By Ryan O'Connell
Asst. Arts & Features Editor
The Mazmanian Gallery revealed the final set of senior capstone art projects May 3.
The collection consisted of work from four senior students including oil paintings, sculpture, and sketches.
Jen Hensel had five pieces in the current show, and said most were created in advanced sculpture. She added a few were created in advanced drawing.
Hensel said her collection’s pieces work together to relate to her spiritual journey and development as she transitioned into adulthood.
“I pull major elements from Buddhism, Christianity, and kind of twist and distort them just to make them my own,” she said.
Hensel added she tries to pull in influence from all areas of her life when creating, explaining how pop-culture and history can affect her artistic vision. She added she enjoys the freedom of guiding her work toward completion, and being able to “do whatever” she wants to.
“I’ll pull influence from contemporary artists like Urs Fischer - musicians like Frank Ocean, Mac Miller, as well as odd historical references such as Buddhism and Medieval Christianity,” she said.
Hensel said she had been working on her collection for about a year and a half, and started while attending remote classes. She added all the work she is currently making relates to the collection, and it’s hard for her to make something unrelated right now.
She said most of her favorite work is currently in the capstone showing, and it includes most of her prized projects at the moment.
“They’re like my babies, and I love them all so much,” she said.
Eli Go had three oil paintings and a sheet of sketches included in the exhibition, all of which were created for his senior seminar.
Go described the portraits as very personal, despite them being of other people. He said the portraits were a reflection of his interactions and relationships with the subjects.
“I actually sat down and essentially interviewed with these people. … I’d talk to them about different hardships or things that had happened to them specifically - almost like an interrogation. I tried to be as gentle about it as possible, but sometimes you just have to really dig in a little bit,” he said.
Go added the people he chose to paint were very close to him, and didn’t want to push them too hard to make them too emotional, but still encouraged them to open up to him for his artwork. “I acted almost as a therapist.”
Go said he wanted to “take a different spin on portraiture,” explaining how historically portraits have been a status symbol for “nobles,” and how they were often exaggerated to flatter them.
“I wanted to draw real people, as they really are. And that was the whole point of just talking to them, having a conversation - or in this case - having an interview to see who they are. Why they do what they do. What’s going on in their life, really. And not trying to make them out to be this big grand thing, but just real people,” he said.
Go said his favorite part of the process was painting - and while he enjoyed interviewing the subjects, getting the canvas cut, and sitting down to paint was “a very intimate experience.”
He said the idea for the project began over two years ago, before COVID-19, and part of it was carried out over Zoom. He added two of the subjects were repainted after a recent in-person meeting, and it was much better to see them in real life than as pixels.
Go said he was happy to see the collection in the gallery, and he finally considered it as a finished product.
Danielle Ray created several sculptures now on display in her advanced sculpture class, and said she also incorporated a lot of ceramics, since she is currently taking that class too.
Ray said the collection is made up of artwork centered around nature, and specifically around objects she’s found in nature. She said two of the sculptures on display were made in part by using scraps of rust from the woods, or natural objects like seed pods.
She added she included the imprints of leaves on some of the tiles too, which helped her to achieve the overarching theme of using things that have been broken down in nature.
Ray said she really enjoys being outside, which influenced her in creating the collection, and was drawn to elements like the seed pods and rusted metal. She said she enjoys trying to incorporate them into her work, and that most of these elements remind her of an enjoyable past which she enjoys trying to recreate.
She added that recently her family moved onto a new property, and the change has given her more opportunities to look for objects she finds appealing, and put them into her work.
Ray said she really enjoyed arranging the artwork by different metrics, like color or size, in conjunction with the rust to develop the best outcome.
Haley Donahue has six pieces in the gallery, all made in advanced sculpture, some of which include ceramics.
Donahue said each sculpture could be presented on its own, but chose to have them shown together as a creative choice. She said the sculptures represent her experience with sexual violence in the past, and help faciliate discussion on the subject.
“They’re basically just a way for me to create almost a topographical map of my own experience, my own body, my own past, as a way of working through that trauma in a healthy and productive way,” she said.
Donahue said it was her intention to bring the topic of sexual violence “to the forefront of people’s minds” with her sculptures. She added how even though it was a dark theme, it’s something almost any woman will immediately recognize.
“One of the works is titled, ‘One in Three, Three in One,’ where the statistic is one in three women are going to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. And it’s such a huge statistic and something that’s a personal experience for me.
“I wanted to use that as an idea to work through my own issues and make something beautiful and productive that other people can resonate with.”
Donahue said she also enjoys working with time in her art, and frequently draws connections between blemishes of the body like scars and geological change, like the striations of rock.
She added she was excited to continue using a similar technique to the one in the show for the future, and wanted to keep working with clay, as well as move onto physically larger projects.
The Mazmanian Gallery’s third capstone show will be open to visitors until May 8.