Soft background music, pleasant conversation drifting and mingling amidst huddled groups, people lingering, some fluttering from display to display; this atmosphere was the setting of the BFA student exhibition, Interlude, on opening night Friday, Nov. 8, 2013.
For many students, graduation is the defining moment of accomplishment with minute checkpoints along the way. While that truth remains, for 11 students their big moment arrived a tad premature of the pomp and circumstance of the graduation march set to take place in December.
The fine arts discipline, as with many disciplines, requires students in their final semester to compose a body of work in their focus area to display their artistry acquired while pursuing the undergrad degree.
This year's show featured painting, photography, sculpture,and various installations by the 11 graduating BFA artists in the program: Sarah Burks, Shannon Charles, Georgann Demille, Dolly Herciuk, Heather Horton, Dusty Jolliff, Kia Lola, Marlon Turner, Mary Vaux-Hansen, Corey White and Tommy Wilson.
This year's venue was housed in The Martha and Robert Fogleman Galleries of Contemporary Art Nov.3-16, which is located in the Arts and Communication Building (ACB), the home-base for many students' courses.
Even before entering the gallery, set in two off-set rooms, the entrance was overflowing with pieces from select bodies of work and physical human bodies alike engaged in an evening of art appreciation.
As all of the artists had one primary goal of presenting their most accomplished works, the message, delivery, purpose, and driving influence behind them drastically varied.
“What influenced my current body of work was that I really wanted to photograph something I was passionate about. I am very passionate about my Christian faith. I wanted to present this series in a way that would not be cliche. I'm most proud of the fact that I found a way to do Christian art without being cliche, condescending or didactic. I'm also proud of the positive response I've been receiving about the work," expressed Dusty Jolliff about her stained glass images.
For some, the work touched on dark, personal matters such as domestic violence and drug addiction; whereas others focused on heritage and faith. The mediums used, ranged from everyday products such as dryer sheets and duct tape...lots and lots of duct tape, to more elaborate ideas through wood crafting and massive oil painted canvases.
“My work is a direct manifestation of my personal experience with a meth addiction. (It) is a testament of what I have accomplished after conquering a drug that once held immense control over my entire life,” stated Heather Horton.
However she added, “making this body of work brings me great joy and happiness...I never knew I could produce work that has involved such personal feelings. The University of Memphis has a unique selection of teachers that have influenced me to become more than what I ever imagined.”
In a similar tone, the work, “Purging of the Past: Pt II” by Kia Lola dealt with her personal experiences with domestic violence.
“For the individual tainted by domestic violence whether physical, emotional or sexual in nature, there's a certain darkness that follows," she said. "(The work) is a surrealist portrayal of the psychological state following years of abuse. Most importantly, however, (it) is a story of survival.”
While finally accomplishing such a strenuous feat is a joyous moment for these students, getting to this place is one that many of the artists expressed as quite a “struggle.”
“In the beginning my photography was all over the place. I didn't have one set direction, but I feel that was important to my education. I finally feel like an artist whereas before I just felt like a stumbling student,” shared Jolliff.
However, with this accomplishment the students can now reflect upon what their experiences have taught them and how they have prepared them for the very near future post graduation.
“I feel this program has prepared me post graduation because of how much I have learned and have grown through my education here at the university,” stated Marlon Turner.
He also offered wisdom for students seeking to journey the path towards acquiring a BFA degree.
“Advice I would give to a student entering this art program is to allow yourself to grow and become satisfied with YOUR work. Do not create work for a grade or to please others but rather for conveying your message and point to its fullest," he said. "Never stop working and never give up on anything. Take it from me, anything is possible to achieve but you HAVE to put yourself into your art making process. Taking this route professionally requires seriousness and discipline, if you are not able to go through sacrifices and struggles that come with this process, turn around now.”