To shed light on issues that are swept under the rug, works from two seniors were displayed in the basement of Schwitzer Student Center during April. The two seniors, who had similar concepts in their art, were partnered together coincidentally.
Senior creative writing and professional writing major Kylie Seitz said that her ceramic work displayed in the gallery fit well with senior visual communication design major OJ Moor’s photographs.
The two did not chose to be put together, but the gallery seemed to have a theme, Seitz realized once they saw each other’s work. Seitz’s ceramic work included images on mental health while Moor’s photos expressed the difficulty of working through grief and body image. A culmination of years of work, the gallery was a chance for the two seniors’ work to be put on display.
“I think it works very well because our work works with a lot of themes that are ignored in society,” Seitz said. “We don’t like to talk about mental health, grief and body image. I think it worked very well for us.”
The two had to complete a senior portfolio course that allowed them to work on the process of setting up pieces for the gallery. Each senior had to select a series from their years of education and then create another for the class to reflect of what they have learned.
Seitz’s ceramic projects dealt with mental health, she said, with one of the centerpieces in the gallery showing the duality of a person struggling with a mental illness. The piece was a top half of a person, the left side of which was dark themed, razor blade filled, cuts into the skin that was spelling out body shaming and negative ideas. The right side had bright colors and words of kindness towards oneself to juxtapose the negative side. The centerpiece and the overall theme of her show dealt with roots, which to her symbolize growth and foundation for both struggles and recovery with mental health, she said.
Seitz said she chose to focus on mental health because she believes it is important to shed light on struggles that so many people go through yet feel like they have to hide.
Assistant Professor of Digital Photography Sarah Pfohl, who was Moor’s professor for their portfolio class, said that Moor’s work helped Pfohl grow by learning how to deal with printing certain images differently.
The first set of Moor’s photos that was presented in the gallery dealt with a loss of a loved one. Pfohl said that the project they made their junior year was a more traditional approach to portfolio presentation, while the other set, made their senior year, dealt with body image and presented a more contemporary take.
While they were both printed on luster photo paper, the senior year photos were trickier because they are larger, longer prints that needed to conform to the particular specifications Moor requested.
“The idea, the concept and the vision came from OJ, but supporting them and figuring out how to articulate that [printing style] technically, was really great [for me] to be able to figure out how to print the files,” Pfohl said.
Moor said they saw as the crowd came in, that the space was convenient for the both of the artists. One person’s work was on the pedestals and the other on the wall. Watching people look at their work, Moor said they felt vulnerable, yet excited for critiques.
“It’s really emotional, not only just because people here, they’re actually seeing it, it’s kind of vulnerable being an artist in that way,” Moor said. “Like ‘here’s my heart and soul that I poured into this work for so long,’ but I also try to use my art as a form of therapy for things that I’m going through and that’s really evident through my artist’s statements.”
Over the span of four years of work in class, each student chose their best work to showcase to the public and Moor said it was more than just a reflection of themselves in each senior’s gallery.
“It’s been incredible to see everyone fall into their own niche of what we’re doing in this industry,” Moor said. “Especially because it is a creative industry and it’s becoming more corporate.”