Fall 2015 Undergraduate Research

Three BFA students presented their Undergraduate Research project-papers at Symposium on November 30 

Marisa Mahathey: Experiencing the Connection: A Ceramic Exploration of One

Abstract: The word “one” is representative of wholeness and unity. Thought to be the beginning and accord from which all things arise, it is the source of all numbers and an image for divine unity. Through transitioning of beliefs from childhood to adulthood, growing up in a Christian household and searching beyond these teachings, Experiencing the Connection discovers the importance of unity by exploring religion and personal truth. The sense of oneness and interconnection has become a personal truth, the essential belief, and is what this series represents. An inherent intimacy is formed when creating with clay; a potter creates simply with their hands, using no other tool. Working on the potter’s wheel is about having a conversation, one must not only speak to the clay by guiding it into the shape desired, but one must also listen; being aware of and open to what the clay is saying and then reacting to that is arguably the most important aspect. The metaphorical conversation that a potter has with clay during the creation process can then be “heard” when viewing a handmade pot. The pot will reveal qualities about the potter: preferences, care, and even imperfections. The immediate intimacy and connection between the clay and the potter provide the foundation for the conversation this series creates. Through the crafting of jars, unity is created. The jar form has the added component of the lid, creating an essential need for two pieces to fit together. To add further communication between the lid and jar, complementary designs are carved that are aesthetically pleasing on their own, but are more powerful when stacked upon or placed with other jars. The unity is then multiplied from one jar and lid to an entire stack or family of jars, making the visual experience or conversation more meaningful.

Christine Thomas: Reclamation of Self Through Form Making the Internal External
Abstract: Making the internal, external—through art—is a path towards truth, acceptance, and enlightenment. In the series, Reclamation of Self through Form, figurative clay sculpture is the vehicle of this message. In the aftermath of being raped and the dissociation caused by it, sculpting forms with clay is a visceral manifestation of the healing process. The relationship and tension between the female form and nature-inspired abstractions expresses that which is experienced on an internal level. Creating ceramic sculptures is symbolic of reclaiming the physical body and exploring the internal: subconscious memories, thoughts, and emotions related to such a traumatic event. The abstractions of the sculpted female shell represent an interpretation of the soul or the mind, which tends to be more complex and mysterious. A psychological metamorphosis is shown in the destructive manipulation of the clay body, which leaves a space for new growth. The connection between the figure and these abstracted forms holds a deeper meaning related to the internal state of things. This is also seen in Ana Mendieta, Maria Martins, and Sophie Kahn’s use of the human figure in some aspect in their artwork, even though the mediums are different. Making the internal external, through art, is a visual representation and form of communication to bring more understanding for the artist and the viewer.

Jacob Wilson: Questioning Consumerism
Abstract: Certain aspects of current society threaten to hinder a more positive future. Blinded by the glory of consumerism, a majority of humanity has lost touch with what could be considered true happiness and prosperity. Disconnected from the natural world, struggling with a lack of understanding and appreciation for the simplistic beauty of life, modern man has come to accept consumerism as an inadequate substitution. Excessive focus on boastful consumer products perpetuates harmful behaviors and fuels negative mentalities, ironically resulting in lower qualities of life. These products and services are offered in an attempt to provide entertainment and comfort. However, their rewards are hollow, rarely invoking more than fleeting moments of happiness and temporary escape, while real health and satisfaction are seldom found. As an ongoing dilemma, similar concerns have troubled art and academia for centuries; specific examples include the writings of William Morris in 1884, social historian Peter N. Stearns, and the artworks of contemporary artists such as Duane Hanson and Chen Wenling. Through sculptural ceramics, it is possible to express these current struggles while simultaneously suggesting solutions. Working with a fundamental natural element, such as clay, provides a satisfactory vehicle for the conveyance of this concept. By manipulating a simple organic material, forms are created that exaggerate and emphasize certain suggested objects of modern misguidance. In this manner the pure medium of clay reflects on truth and health, while the resulting content ironically addresses the opposite. Through this body of work that presents the absurdity of current behaviors, the intent is to stimulate a questioning of values while provoking humanity’s realization of a desperate need for a better direction.