Undergraduate artists perfect their craft during senior year
Published: Monday, February 28, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 13:03
During their Senior year, most fine arts majors work on a portfolio for course credit. They are given studio space and free range to create a series of their own inspiration. These three students have made their mark on the art department and were recommended by professors and peers. Like many other seniors, and a few select juniors in advanced art classes, these three students share Senior Art Studios with fellow artists. They are currently working on building their portfolios for postgraduate work as well as the BFA show at the end of the semester. Here's a glimpse into their artwork, motivations and aspirations.
Kyle Hackett finds inspiration in heritage
It's 7:30 p.m. on a Thursday night and senior Kyle Hackett has already been in his studio in Taylor Hall for more than an hour—but plans on staying for several more.
"There are nights that I come in here to work on a project and I don't know when I'm ever going to leave," Hackett says.
His studio on the second floor of Taylor Hall overlooks a painting studio below. The white walls are hung with his work and that of the other student he shares the small room with. A large portrait of an African-American man stands in the corner on a blue paint-splattered easel. The top of the painting, titled "A Portrait of Identity II," almost touches the rafters of the ceiling.
The man stands alone on a dark background in a Christ-like position, clutching a metal street pole with his left hand. He gazes almost hopefully off the canvas at something unseen. A light shines down on him from above, and illuminates his face and scatters across his body. Hackett pays attention to detail—the dirt under the subject's nails, and the way the light hits the figure's body, giving it a life-like quality.
"To me that's the hardest part," Hackett says. "You can get anyone to model for you, but a lot of the time it's about the kind of spirit you can get from them. A lot of the time I use close family members or people I know personally for models."
Hackett studied civil engineering during his first year at the university, but soon realized it was not his passion. He was accepted into the art department his sophomore year.
This past summer, Hackett participated in the McNair Scholars program. According to its website, the program is designed to prepare and empower low-income, first generation college students and students of minority descent for doctoral study. The program holds a summer scholar's session similar to the university's Summer Scholars program. Participants receive a research stipend for their work over the summer.
While in the program, Hackett began to develop his vision for his art. He says he now portrays the black male figure in a way that empowers them to claim their spot in the world.
Hackett spent most of last semester developing his portfolio and expanding the breadth of his work by experimenting in other materials, such as graphite drawings of underground rappers and sculptures. He applied to 10 art programs and plans to receive his master's degree after college.
Hackett's art technique is greatly influenced by contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley, and the Italian Baroque style, which uses lighting as a tool to tell a story. Many of his pieces, including "A Portrait of Identity II," also incorporate religious iconography to empower and add further meaning to the piece by drawing on the history of power in art.
"My work really is a narrative of my life story and experiences as a bi-racial black male," Hackett says.
Hanging to the left of the easel in his studio are two smaller pieces. The bottom painting, "Run Nicca Run," is a self-portrait that depicts Hackett crouched down in a runner's starting position (he ran track at the university for three years) in the painting. He wears only purple spandex, running shorts and shoes. A light shines down from the top right of the painting and across his body. A silver chain is attached to his left ankle and connects to some unseen tether. The light in this piece shows the tension in his body as his muscles bulge in anticipation for the start of the race.
"I look at this almost like I do my history of being home," Hackett says. "No matter how far away from home, you still have traces of it with you. You may be out there doing your own thing, but you can still sometimes be affected by your life at home."
Hanging above this is a small portrait of President Barack Obama, entitled "Saint Obama." The portrait is modeled off a religious portrait of Christ, but portrays President Obama in shades of purple with a gold leaf halo above his head. The medium sized portrait is held within a custom gold leaf frame that Hackett molded himself. AK47s and hand grenades are incorporated into the ornate inner design of the frame. The outer edges are cut to form a cross or bulls eye over Obama.
"It speaks about the connection between religion, power and war. The push and pull," he says. "I frame these like classical paintings to put the figure in a position of power like, ‘Hey, I'm here too.'"
Susana Cortez's artwork sheds light on social issues
The rolling laughter of senior Susana Cortez fills the studio she shares with her fellow artists in the Studio Arts building. Cortez's work table, which leans against her desk, is a tapestry of sketches and experiments with different materials and techniques. The petite artist stands in the corner of her studio, dwarfed by her sculptures, which hang from the high white walls.
The twisted metal rods covered in fabric and clay hang empty, a shell of what the piece was originally. The intaglio prints of female figures are stacked together and balance precariously on the sculpture.
The sculpture and prints were displayed together as an installation. The prints were hung throughout the metal frame in order to, according to her artist statement, represent an allegory of indigenous young girls and an amorphous shape that came from a dream.