Kent State student recognized in national undergraduate art exhibit

Shannon Welsh stands in front of her BFA exhibit in the Center for Visual Arts. 

Kelsey Paulus Reporter

Out of 200 submissions total, one Kent State student earned an opportunity to display her artwork in the 5th annual National Undergraduate Juried Exhibition at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in Missouri. 

Shannon Welsh, a senior studio arts major with minors in art history and nonprofit studies, submitted three works for selection. Her piece “Grey Fox” (oil on cotton, 2020), was on display from April 17 until June 6.

In “Grey Fox,” the skull of a fox is painted upon a floral-printed fabric, creating contrast between an object that was manmade and an object that was once alive, Welsh said.

“There’s this play between what I’m painting and this pre-made fabric,” she said. “So, there’s this tension between the paint that I’m putting on the surface and then this sort of mechanical imagery.” 

The painting is centered around the idea of femininity associated with death, she said. 

“Once it’s painted, it’s no longer dead anymore,” she said. “It’s kind of being brought back to life through color choice – through this permanence of being in the same place or being in this state of existence for longer than [it] actually is going to be in, so then there’s the tension of these flowers that were never actually once alive and this object that used to be alive.”

The exhibit featured 56 pieces of art from 38 different artists. Overall, six states and 15 universities were represented at the museum, and Welsh was the only student from Ohio to have artwork on display in the exhibit. 

Many other mediums of art were chosen for exhibition aside from paintings including photography, fiber art, sculptures and ceramics. Jill Carlson, marketing and communications manager at the museum, said this year’s submissions were focused around technique possibly in response to the past year of isolation.

“What is really special about the artworks that were selected for this show is that they went beyond just the technical skill,” Carlson said. “They really started to move towards and explore a more complete artistic expression.”

Carlson says this exhibition is a great opportunity for undergraduate students.

“There are very few opportunities for undergraduate artists to show their work, a lot of times shows are reserved for people who are in an MFA program or at least some sort of master’s program,” Carlson said. “We are so happy to be able to provide a forum for undergraduate artists to show their work – it’s a boost for their careers.”

Welsh has submitted to shows before and said applications are just a part of the process by this point, but there are still lessons to be learned along the way.

“I’ve learned that I definitely hate writing about my own art and I have to learn to be better about it,” Welsh said. “Sometimes it’s very difficult to find the right words for something that you made, partially because you don’t have the words for it.”

While at Kent State, Welsh was able to form a community with her fellow classmates that gave her a different perspective to art that she applied to her work and taught her to be proud of her pieces. 

“I feel like there’s that Midwestern personality trait of feeling like you have to be humble, and you’re like, ‘Oh, there’s probably people who were so much better who submitted,’” Welsh said. “So, it’s just nice to be a part of [the exhibit] and to be able to be like, ‘Yeah, I got in a show, that’s my work.’”

After her graduation in August 2021, Welsh plans to apply for more art shows and residencies, as well as attend graduate school. 

Kelsey Paulus is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].