Unity of Dissonance: Studio Art Senior Exhibition

The senior show for SPU’s Studio Art majors highlighted the projects of four students. When considering studio art, one thinks of the fine art hung in galleries and museums. And yet, that is not what these projects brought to mind. While trying to transcend sentimentality, every piece was personal and did not speak to the greater issues they were hoping to.

As I walked through, all the senior projects felt so personal, to the point that they were inaccessible. The most obvious example of this issue was Morgan Sheppard’s set of twenty prints. Each picture was a person that has meant a lot to the artist, and the designs on the photographs were supposed to express the person beneath the the surface, under the face. The colors were flat and dull, and the faces were printed in black and white. Like a yearbook, a catalogue of black and white photographs serve to remind the viewer of people they used to know, but the viewer doesn’t know these people. I found that the personal nature of this art only served for sentimentality, like a yearbook, not for interest or inspiration.

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This isn’t to say that infusing one’s work with what a person cares about, enjoys or is interested in, has an inherent negative impact on the piece, but there seems to be a line in fine art when art becomes too personal, so much so that the viewer can no longer relate. I would venture to say that the line exists between universal emotions or concepts and then specific personal experiences. In order to tap into an idea that is personal, but not too personal, an artist must step outside of themselves and ask if their art is broad enough to relate to their audience. Then be honest if it only serves himself or herself, and not their viewers.

Another issue I found with most of the student projects was the lack of originality and creativity. This is not to say that the pieces weren’t made well or achieved some level of aesthetic appeal, but there was nothing new and exciting that jumped out by the brilliance of its creativity. I found Alanna Sadeghian’s pieces, Unity in Dissonance: Postage Stamps, to be particularly usual. She had 6 pairs of printed, large stamps, each pair highlighting a different location with its image and title. Each pair was also the same image replicated, one in black in white, the other in colors. The simple and nice images were fitting to be postage stamps… not artwork hung in a gallery. The simplicity and color schemes were flat, which is part of the nature of the printing process, but in this project I found this quality boring. Though Sadeghian’s description added some understanding to the purpose the pieces, which was to highlight the human experience of places, the pieces did not live up to her hopes of the message they would convey. Instead, they only presented her sentimental love of stamps and lovely locations.

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The most abstract of this show was Night Tide, the photographs done by Jen DeAndre. Her work was unusual and had a lot of movement and contrast. In the description DeAndre made a beautiful argument about the role of the ocean in the world and the importance of its conservation and cleanliness. “Without the beautifully unique combination of the moon working with water, our planet would not be[…] life would not exist.” The problem was that reading her description was more moving and beautiful than looking at her work. The motion and light captured in her pieces felt accidental and haphazard rather than purposeful and artful. Unlike the other artists, she dared to be abstract and unusual. Unfortunately, DeAndre’s hopes of conveying her deep and personal thoughts about the ocean, did not come through in her photographs.

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The final artist of this show was Jasmine Johnson. Of all the artists, her work was the most colorful and eye-catching. The obscure and almost surreal nature of her pieces was fun to look and explore. Her project was named The Jellyfish Series, so as you can guess all of the pieces had images of painted jellyfish floating on the canvas. Each of Johnson’s nine pieces was unique and well-crafted with acrylic paint on canvas. I enjoyed these paintings more than any of the other projects, but I believe that it lacks a quality present in the fine art in museums and galleries. This quality I allude to is one that separates art for children viewers and for adult viewers. Johnson’s paintings are reminiscent of a child’s brand of paraphernalia, Lisa Frank. With very bright colors and playful themes, these paintings haven’t fully transitioned from their juvenile audience to adult audiences. I could see these pieces being hung in a coffee shop for casual viewers, but not in a gallery for serious art aficionados.

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Overall, I thought the prints by Sheppard and Sadeghian were flat and emotionless, the photographs by DeAndre were chaotic, and the paintings by Johnson were juvenile. I appreciated the effort and quality that the artists had in their pieces, but I was disappointed with what they offered in this show because I was not inspired and I could not easily move beyond their personal natures to appreciate their purpose.

– Hannah Bastedo

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