University Park, IL,
14:55 PM

Graduating Art Students Create Connections in Virtual Gallery


Despite classes moving to alternative platforms, the graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts students at Governors State University (GSU) are still being celebrated. The students’ final projects are officially on display in the Visual Arts Gallery, and Director of the Gallery and the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, Jeff Stevenson, has created a virtual tour so the students and their work can be viewed safely from home.

Stevenson describes the process of displaying the projects in the gallery––which draw inspiration from quarantine and beyond––as one that involves showcasing the pieces in a way that will honor their integrity while creating further depths of meanings in their connections with the other artists' works on display.

Through the collections, the students play external factors against internal monologues to create an exhibit representative of the current state of the world, and the timeless state of the human condition. Tyler Santor's printmaking expresses the need to leave quarantine, with the cartoon characters' captions expressing statements such as "Everything is canceled," which make the days spent at home feel dreamlike––fake and yet undeniably tangible.

And while it would seem that Kayla Salinas' landscape photos would draw the viewer away from their computer screens to international travel, the landscapes and portraits of broken vases side by side ground the audience. Salinas describes her goal in the series was “to make work that draws viewers into the now.” The word “salvage” is used in her artist’s statement and so the moments captured in the pictures feel more like reclaimed time we may have let slip past us.

The theme of broken and healing is also explored in ceramic in Kenya Moffett-Garner’s “Occupancy” series. Human figures, like contemporary Grecian mythos statues, flank the gallery, breaking and bending under the energy pressed upon them by external situations and societal pressures. While the cracks and holes in the figures should retract from their beauty, the imperfections act like windows into the souls of the figures. Moffett-Garner says the work is proof that we “exist through our trauma.”

The eye is caught during the virtual tour, like moths to a flame, by Crystal Thorns’ monochromatic black and white drawings, which juxtapose hyper realistic elements with surreal components. The paradox challenges the viewer’s definitions of comfort and normality, challenges everyone has faced in quarantine.

Taylor Mezo’s bright ceramics seem to pop off the grey gallery walls. The bold colors and dark lines of the series stand out while simultaneously complimenting Tyler Santor’s prints.

The Gallery comes together to create an exhibition as varied, yet unified as the university’s campus and community.