Senior Thesis Exhibits

Each spring, Staniar Gallery showcases work by the Art Department's graduating studio majors in a senior thesis exhibition. The year long thesis project gives the students the experience of creating a cohesive body of work and the opportunity to exhibit in a professional gallery space. The group show features accomplished artwork in a variety of media including painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, and sculpture.

ELEVEN: 2010 Senior Thesis Exhibitions

Laura Cavanaugh

In this body of artwork, I wanted to draw from inspirations of my past and feelings I have for the future. My challenge was to convey these ideas in a medium that I have grown to love working with: stained glass. In my work, I hope to retain the aesthetic appeal of stained glass while taking a nontraditional approach with it to tell my story. I fell in love with stained glass five years ago, creating pieces which I was “supposed” to craft: lamps, conventional mosaics and representational sun catchers. As I worked to portray the medium on a more conceptual level in this series, the characteristics of glass including the playful interaction of color, light and sculptural form inspired this collection.

I hope that from my work the viewer is able to better appreciate the basic elements of the stained glass medium, which work together in a way like paints might interact on a canvas. I deconstructed the traditional uses of the material and showcased it among mundane, everyday objects such as a sink, faucets and tube of toothpaste. The pieces have a certain energy about them produced by the light, forms and colors that I hope my audience both views and feels when they see my exhibited work.

Ngozika Egbuonu

I am drawn to portraiture's ability to capture and evoke emotion through the artist's unique rendering of the human face. I paint self-portraits in addition to renderings of my close family and friends and I have an appreciation for the works of artists Elizabeth Peyton and Rebecca Westcott, who both used their friends and family as figures in their pieces. In addition to taking cues from other artists for my work, I borrowed Jenny Saville's technique of painting from a photograph and began collecting images of me and my muses from their childhood and early adulthood.

I became fascinated with drips and splatters of color acrylic paint mixed with water on paper and canvas. I decided to incorporate the random dribbles of paint into the backgrounds of my portraits. Each element of my work down to the canvas the image is painted on symbolizes the countless ways in which circumstance could have redirected our lives and changed them dramatically. As a result, the overarching theme of my work is one of intention and randomness and how the two fit together to create harmony. The only intentional decisions made in the work are the selection of the people to be painted, images used for the portrait, the visible charcoal lines used to outline both the face and the bust, the orientation of canvas to fit the face, and the color used for the background, while the randomness can be found in the backgrounds created and the varying sizes of the canvas. The intentionality and the arbitrariness intertwine to create a working image and a body of paintings that are cohesive, while retaining individuality. Ultimately, life is much like the paintings before you; there are intentional decisions and unintentional ones that, together, create an exciting adventure.

A'rese Emokpae

I have always been interested in faces and the people that hide behind them. This near obsession with trying to understand people (and why they do the things they do) turned into a fascination with the human face; the components that make them up; the features that identify us; and the masks that hide our most private selves.

Amy Harbilas

"True Novelty is that which does not grow old, despite the passage of time" - The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

With our fast changing world, few things can really be labeled true novelty, but I see my subject matter, these signs, as such. Barbery's interpretation of true novelty considers novelty not as what is new, but what is not old. Since the construction of each of these businesses' chosen presentation, time has passed, but their unique qualities, shape and colors keep them visually interesting. In our technologically driven and visually overloaded lives, we are continuously bombarded with familiar imagery. We have become accustomed to the assurance of mass production and visual cues. These signs offer a reprieve. With a quick glance, you do not always know what these signs are saying, and their shape and color do not immediately communicate this either. Take a second look. These signs, true novelties, show the passage of time while succeeding in visual newness.

I feel a great affinity for each of these signs, their intricacies and semantics, and because they are so meaningful for me, I believe they should also peak other's interests. By presenting a straight on image, I am not challenging the viewer's tastes or challenging them to decipher the composition. Through this I want people to stop and notice the intricacies that exist within the world surrounding them so they can constantly question that world. I challenge viewers to question more than just that - why was this sign effective when it was built, is it still effective today, and what does this sign tell you as a consumer? I am sad that few signs and businesses have stood the test of time, and I am not ready for true novelty to become extinct.

Anne Kasper

Our knowledge of space is often limited to the things which occupy it. Reflections, shadow and light play off the objects within a room in ways that become familiar. Seldom do we consider our everyday interiors void of the furniture and clutter that defines them. Through my exploration of empty interior spaces, I have come to recognize the beauty and simplicity in bare walls and floors. Without decoration, space takes on the patterns of light through a window. Without fixtures, corners and angles begin to form their own compositions.

My series sprung from an interest in the relationships between geometrical shapes found in interior spaces. When shooting the photographs for these paintings, a unifying theme began to manifest in the importance of light and its influence on space. Interaction of light in a room drafts the shapes and contours of the room, making them readable. Layering of color came to play a pivotal role in developing the variations in light. Color became my means of exploring and defining each of the spaces and giving life to light and shadow. Finally, line serves both to clarify and cloud our interpretation of the space and its construction.

Elizabeth Krausnick

This collection of work is drawn from my experiences living in the Virginia countryside. I was initially struck by the harmony created between the rustic state of the structures and the vibrant setting in which they were located. In my exploration of the country house, I wanted to create a type of harmony that is fresh, vibrant, and spontaneous. Furthermore, I sought to produce a language of abstraction through fusion of color and spontaneity. I was influenced by Matisse and Rothko's use of color combinations, in addition to Wolf Kahn's principles of chromatic tension and movement.

Color and light are the primary components of my work, allowing me to express emotion and tension, while creating a thought-provoking subject. The paintings translate both the beauty of the natural surroundings as well as a personal identity with the structure. I sought to convey an extravagant luminosity in all of the paintings where colors shimmer, hover, and disappear within the works. Each piece has a specific personality. I used brush stroke, color, light and movement to create the personification of each houses. Weather dark and looming, or vibrant and lively, every painting takes on an individual identity.

Stephanie Mansey: In the Moment

My work blends my passions for painting and theater. I have performed in plays since I was a child, and some of my happiest memories are from my years growing up on the stage. For this body of work, I revisit some of these memories, as well as some moments from my childhood where I am "acting" in everyday life.

My paintings show children, often myself alone or with my brother, in scenes where we are playing, pretending, dressing up, or otherwise expressing our personalities. The vivid, almost artificial, light highlights the staged theatricality of the image. Children have few inhibitions, and they live freely in the here and now. Because they are rarely bothered by problems larger than what is presented to them at any point in time, their emotions are pure and heightened. As I grow older and have more responsibility, I find that it gets easier to lose touch with this sense of living in the present. Acting brings me back to this state. When I am on stage, all that matters is the performance, being in the spotlight, and letting myself escape into a different world and become my character.

I am inspired by images where the subjects seem to be performing for the camera, similarly to how they might act on the stage. The scenes I choose capture the characters in the moment, in instances when they are caught up in what they are doing and do not concern themselves with anything else. Viewers are invited to explore the story that each painting tells or create one of their own. Pool Series and Steps Series offer two scenes that happen in succession, almost like screenshots, which ties back in the idea of performance. When viewers see these "snapshots", I want them to share the emotions that the children are expressing. Part of my intention is for viewers to walk away with some of the same feelings I experience when I am acting: alive, carefree, and full of energy and emotion. But my paintings also elicit a longing to relive these fleeting moments, an unattainable desire which creates a sense of uneasiness and nostalgia.

Grace McGee: The Act of Sleeping

Sleeping is a necessary part of each person's life. We need to sleep. We find comfort in sleep. We indulge in sleep. To sleep is not simply to rest the physical self, but to release self-consciousness and to become a raw expression of ourselves through this unique and deeply personal act of mind/body interaction.

For my senior thesis work, I have created a series of drawings that exhibit my interest in sleep through the forms of sleeping women. Each drawing features one sleeping woman-a person I know, who I have observed sleeping-drawn in pen and ink, situated in an ambiguous space. In drawing each figure, my process was consistent: I used heavy ink in one continuous mark to describe my immediate response to the essence of the pose. After these initial marks, I chose to develop each figure, each woman, through the use of finer line in specific areas of the body.

The intentional variation in line and the use of the line is intended to unify opposite or conflicting ideas about sleep, the female form, and the act of drawing itself. The drawings appear at once both harmonious and tensional, and the forms are both abstract and literal. The figures, too, appear both present and vacant, both harsh and delicate. In addressing conflicting ideas about my subject matter, my method of presentation thereby conveys the human sleeping experience as one that that is free from self-consciousness while also intimately cerebral.

Michael O'Brien: Visiting

My interest in photographing families began when I started photographing my own family. In Visiting, I explore the phenomenon of a former family life becoming alien to a returning child. Abandoning the goal many people have of creating a memorial to their own family through photographs, I make pictures that explore the nuances of family life, both the celebrated and the uncomfortable. My pictures are about the dueling familiarity and isolation that I view as emblematic of an individual's experience within a family. While many of my photographs are portraits of individual family members, oftentimes photographs of environments and objects can represent this opposition effectively. Places such as a forgotten corner of a yard or a bleak interior of a home and objects such as Christmas trees and suitcases are transformed into photographs and populate the work. These places and objects are symbols of family life and togetherness, but when forced into the limiting confines of the frame of a photograph, they begin to hint at the isolation one can feel while still being part of the whole.

The work is also about the mortality of family life and the feelings of futility that come as a result of recognizing this mortality. I first began taking photographs of my family as a reaction to my own grandfather's failing health. Suddenly realizing that my grandfather and others would eventually pass on, I picked up the camera and began documenting. I was attempting to make my family immortal, to preserve it in a perfect state.

A family has no beginning, middle, or end. There is only movement through time. With the acceptance that the members of my family are mortal comes the realization that the family has the possibility of being self-regenerating. There is death and there is life, and there is hope that the family will continue.

Michael White: Rockbridge Artifacts

An aluminum soda can degrades in 200 to 500 years. A car left to the elements can last over 1,000 years. For better or worse, the broken down junk that blankets Rockbridge County will be around much longer than you or I. Remnants of homesteads gone by devolve into hybridized landscapes of shrapnel and pine, and serious aesthetic and environmental questions bubble to the top of the collective social conscious: are we willing to accept junk covered foothills as the new American rural? Is a yard full of junk an eyesore, a thing of strange anthropogenic beauty, a relic of a land-domineering age gone by, or little more than a reality we must accept?

Rockbridge Artifacts aims not to pass judgment on the residents, practices or history of the county, but rather to examine the compounded reality of hundreds of years of human impact on the land. As a member of a particularly transient subsection of the Rockbridge community, I cannot begin to fully understand the attitudes and culture that produce the landscapes I photograph. There is no enemy I wish to point out, there is no message I hope to convey beyond the evidence itself. The bottom line is that the junk is here to stay. I simply wish for the viewer to see what we have done and reflect internally. The factors that create the junkyard of human artifacts that is Rockbridge County are manifold: socioeconomic factors, poor or nonexistent public planning and sprawl for generations, unenforced zoning laws and a cultural mindset of American materialism - the notion that there will always be more and that more is better.

Queenie Wong: Imprints of Popular Music

The repetitiveness and structure within music is what makes it so addictive. Like a subliminal message, popular music seeps into the minds of its listeners. Sometimes the imprint a song leaves is temporary, other times it renters the mind in the most unexpected moments - a walk down a grocery aisle or a drive through a freeway. Through its beats and lyrics, mainstream music, undoubtedly, has the ability to speak to the masses.

Imprints of Popular Music explores the feel-good pattern, color, and form extracted from these songs. I define popular music economically, by using singles that have been number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 within the last year. The rankings of the weekly chart are based on radio plays and sales. The energy, meaning, and pace of the music guide what marks I make throughout each monotype and its color. Although each piece is unique and cannot be easily reproduced, my experience in other printmaking mediums such as woodcut and etching have allowed me to incorporate these repetitive forms. In order to give the series a commercial feel, I used stencils continually throughout my work, I often refrained from drawing directly on the Plexiglas, and I layered multiple monotypes within each piece.

The result is a body of work that I hope reflects a commercially manufactured and transient sense of happiness from a consumer's perspective. I regard each personal interpretation of the song as a reflection and reaction to music that is often unintentionally playing in my head. The series is not about whether mainstream music is better or worse than its predecessors; that judgment I leave for the viewers. Overall, each monotype is a personal documentation of what can't be seen by the naked eye, but is universally felt through listening to popular music as it momentarily strips us of all our worries and problems.