UNCW’s 2022 Senior Art Exhibition reflects the education of graduating students

Tristan Rathbun, Staff Writer

On April 7, the Cultural Arts Building opened its Senior Art Exhibition, featuring the work of 23 graduating seniors majoring in Studio Art. The exhibit is a capstone requirement for seniors in the major. The exhibition is located in the Art Gallery and in the upstairs Mezzanine Gallery of the Cultural Arts Building. It is now open to the public Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until May 14. 

The exhibition showcases works in painting, photography, sculpture, ceramics, papermaking and more. The subjects vary as greatly as the inspirations of these artists, from fantasy worlds to exploring the beauty in more mundane settings.

“Each piece represents a culmination of their four years of study, a final synthesis of everything they’ve learned,” said Professor Donald Furst, who led the seniors in these projects over the semester. “We ask them to visualize what their body of work is going to be. What are you trying to convey?”

Artwork by Akira Collins, oil on canvas. (Tristan Rathbun)

Display cabinets and stands featuring the work of several artists greet visitors outside the entrance of the gallery. Inside, the walls and display stands work to create a section for each artist, while some of the sculptures can be found throughout the gallery. 

Akira Collins is one of the senior artists featured in this exhibit and described their work as a combination of fine arts and typography. “Fine arts are seen in a gallery and typography generally isn’t, so merging the two fields is interesting to me,” they said. 

One of the pieces, titled “Necrotic,” found inspiration in Collins’ time working as an RA. “The concept of writing out lines as punishment, ‘alive, awake, alert,’” they said. The work is hand-written, and the mistakes, crossed out in red ink to contrast the black, give it an especially organic feeling. Collins’ interest in design and book covers provided a visual inspiration for the exhibit.

Artwork by Hunter Herndon. A Topographic Map made of wood. (Tristan Rathbun)

Much of Hunter Herndon’s work is made from laser-cut wood and is inspired by his deep interest in fantasy. Herndon’s fictional world “Veinovia” finds representation in the features of the exhibit, including a topographic map of the region; a magical lantern; a journal with vivid illustrations and descriptions that reads like a textbook for aspiring mages; and a set of gems that is a fun play on how a fantasy world might interpret a set of polyhedral dice. The fantasy work creates a sense of playing in a wonderful and elaborate “Dungeons and Dragons” campaign.

“This project put pressure on me to actually flesh some stuff out and design a lot more than I already had,” said Herndon. “I had never used a laser-cutter before this semester, but I’m taking the laser-cutting and 3D printing course. Both the map and the lantern were projects from that class that I incorporated into the showcase.”

Artwork by Maggie Sudek titled “Maps”. (Tristan Rathbun)

Maggie Sudek, another featured senior, presented interesting pieces made from paper. “Fiberwork” is the term for art made from paper or fibers, usually shaped into designs or blends of colors. Sudek utilized this process to create pieces from recycled paper. Sudek makes and recycles much of the paper herself. Often, the paper comes from a previous work that she  recycled and repurposed into another work. While the paper looks delicate, it is in fact strong and durable, as the pieces hang on their own from a string. 

“The pieces that I presented are a small fraction of what I’ve created because I fell in love with the process of it all,” said Sudek. “I had to make a lot in order to make anything of substance.” 

Aside from assembling their own themed work, the students juried and prepared the exhibition themselves. Each student presented a piece they intended to feature, and the rest of the class voted on its inclusion in the exhibit. The students broke into various committees, each tasked with preparing for the exhibition in their own way. Sophia Pruett, a photographer who took pictures of her workplace Social Coffee for the exhibit, shared her joy for the experience from start to finish. 

‘Whimsical Tea Set’ artwork by Zoe Chambers, Ceramic. (Tristan Rathbun)

“Participating in this exhibit taught me a lot about how much it actually takes to put a gallery together from start to finish,” said Pruett. “I was on the installation committee, and I didn’t realize the calculations it takes to make sure everything is centered perfectly on the walls. I’m thankful I was able to be a part of something that allows people to enjoy the unique art created by everyone in the class. I now have a newfound appreciation for artists, exhibit curators, and gallery installers.”

This exhibit features a great deal of fantastic works from all 23 of these newly-minted artists. Their works speak to their talents as soon-to-be graduates, and all are encouraged to pay a visit to the CAB gallery to see them. The exhibition is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until May 14.