BFA students showcase art in-person for first time since pandemic

Holzinger's piece, "More is Less" can be viewed between April 22 - 29 in the "Breaking Ground" BFA exhibition. 

With the end of the semester nearing, many students are working on the final big projects in their courses. This is a particularly special moment for the Fine Arts Department, where some students are currently preparing to hold their first in-person exhibition of pieces in awhile.

One upcoming exhibition is titled “Breaking Ground.” It will run in person from April 22 to April 29.

Kenzie Holzinger, a senior art and design student from Highland, Illinois, said she is happy to watch others appreciate the exhibition.

“To me, it is very exciting that it’s in person. It’s great to have your work seen physically, instead of on a screen,” Holzinger said. “It means a lot that I’m able to have my work hung up, and to be done with it, instead of being so worried.”

Senior art and design major Allena Brazier, of East St. Louis, Illinois, said  the exhibition is missing in-person artist talks. Artist talks are when the creator of a piece discusses it themself. Although people can go into the gallery, Brazier said the artist talks will be held over Zoom.

“I’m treating this as a regular exhibition, because I put care into my work regardless. I think it’d be more pressure if it was even more in person. Usually, it’s a couple hundred people in the gallery, but they still obviously can’t do that,” Brazier said. “I am excited for [the artist talks]. It’s different, because you have to be concise. Listening on a computer is different than talking to the artist face-to-face.”

The topics of the pieces varied across the artists, like with senior art and design major Kayla Gillispie from Belleville, Illinois. Gillispie said her pieces focused on the evolution of Black female hairstyles over time.

“Since I’m a graphic designer, I’ll have my posters and one GIF at the end. It all looks at Black women’s hair over time, and how that has changed,” Gillispie said. “I’m using Black advertisements, and looking at how the looks of hair have changed. I’m really looking at hair culture and identity, and how they have influenced each other.” 

Brazier said she looked at race and history with her pieces as well.

“I did some of these pieces before, but I redid them for this, and relooked over how I wanted to present them. For example, I built a table in honor of the students in all the sit-ins in the 1960s,” Brazier said. “I built it around 2019, and I built it again for another exhibition. Then this year, I built it again. Each time, it was somewhat different and better. It was an accumulation, but it was me reintroducing it.” 

According to senior art and design major Matt Meyer from Naperville, Illinois, his sculptures are also politically-charged, but they contain other meanings as well.

“All my work has two different sides to it. One side is moments you take for granted, like, if you take your friends out for a night. It’s something you’d always do, but you haven’t been able to do it for a year now,” Meyer said. “There’s also political aspects, looking at how America isn’t the best for everyone.”

Meyer said he was especially excited about the QR codes he included with some of his sculptures, which can be used to help educate people.

“With [the QR codes], you don’t know where you’ll be taken, and they can show you something you may not expect,” Meyer said. “The political pieces have the QR codes [on them]… I’ve always liked street art, where you can just put sculptures out, and if someone goes out and sees a piece, they can learn something from it.”

Holzinger said her pieces, which are drawings with some paints mixed in, focus on the destruction of the natural world.

“I’m really interested, or I have been interested for a long time, in the relationship between humanity and nature,” Holzinger said. “This sort of points to a direct relationship between us and some of the problems nature is having.”

Since this is the senior exhibition, most of the artists will be leaving SIUE this semester. According to Holzinger, that makes this exhibition a bit more bittersweet.

“I’m currently planning on taking some time off. This is actually my second degree. I got my first bachelors at Thomas Edison State University,” Holzinger said. “I’ve gotten my BFA to maybe go into grad school later and get a masters, but that’s the loose plan. I’ll be taking a quick break.”

To view the virtual exhibition, check the Art and Design Department’s website.

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