The difficult part is over now for the senior fine arts majors at Indiana University Northwest.
Five graduating fine arts students survived the faculty critiques of their work on April 24, then moved on to a slightly less demanding audience as friends, family and art aficionados gathered for a Savannah Gallery for Contemporary Art reception in honor of this year’s senior exhibits. There, the students reflected on the meaning of their work and on their time spent in IU Northwest’s acclaimed Department of Fine Arts.
Ashley Williams exhibited a selection of ceramic creations with which she investigated the nature of texture. The Lake Central High School graduate initially wanted to focus on graphic design, but a photography class exposed her fascination with surfaces, layers and appearances. She switched her focus to ceramics so that she could explore the contrast between what we see, what we feel, and what lies beneath it all.
“It’s about revealing what’s underneath the layers that we see, like on our bodies,” Williams said. “You see the outer body, what we’re attracted to, but it’s like there’s a different body underneath, that you don’t see.”
Perhaps Williams’ most distinctive piece is “Texture Influenced by Explosion,” a colorful ceramic composition consisting of small vessels with gaps or openings created by firecrackers. Williams created the clay vessels, then placed small explosives inside them and lit the fuses.
“I had the most fun making this piece, because it took away from the feeling of ‘rush, rush, rush, got to get it done,’” she said. “It was more about ‘I wonder what this is going to look like after I put a firecracker in it?’
“I love it. It’s fun,” she said of ceramics. “You get the feeling that you’ve created something. It’s a part of you, because you’ve worked on it for so long.”
Easily the most dominant image in this year’s senior art show is the oil-on-canvas “Theatre Lobby,” by Michael Becze. It is a wall-sized rendering of the Theatre Northwest lobby in the now-closed Tamarack Hall. Becze said he began the work two years ago, long before last September’s floods forced Tamarack’s permanent closure.
“I focused on the far chandelier, and then everything else around it was in my peripheral vision,” Becze, a Griffith High School graduate, explained. “I only focused on that, and then I tried to paint everything else (like) I saw it in my peripheral vision.”
This interest in peripheral vision and how it distorts what a person sees – how a storage rack or other inanimate object can, under the correct circumstances, look like a person, for instance – fascinated Becze and became a significant theme in his work.
“We see things and take them as they are. At the same time, things that we see aren’t always what they are,” Becze said. “So you can’t take them at face value in general.”
Other senior exhibitions include photographs by Jeff Kalch, paintings by Harry Morgan and poster art by Mariano Calvente. The 2009 Senior Thesis Exhibit runs through May 1.
Kalch’s exhibit is a series of pictures depicting the rough beauty he found inside of an abandoned building. Empty rooms, collapsed ceilings and the encroachment of nature on what once was an occupied building give testament to the aesthetic value of decay.
“People don’t pay attention to things that aren’t beautiful,” Kalch said. “Well, within this, there is a ton of beauty that no one knows and no one cares about.
“It’s more or less a documentation of human existence, and what happens when (no one) is existing there, anymore, and how quickly nature takes its course,” he said.
Williams and Becze praised the fine arts department at IU Northwest as a supportive, close-knit academic unit where students benefit from small class sizes and the genuine, personal interest of their professors.
“They’re all like my dad,” Williams said. “They’re all nice, and they all got to know me. It’s just a close-knit place. It makes you feel like you’re part of a family.”
“They’re there for whatever you need,” Becze agreed. “While they coach you and guide you, they don’t try to pigeonhole you. They let you expand on what you want to do, and, at the same time, guide you in that direction. They don’t give you a value judgment as to what your ideas are. They’ll help you make them better, but they won’t say, ‘This is what you should do.’ That’s not good for anybody.”
For more information about the IU Northwest Department of Fine Arts, call the department at (219) 980-6810, or visit the Web at http://www.iun.edu/fine-arts/