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Students express trauma, humor, and childish memories at Juried Students Art Exhibition

By Emily Rosenberg, Ryan O'Connell

Students and members of the Framingham community mingled at the Mazmanian Art Gallery’s

reception for the annual Juried Students Art Exhibition Feb. 5.

Twenty FSU students including part-time, full-time, and graduate students displayed artwork of all mediums.

This year the show was juried by Lynne Cooney, director of exhibitions and galleries at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly. Cooney selected the artwork as well as the four prize winners, said Ellie Krakow, director of the Mazmanian Art Gallery.

Third Place went to Danielle Ray for her sculpture “Untitled.” In a description read by Krakow, Cooney said it was picked because she was “impressed by the sense of motion and grace in the sculptures as well as the playful interactions between the pieces.”

Second place went to Dillon Handy for his felt sculpture of a pencil “Macro Golf Pencil.” It was picked for its “lighthearted sense of humor” and attention to detail, Krakow said.

First place was given to Diana Azen, who did not attend the event, for “Melt Man.” It was picked because Cooney enjoyed the “intimacy of the scale” and “delicately textured mark” which she thought “expressed a very powerful and relatable sentiment,” said Krakow.

A final award was given to Indigo Tree-McGrath, an art Education graduate student, for her work “Ignominious Collection of the Overwhelmed.” The award was given to the artist for embodying this year’s Arts & Ideas theme “Good Trouble” in their work. Mazmanian Art Gallery had collaborated closely with the committee for the past several years now, said Krakow.

Cooney picked Tree-McGrath’s work for the “Good Trouble” award because of its “honesty, ambition, and political strength,” said Krakow.

Jenna Billian, a senior sculpture major, began by describing her piece as constructed by “working with a collection,” how it was composed of things she already gathered alongside new parts she chose – and that the whole collection consisted of over 100 items.

“I really have this compulsion to almost, like, hoard things – to hoard things that kind of remind me of my childhood and my youth and my adolescence,” she said.

Billian said she struggled with figuring out what she wanted to submit, and that she “had no idea what [she] wanted to do” until she slept on it. “And then I went to bed, and somehow I kind of just came up with this vision of this pink wall with these tiny little pink shelves.”

She added when she came to school and built the piece, it came out almost exactly how she had it pictured in her head, which she described as being “really cool.” She mentioned it was one of the only times she has ever seen it work out so well.

Billian said that the piece was made for her sculpture methods and materials class, and that it was made up of stuff that she just had, and how it contributed to the feel of the piece – “just kind of a whole array of stuff.

“Some of it is Chanel, like empty containers I found on the side of the road. ... Some are pom-poms that I made, some are things of tinsel that I sewed together – a little painting that I made, a lot of plastic stuff,” she said.

Handy, second-place winner and a part-time student, submitted a sculpture of a golf pencil scaled up to 2-feet long, made almost entirely of felt. He said that while he had never worked with felt before, he found it “very fun,” and said that “it was something enjoyable and calming.”

Handy shared that he had worked with wood sculptures in the past and grafted felt onto them for the enjoyment of using it.

He said while he enjoyed working with felt, it wasn’t his favorite medium to work in, and that he “did everything.” Handy added he had a “very broad range in that sense.”

He said he “thought it had the most wow factor,” out of all of his pieces. He added the piece was “something you don’t see every day.”

Handy spoke about what the assignment he made the sculpture for required, and pointed out another entry in the competition, which was made by a peer in his class.

“There’s actually another piece in the show by another student in the class that did a drill, a power drill, and he scaled it down – his piece was a little bit more comical and very fantastical with the colors that he chose, which worked well for the piece that he did. I wanted to be as true to realism as I could,” he said.

Emily Flaherty, junior biology major, submitted a hand sculpted maple jug, titled, “Let me take you to my hometown,” which she made using “slabs and coils” and “graffito techniques to get the colors and the letters and the design in there.” She discussed the role trial and error played in this piece, and how the work was inspired by her childhood.

“It was inspired by where I grew up. I grew up in New Hampshire, and kind of the middle of nowhere. I grew up in a small town, and we would have so many farms that would sell maple syrup, things like that,” she said.

Flaherty said that while she is a STEM major, she took two years of pottery in high school and “loved it.” She explained that with her required courses, she didn’t have many opportunities to explore creative projects like this.

“With all my science classes, I never had time to do an art class and then [when] there was finally an opening in a ceramics class, I was like ‘I have to do it.’ So, it’s super exciting to get back in this,” she said.

The art is collected through an open call, said Krakow. They promoted the exhibition through faculty, art classes and email invitations. Students were permitted to submit up to three pieces to the gallery, said Krakow.

She added an outside juror judges the artwork impartially, as the art teachers know the students’ work and lives.

“We end up with selections that aren’t based on any knowledge of students’ lives, biographies, practices, [or] the process they’ve made,” Krakow said.

Sam Coombs, junior studio art major, submitted three pieces to the gallery. One of her pieces “Pieces” was admitted after professors initially advised her not to submit, she said.

“I went with my gut and submitted the piece even though I was advised not to, and I’m really glad that I did,” Coombs said.

The piece was a mixed media collage filled with colorful shredded paper clippings, and a sculpted hand.

Coombs sculpted the hand in senior year of high school from direct observations. She sat for around eight hours observing her hand and recreating what she saw, she said. After that, it became one of her favorite pieces.

She joined the collage and the hand sculpture after taking a collage and mixed media class in the Fall 2021 semester. The collage is made of photos and photo negatives that were put through a paper shredder, she said.

The process of lining up the shredded photographs was satisfying and meditative, Coombs said. The shreds were of old and replicated photographs from her childhood which she did not want her mom to get rid of.

Tree-McGrath had two pieces in the gallery ‘Ignominious Collection of the Overwhelmed’ ‘ and a portrait of Alicia Keys.

The collection was part of an assignment for her sculpture class in the Fall 2021 semester. It is built from her mother’s Barbie dolls which were ruined in a fire when Tree-McGrath was 16 years old, she said.

The Barbie dolls had been sitting in her basement along with a lot of boxes of other burned things, she said.

The piece is meant to emulate trauma, Tree-Mcgrath said. She thinks people can relate to having to carry that stuff that causes them pain. “The piece is very unstable and I feel like I’m very unstable.”

She wanted people to feel stressed when they saw it, and decided to make the sculpture look like it was falling down – “kind of like how somebody might look on the inside when they’re traumatized,” she said.

The point of the piece is to display “the things that we keep and the things that stay with us. Even when a traumatic experience is over, it is still happening to you and you have to live with it every day,” Tree-McGrath said, “And I live with those Barbies in my basement every day taking up space that could be used for something else.”

She added she created the Alicia Keys portrait because she is her idol and her powerful lyrics have “saved” her from succumbing to her traumatic experiences, especially as a multiracial woman. She posted the photo on Instagram, and Keys’ mother liked the post, Tree-McGrath said.

The Juried Student Exhibition will be on display in the Mazmanian Art Gallery until Feb. 23.


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