components of each.

The last to present, Maanum, displayed “work about the woman’s body and how it is dictated and skewed by the media.” Influenced by ambiguous forms of women by surrealists who disembodied the female form, Maanum created prints by distorting a beautiful image, overlaying it with text and then creating a new image.

She also created her own magazine covers, serving as sarcastic responses to the media.

“The media was constantly telling me what to do,” she said. “We are oblivious to these underlying messages…the images are fake in every way and yet desirable.”

This falsity led Maanum to examine shapes and forms, breaking down bodies into their most basic components. In the end, she also made prints from personal letters and notes, something that was “meant to empower the woman.”

In their words

“Much of my work is experimental — while a picture may be worth 1,000 words, it can never capture all my work.”-Heather Kopec

“In my work, I explored the boundaries between the fantasy and the actual.” -Saori Moriizumi

“I wanted to utilize each material to the best of its own personal qualities…I was still missing the puzzle aspect of putting together objects I didn’t create.”-Spencer McNeil

“We are oblivious to these underlying messages…the images are fake in every way and yet desirable.”-Kaylin Maanum

Upcoming artists talks will be presented by seniors Kathy Olsen, Zack Bahr and Abbie Frank at 5:30 p.m. this Friday in the Round Room in the Ford Center for the Fine Arts.

Katy Sutcliffe


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