Art students explore identity, beauty with thesis projects

Cassie Smith

All students pursuing a master of fine arts must complete a thesis project, which will become his or her masterpiece, said Christine Havice, director of the School of Art.

“For our MFA candidates, it is their … equivalent to what the apprentices in the medieval guilds presented to demonstrate that they were ready to join the guilds as masters in their craft,” she said.

Sarah Jane, fine arts graduate student, calls her MFA thesis “Fluid Experience.” She filmed short videos and used standout images for inspiration. Jane sketched each selected frame with colored pencils and layered them.

For one of her pieces, titled “Hemorrhage,” Jane took a video of her mother’s fingers typing on an adding machine. She has been an accountant for 35 years.

“She has this extreme, adept muscle memory with her adding machine, so she doesn’t have to look,” she said. “It’s always accurate, and I just remember growing up and watching her as she was working and just being amazed that she could do that.”

She took a few random frames from the video to create the piece.

“I just had fun with the layers and the colors,” Jane said. “And as I was working, with the reddish-orange color I was using and also with the financial background, for the story, I thought that ‘Hemorrhage’ would be a good title.”

Bridget O’Donnell, fine arts graduate student, said she has been experimenting with self-portraits for years. For her thesis, “The Revised and Expanded Version: A Series of Etchings,” she wanted to explore how identities change with time.

“When you study art, beauty is such a big word,” she said “You hear a lot about that, and I take from a lot of different sources, but I studied art criticism a little bit in undergrad … and was really taken by the early classic views of what beauty is and how they were trying to reach some ideal that was unattainable.”

Using several outlines of her own body, O’Donnell filled the silhouettes with beauty-related words to show “a progression of time.”

Both students had their work on display at separate exhibitions at the Downtown Gallery.

Contact Cassie Smith at [email protected].