Student artists seek to create beauty, impact peers with senior shows

Ellen Cline
Ellen Cline, senior art major, uses natural materials, such as red clay in many of her sculpture projects. | Photo by Amanda Rohde
Ellen Cline
Ellen Cline, senior art major, attempts to balance several wooden cones coated in red clay on top of each other for her senior art show. | Photo by Amanda Rohde

ART 499 (Seminar III: Portfolio and Graduating Exhibit) is the final hurdle each art major must leap before graduation and pursuit of his or her career.

Steve Halla, assistant professor of art and the instructor for this spring’s ART 499 class, said the course is designed to give students “a real-life gallery experience before they graduate,” including brainstorming for and creating the art, writing a proposal and staging the art within the gallery itself.

“They’ll graduate with a coherent body of work that represents the highest level of that they’ve accomplished, and they can then use that as a stepping point when they leave the school,” Halla said. Julia Hembree and Ellen Cline, senior art majors, both wrestle with issues bigger than a gallery space in their senior shows.

Hembree said she plans to combine her double emphasis of photography and graphic design in a collection of four stop-motion videos, titled “Forage.”

“People come to galleries from all different places in life, and they all get to be impacted by the same piece,” Hembree said. For this reason, she said, she wanted to choose a topic important to her and that she wishes others to ponder as well: issues of doubt and faith. Each three-minute film deals with “foraging for truth … amongst a lot of pain,” Hembree said.

She added that she thinks people tend to glamorize the Christian life, assuming everything will be perfect once they attain salvation, but “often it’s a harsher reality than that.”

Hembree wants to explore with viewers “why is there still pain, why is there still suffering, why we keep moving forward and saying that there’s a God when all this is happening,” she said.

The films, which will play on loop, will be projected simultaneously side by side to give the show coherence.

They feature live actors, but the stories have fantasy-like qualities to them, Hembree said. She said she has been working on this idea since her freshman year.

Hembree doesn’t want her show to leave people with a sense of contentment or complacency, she said.

“Despite how it seems depressing at first glance, I want people to be able to come together in community and discuss. I want people to ask questions,” she added. “I think that there is hope in perseverence … that’s what faith is.”

Hembree’s classmate Ellen Cline said she will also feature video in her studio space, as documentation of her large-scale outdoor projects. Cline said she plans to create up to four sculpture pieces from natural materials, primarily a certain type of earth found in the woods behind Union’s campus.

“On one hand, I want to deal with pain and burdens that I sense in the world around me,” she said. “On the other hand I’m dealing with a specific material, which is this red dirt. … It has red iron oxide in it, which is the same thing that makes our blood red.”

Cline added that there is commonality between the material and the idea of burdens or pain: “Just like the burdens, which seem to come out of nowhere for no reason, there is not really any concrete reason for this red earth to be so beautiful.”

Cline said she got the idea for these pieces though a previous project, inspired by a statistic stating 400 Christians are murdered each day for their faith. In an empty warehouse, Cline arranged rows of representative objects — first cloth, then ash, then stone.

“For three days I worked on installation, and I did 400 components per day,” Cline said.

Cline  said she plans to make abstract forms out of the red earth, which she will place in outdoor environments.

She hopes to create arrangements that are meaningful to others: “If I could present something beautiful with that earth that, even for a split second, could replace someone’s pain with a moment of beauty, that’s what I’m going for,” she said.

Image courtesy of Cardinal & Cream|Cardinal & Cream
About Kate Benedetti 30 Articles
Staff writer Kate Benedetti ('14) is a creative writing major and journalism minor from Collierville, Tennessee. Her passions include Motown, bad science fiction, and ice cream sandwiches. Peeves include misplaced apostrophes and flagrant abuse of the word "meme."