MU hosts Undergraduate Juried Art Exhibition, highlights student artists

The exhibit showcased a variety of art mediums in the George Caleb Bingham Gallery.

Photo by Braiden Wade

Twenty-seven MU students presented their artwork to the public Feb. 22 through March 4 in the annual Undergraduate Juried Art Exhibition, which promotes creativity and displays many students’ work for the first time. Held at the George Caleb Bingham Gallery on campus, the exhibition featured art selected by a jury of professionals, who also awarded prizes for different categories.

The jury chose 40 pieces this year, including photos, videos, paintings, drawings, weavings, ceramics and digital art. They also collaborated with MU’s English department to include poetry and prose in the competition and display the winning pieces in LED lights outside the gallery.

Catherine Armbrust, an adjunct professor at MU, has been the director of the Bingham Gallery for five years. She said the exhibit gives the community a chance to see the passion and excitement of emerging artists.

“I like to have labels so that the students can walk in and see their work and their name on the wall,” Armbrust said. “That's a very empowering moment for most students … especially in a nice gallery space where there's good lighting, neutral white walls and other interesting work that can start to be in conversation with one another.”

Sofia Voss, a junior film production and art history student, entered her short film, “I Think Of You Often.”

The nine-minute film traces a queer love story between the characters Aiden and Nora, childhood friends who reconnect during a college break.

Voss has created short films before, but she said “I Think Of You Often” was the first that truly represented her. She said that her work on this film was the first time she took herself seriously as a filmmaker.

The film won Best in Show at the exhibition. Displaying her work in this public setting was a first for Voss.

“I tend to keep things pretty close to me because I get scared of letting people down or people not liking it,” Voss said. “It's a very intimate experience to create art and put it out there. Being able to do that and then having it be received so well, and seeing it in a gallery space — where anybody could come in and consume it and appreciate it — is like validation that maybe things inside me aren't bad.”

The gallery featured junior Hannah Westhoff’s work for the first time as well. She used a frame she found on her street, screen printing to create a background with letters and a painted fairy to create her multimedia piece, “Listen.”

The idea arose from problems with family, friends, herself and the ability to reach out to people.

“You can hear [the work] scream out, ‘Listen,’ like this picture has a sound. With everything chaotic going on behind and in the letters, the fairy in the front is calm, serene, like centering yourself,” Westhoff said. “She seems to ignore all the chaos that's been occurring there. She has her hand out, so it looks like she's saying, ‘Stop, stop and listen.’”

Westhoff’s piece won the best printmaking award. She said it was a priceless moment to finish something, feel proud of it and allow other people to give her feedback.

Being in the exhibition inspired her to keep creating art. Personal experiences influence much of her work, and she said she has more ideas developing now.

“In a journal, I will sometimes jot things down and come back to them,” Westhoff said. “I just keep adding to it, and then as I'm creating these pieces, it's like, ‘This totally ties into this other situation I'm in’ … It just keeps spiraling and so many ideas and perspectives come out while I'm making it. I love it.”

Junior Kylee Isom’s inspiration for her photography in the exhibition came during quarantine. When she was stuck at home, she thought about the history of women being tethered to home spaces. In her feminist artwork, she explores the historic misrepresentation of women.

The jury accepted two of her photos this year, one titled “Self Portrait” and the other “A Dinner Piece.”

“Self Portrait” shows her legs in front of a floral background, with pantyhose knotted and stretched between her feet.

“Shapewear has been a means of smoothing and sculpting and perfecting the body. I've really leaned into that history and work to use the tools of shapewear, which are associated with being a woman, and subverting them to create a sort of tension,” Isom said. “The knot tying with the stretching reinforces that literal tension. And I hope that literal tension seeps into a more emotional or psychological tension.”

“A Dinner Piece” references women’s historic role of preparing dinner and setting tables. Isom placed sliced and rotting fruit on a table, then added abstract flesh to the photo to subvert its beauty and make viewers uncomfortable.

Isom had two photos in the exhibition last year as well. She said she’s thankful for the opportunity to take art out of the classroom and into the real world for others to see.

“Making [art] feels like my corner of the universe that I get to control the narrative of. For me, it's very cathartic. It allows me to have a voice and express myself and a feeling that I'm having,” Isom said. “Being in the exhibition puts it into this critical setting where I get to hear feedback and responses from viewers, which is just as important — I find joy in making it, but the reason that I'm making it is to hear how it’s read in the real world. And I enjoyed both of those aspects.”

Edited by Angelina Edwards | aedwards@themaneater.com

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