BFA Senior Exhibition Spring 2021
The 2021 Spring BFA Exhibition features work from senior artists who are graduating with a degree in fine arts. This exhibition showcases sculptures, prints, and jewelry.
I usually don’t want to be in my own head. Half the time my brain is trying to press the self destruct button, it’s having an anxiety induced meltdown, it’s decided that I won’t feel anything for the next three weeks, or it’s doing all three at once with great enthusiasm. It’s a juggling act to remain academically and societally functional when dealing with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, but I’ve been managing. This body of work is a depiction of my feelings and coping skills relating to or stemming from these mental disorders combined with a healthy amount of escapism in the form of little blue critters and the contents of my kitchen.
In this work, I looked toward the kitchen and food as a place of both comfort and repulsion. Often, I struggle to find interest in food and eating, or I find myself deriving joy only from food. The stark difference in food associations is difficult to navigate, which is why I sought and found solace in exploring both comfort and repulsion in this work. Anthropomorphized creatures are nestled in with oily fish, stabbed by toothpicks, swathed in frosting, and found hiding in an egg carton. Their experience with food is just as polarized and convoluted as mine. Superimposing my intrusive thoughts and daydreams onto something other than myself was helpful in both addressing my complex feelings and moving on from them, and part of why making this work became a coping mechanism in and of itself.\
I chose to create these critters and scenes in paper mache because I feel the material reflects the state of my brain. The mix of paper pulp, water, and flour is mushy, uncooperative, and largely unpredictable, much like my head on a good day. Once dry, it’s lumpy and definitely not in the same shape it was to start with, much like my brain after a depressive episode or stressful event. The material is also sustainable and non-toxic, which have become important things to me in light of deciding to inhabit the planet and my body longer than I had planned. As someone moving forward from suicidal ideation and toward self-preservation, it seems pertinent to ensure that I am not being poisoned by my chosen profession.
Though my past and present work addresses difficult and personal subject matter, I have recently chosen to incorporate humor and color in ways that make the work approachable and relatable. The goal of this work is not to mire myself or the viewer in toxic states of mind; I want to foster discussion, openness, and acceptance for people struggling in the same way I am. I want my work to help them manage too.
The foster care system in the United States, houses 424,000 children who are victims of abuse and neglect. Finding fitting placements for the kids is tricky and with so few homes states try to incentivize becoming a foster parent through monetary compensation. For this reason, a significant number of families get into the child welfare system for the wrong reason. Additionally, it is estimated that 30-50% of foster parents quit within the first year due largely to not being able to handle their foster child’s social and emotional needs. In regard to my own 12 placements – only one showed me the unconditional love that real families provide. Reject Recipes from a Hungry Home is a satirical cookbook that compiles stories from myself and other former foster youths who volunteered to be a part of this project – trusting me to illustrate stories about their traumatizing experiences while in foster care. Through the heavy utilization of text with a mocking tone and saccharine palettes, these prints expose the issues of trauma reinforcement within the foster care system, as well as the innumerable number of foster families that frame comfort and love as a privilege to be earned rather than a guarantee.
All ten pieces in Reject Recipes from a Hungry Home depict a different story told to me by a former foster youth. These stories, however, are presented as if spoken by the foster parent to their foster child to illustrate the lack of voice that foster children have. Not only is our control stripped from us, but we are not trusted by caseworkers when it comes to our word versus that of the foster family. Their treatment of the child often goes on without repercussion, leaving the child to suffer through the aftermath alone. In this way, we are treated as tainted; Much like how certain animals have evolved to be brightly colored to indicate toxicity to others, the vibrant hues of each piece shout at the viewer – letting them know that the foster care system, while having a charitable facade, is toxic for the children who are trapped within it.
Foster children come into care through no fault of their own. The events that culminate into entering the system leave them with a warped view of what “home” is and what “family” should be. Cookbooks and recipes are sentimental items passed down from one generation to the next – being added to over time to keep a historical record of the family. For foster kids, our history is tracked through inaccessible case files. Our family members change quickly, and often suddenly, in the middle of the night by police officers as we carry our few possessions in garbage bags to the next stranger’s house. For this work, I asked contributors to provide, along with their story, foods that reminded them of specific times in care. For one, it was the cookies she would eat with her best friend – the biological daughter of the foster mom who threatened to kill herself if the foster daughter was not removed from her home. For another it was the raw eggs their foster mother made them eat to induce vomiting when she gave them the wrong medication. In this way, food becomes less of a nostalgic comfort and more of a painful trigger.
Each print’s corresponding “recipe” card acts as a bitter retelling of each contributor’s story. The final product of each recipe being the foster youth who aged out of care unprepared to face the world their peers had been raised to move through gracefully. Foster children enter into the system confused about why their biological parents cannot have them and through the cycle of failed placements are shown that they are not worth loving – save for the rare occurrences where a foster family teaches their child that they are deserving of unconditional love. Instead, the initial trauma of losing our own families is reinforced by the repeated failure to gain the love of foster parents – strangers who request placement transfers when they decide they can no longer handle the child’s needs.
The accordion folded book opens up to be 20 feet long, allowing all prints to be viewed simultaneously as the stories themselves are not isolated, but part of a larger narrative regarding a community-wide failing of the child welfare system. The amount of text throughout the work is staggering; keeping the viewer involved forces an unavoidable acknowledgment of the issue. The recipes are not immediately seen, but hidden from sight in envelopes that encourage interaction with the piece; further involving the audience in the work and promoting a sense of unity between themselves and the foster community.
“Inscribed in Worms” is a body of work that explores personal experiences as a way to document history. This exhibition also explores ideas surrounding visual hierarchy and the relationship between jewelry and the environment in which it resides. To make this body of work individuals were interviewed. Each told a significant or impactful story surrounding their life. The necklace and pendant are made to be an inscription of that individual. The inscription, written and recorded in worms, is a way to historically document and celebrate the individual while also creating an opportunity to inspire positive living. These pieces are hip-hop inspired necklaces celebrating the individual and the experiences that make their life unique. Each piece is a nod to the 1980’s hip-hop jewelry motif, where the chain and pendant made from precious metal, represents and honors a person and their accomplishments.
The interview process revealed as to what makes up an individual and how they feel their own experiences have influenced their personality. The piece is meant to commemorate a milestone or important moment in these peoples’ lives. Each piece is a physical embodiment of a particular person. The necklaces and corresponding pendants fall under the category of heirloom. The heirlooms are meant to be passed on to other individuals, creating a sense of lineage and remembrance. The worm and insect imagery is used to create the various pieces of jewelry. This insect imagery along with the representational nature of the pieces are to be read as celebrations of the individual while simultaneously symbolizing that particular individual’s mortality. Instead of a grim reminder of human mortality, each ring and each necklace expresses a sense of positivity derived from the whimsical nature of the insect imagery. This imagery suggests the idea that we will inevitably become food for the worms and insects alike. Each one of these silver jewels is placed within a pillow based sculpture. These sculptural mounts are abstractions representational of grass, flowers, and dirt. The colorful pillows, while serving as mounts for the jewelry, also stand alone as sculptures.
The jewelry placed within the sculptural mounts brings to light the question surrounding visual hierarchy. When the sculptures are unadorned they become the primary focus and stand-alone. They start to represent ideas surrounding nature and interchangeability, ideas that are partially separate from the jewelry. When the jewelry is placed within the sculptures it changes the conversation and the dynamic between the objects. The sculptures become secondary and are visually pushed into the background. The jewelry and sculptures together, work in tandem to achieve the full concept. When the pieces are separated, the ideas surrounding visual dominance and hierarchy appear. This work is expressed in a playful manner both in concepts and the intuitive nature of the medium. “Inscribed in Worms” was created in order to keep an individual present within their daily life. The jewelry within this exhibition should inspire a sense of preciousness and positivity while also being seen as celebratory necklaces and rings that will be worn, shared, and seen as a reminder of mortality. Use this reminder as a way to stay self-aware while maintaining a positive mindset.