By Monica Kaufman
Rather than writing 30-page papers or giving presentations to complete their undergraduate degrees, the studio art majors at the University of Dallas are given the opportunity to create a senior thesis solo exhibition as a culminating project. This is by no means an easy feat, but rather it is the result of countless studio hours and personal devotion to each individual’s artwork. The artists create cohesive bodies of work, install their exhibitions throughout campus, and pass oral examinations as part of their thesis exhibitions. This year’s senior art majors have displayed a vast array of themes in their artwork, from religious or psychological to animalistic, and have presented the UD community with a fantastic collection of their artistic intentions and talent.
The most easily viewed exhibition on campus is that of Frances Thrush, whose hanging sculptural forms can be seen through the glass walls of Blakley Foyer (the “Fishbowl”) from across the Mall. But upon entering the exhibition “Himno Al Ego,” one is surrounded by colorful and organic floating forms, ranging in height from a few feet off the ground to far above the viewer’s head. The forms are bodily-shaped metal constructions covered entirely by small strips of beautifully curled paper. The lowest hanging pieces are covered in shades of deep purple, blue and green, with the tones becoming lighter as they ascend toward the ceiling, softening into light blues, tans and creams. Some of the pieces are entirely closed off, while others allow the viewer to experience both the outside and the inside of the sculpture.
“My work is informed by the individual; the frailties, strengths, defining lines and qualities, the inside and outside of things — of us — the layers that create and come to define us,” Thrush says in her artist statement. Thrush has created an environment that shows both the inner and the outer, contained by glass walls yet visible to all. The exhibit confronts the duality within the human person between what one reveals and what one conceals.
John Defilippis has created a body of work that examines human nature as well, though in a far different manner — through the person of Christ. In his exhibition, “By His Wounds We Are Healed,” on display in Braniff Graduate Building, Defilippis reveals the true humanity within Christ as shown by the Stations of the Cross. Although this seems to be rather traditional subject matter, it is quite a revolutionary topic within the realm of contemporary art. Defilippis takes a typically traditional subject and invites the viewers of his paintings to see it in a different manner. The paintings reveal many moments of Christ’s human weaknesses, such as struggling under the weight of the cross and dying, rather than focusing on obvious moments of His glorification. Through the use of expressive marks, careful rendering of the human form, nearly life-size figures and bold colors, the paintings draw the viewer in and create an instant human connection. Through the specific attention given to Christ’s body, the viewer is called to realize that he is made of the same substance as Christ. In these moments of bodily weakness, Defilippis conveys Christ’s humanity, that aspect of Him to which we can relate most of all.
“Whispering Luminosities: The Divide Within,” Kathleen Ramirez’s exhibition, creates an acute bodily awareness as well, but this time through abstract means. Exhibited in the Upper Gallery in the Painting/Printmaking building, “Whispering Luminosities” consists of six different-colored monoprints lining one wall, each 60 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Each consists of a different gradient range; for example, one is black on the outer edges, transitioning to red and then white in the middle. Ramirez used the primary and secondary colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. On the opposing wall stands a line of black panels of the same size with colored light emanating from behind in colors corresponding to the aligned print on the opposite wall. The prints are all titled “Ego,” while the panels are “Shadow.” Ramirez created a space in which the viewer is confronted by his conscious self (the ego) and the animalistic, underlying self (the shadow) at the same time, though both cannot be focused on at once. The “Ego” and “Shadow” pieces are visual inverses of each other, revealing the duality within the human person. Walking through the exhibition is like walking along a tightrope between these two aspects of the self, trying to find a balance but finding oneself focusing on one or the other.
Across from “Whispering Luminosities” is Alex Cerza’s exhibition, titled “Relative Impressions,” which is filled with prints of repeating images and patterns, faces and stripes. Many of the pieces are portraits of sorts, with black and white prints of specific individuals over colored patterns of shapes and stripes. There is an element of images spilling out that sticks in one’s mind, particularly in pieces that show many of the same small portraits in columns or patterns. Other images are repeated throughout the body of work, such as a goat, skulls and a humorous human-brain-animal hybrid. These repeated portraits and images build the people and things they represent into symbols that the viewer is kept at a distance from understanding, yet wants to examine. While the work has a humorous element in its depiction of goats and laughing men, there is also a deeper element of mystery within it that resonates with the viewer as he tries to piece the story together.
The images of animals in Cerza’s exhibition are the focus of “Aquaddities,” Sarah Reape’s exhibition. Reape’s show, located in Gorman Lecture Center, consists of familiar yet alien animals: Each image features a recognizable animal, but it is combined with a different animal, creating something that is both real and imaginary. For example, “Octopus Gastropoda” is an octopus-snail hybrid, complete with scientific name. It is paired with “Octopus Scyphozoa,” an octopus-jellyfish creature. While the viewer can recognize all the animals within these photolithographs, he is also confronted with something unfamiliar. It is reminiscent of the theory that the imagination only takes elements it knows and combines them in never-before-seen ways. In “Aquaddities,” Reape brings these combinations to life in a beautiful way, turning aquatic animals into an array of possible creatures.
With such a variety of techniques, talents and concepts on display, the senior art majors have given UD the chance to experience artwork that ranges from personal to universal, figurative to abstract, traditional to experimental. The exhibitions run through Friday, May 8. Be sure to attend their closing receptions on that night from 7 to 9 p.m. to congratulate and commemorate their hard work and completed exhibitions.