Senior Studio Art Exhibition 2021: Flamin’ Estrogen: Reign of Fire
Each year, Denison University celebrates its senior studio art majors with an exhibition of their work. The Studio Art Major Class of 2021 exhibition, “Flamin’ Estrogen: Reign of Fire,” is offered at the Denison Museum, from April 30 through May 21.
Enjoy the art, student bios and the artists’ statements behind the work.
Jocelyn Baeza is pursuing her BA in Studio Art. Born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, Illinois most of her life, her work depicts the struggles of family interaction, identity, and lived experiences as a Latin woman in the United States. Jocelyn is part of the Step-Up Mentorship Program, is a member of the Kappa Pi Honors Society, and throughout the Denison campus.
I desire to create work that is interconnected to the ideas of Mexican culture, family interactions, and lived experiences as a woman of Latin descent in the United States. So far, I have created work that focuses on each aspect of my inspirations. For now, I want to create work that focuses on the pressure of the Mexican family dynamics. This dynamic is not always bad, but many times it causes my anxiety to worsen, my stress levels to increase, and has sometimes caused some level of depression. All of this is due to the fact that I am the oldest of three girls, and as the oldest, I must set a good example by becoming a doctor/ lawyer so I can later support my family. With this in mind, I aim to find ways of combining paint, collage, and fabric as they are the medians I work with the most. Merging all three mediums represents different aspects of my life.
Kat Boyd is a multi-disciplinary artist and performer from Alabaster, Alabama, majoring in Studio Art. Kat’s recent art interests involve the act of freestyling: making marks and movements on the spot to elicit freedom and uninhibitedness. Kat has performed with HERE US, at the Agape Bonfire and Election Day A-Quad events. In addition, her artwork has been shown at the Here Our Voices Gallery and the Room Gallery of the Bryant Arts Center. Kat has studied in Rome, Italy with the Temple University Visual Arts program. At Denison, she is part of the Step-Up Mentorship program and works at the Mitchell Athletic Center.
The project began as a practice of mark making. A self-made exercise in which I allowed my hand to make random gestures and see what would result out of those movements. It resulted in a language, but I use the term language loosely. While they mimic characters in existing languages, they hold no definitive meaning. They are inspired by my appreciation for graffiti art.
Simultaneously, I was engaging in the act of Freestyle through dance. This semester I took Global Hip Hop, a dance course that hones in on visual expression and self identity through movement. One of the most important rules of freestyling is to move and craft on the spot with freedom and uninhibitedness. When you freestyle, your body is supposed to call and respond to the music. You allow your body to do what it wants in that moment. No hesitation, no reflecting on the mistake, you just keep dancing. That was a relief for me as someone who tends to overthink.
Over time, I began to notice some similarities between my dance class and the mark making exercises I was doing with my graffiti language. They both rely on spontaneity (natural feeling or native tendency without external constraint). That alone kind of pushed me to merge the two worlds of art and dance. I wanted to navigate my style and identity as an artist in a way that wasn’t so calculated.
The Language of Freestyle gives me the chance to disengage from the way that I usually work. It takes me to another state of being where I feel less pressure. Spending countless hours on the sketches, research, layout etc., can be exhausting and sometimes take the fun out of art making. Now I am not saying we should dismantle that method of working. In fact, it is very much needed for the critical understanding of art. But it is equally important that artists remember what got us drawing in the first place.
Sometimes the best ideas can happen in those moments when we are most vulnerable and open. I’m over here spray painting paper, shoes, and making videos while dancing with. This in no way matches up to the seemingly rough, outdoor, male-dominated world of street art. But I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t trying to become a graffiti artist, even though I admire the art form. I am my attempt to become a professional dancer, even though I love to dance. Rather, I see freestyle art as an opportunity to explore what gives me my creative spark, drive, and identity as an artist.
Maya Carolina is an aspiring photographer from Maryland, and is currently pursuing a BA in Studio Art at Denison University. Through the lens of a camera, she creates dreamscapes reminiscent of images just barely captured in one’s mind. Maya has refined her abilities through her job as a photography teaching assistant and during her time abroad at the Temple Rome program. She is the recipient of the Black Alumni Association Scholarship (2019) as well as the Marimac Scholarship (2020) for Fine Arts.
This is a series dedicated to the person I was, am, and will be.
I do not believe anyone holds the authority to censure the morality or beautiful chaos of others. This world consists of rules and societal expectations which often limits human expression. My photographs display a world, my world, full of fantastical and wonderful things and is therefore free of criticism. Rather than critiquing ideals that already have so many constraints, I desire to exaggerate things that I find beautiful in this world in hopes of getting lost in their presence so that I may preserve them in mine.
This has been the way I have produced work over my time at Denison. With this in mind, my final project Room bridges my dreamscapes with the reality of entering adult life. Room consists of self portraits where I have reimagined myself as the characters I desire to embody as I enter adulthood. Each character exhibits confidence, vulnerability, wit, curiosity, and, of course, beautiful chaos. I merge ideal traits for success with the disorder that makes us human, as well as with the daydreams that keep our inner child alive. Feast your eyes upon my reflection, a reminder of how far I have come - a reminder that I am capable of making room for myself in the world I will occupy.
“They’re all dreams: every picture is a fantasy. Not so much the portraiture, but the set pieces definitely are fantasies and I think that the model or the sitter in a picture is the window for the viewer – for any person – to be a part of that fantasy. It’s me asking them, inviting them, to enter into that, whether it’s a dark and sinister mood or a beautiful fairytale. It’s escapism – that’s what it is.”
-Tim Walker, 2012
Edem Dake is pursuing her BA in Studio Art with a minor in Psychology. Born and raised in Accra, Ghana, her photographic and fiber installations depict her experiences with her faith as a young Christian woman seeking to express worship through varied art forms. She received the Mary G. and G. Harold Osborne Endowed Scholarship (2020), and the Distinguished Leadership Award (2021). She has had her work shown in Denison University’s Black Studies Department for 2020-2021 as part of a partnership between the Studio Art Department and the Black Studies Department in commemoration of its 50th Anniversary.
How one discovers, contends with, and accepts identity interests me. I am fascinated with the ambiguity and emotional turmoil that colors this process. As such, I explore my journey of self-discovery. In the last four years being away from family and my homeplace, I have uncovered more of who I am and continue to become. I have discovered who I am in my faith. As a young Christian woman, I seek to include my faith in every aspect of my lived experiences, including my studio practice. Thus, I explore ways to incorporate the aspects that ground me in my faith, such as prayer, worship music, praise dancing, and creating in the work I produce. In tandem, through reflection, I also return to moments with loved ones, seeking to understand and recognize these experiences’ impact in shaping who I am. In doing so, I find that distance, memory, and nostalgia are themes that permeate my work.
These ideas are realized in my photographs and mixed-media installations. I take photographs, preferably using the technique of long exposures. This method allows for my exploration of time, memory, space, the ephemeral, and Christian spirituality. I take pictures that appear ethereal, paying homage to my faith’s importance to my identity and connecting to my constant evolution, coming more into myself each time.
My mixed-media installations are composed of textiles, stitching, embroidery hoops, beads, buttons, and photographs. As a child, these materials were a means for me to creatively explore with my mother. Now, they serve as integral components of my work. Employing stitching and sewing in my work makes it gendered since such skills are relegated as women’s work, thus less important. Nonetheless, as a female creative with a personal history with these skills, I proudly claim them, seeing them as a source of empowerment. Utilizing items that can be transformed, molded, and shaped in building my mixed media works has always appealed to me, especially because of my focus on materiality, and the tactility of the objects. I enjoy the malleability of these objects because they echo my continuous evolution and the pain, frustration, guilt, disappointment, and refinement that come with these changes. Additionally, the repetition involved in manually composing a piece from several parts has a therapeutic effect, causing me to continually return to mixed media as a way to unwind and reset.
Mary Helen Lowe
Mary Helen Lowe is a multimedia artist earning her BA in Studio Art at Denison University. She has lived in Virginia, Florida and currently resides in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Mainly focusing on photography and sculpture, her work is a representation of her lived experience, and an homage to her learned experiences. Much of Mary Helen’s practice is site-specific installation grounded in the color, light, and opacity a space has to offer. She studied abroad her junior year at The Glasgow School of Art in Scotland and learned many skills that are implemented in her practice. Mary has been a teaching assistant for the painting and the photography department, she was awarded the Marimac Scholarship (2019) for Fine Arts, and is a member of the Kappa Pi International Art Honor Society.
BY THE TIME I REACHED COLLEGE I WAS SICK OF BEING TOLD THAT I WAS DEFICIENT, THOSE ‘EDUCATED’ FOOLS SHOULD HAVE SEEN THAT I KNEW. Growing up I was acutely aware of my disability, I felt it in my core, I still do. Now I see that my dyslexia is why I am here. Many of my non-studio art major peers are locked into this idea that after we graduate we are supposed to arrive at some final destination (sounds like a grave) where our lives will be lived until we’re dead in the ground. My school career dealing with constantly being pulled out of class to learn how to read has shown me that I do not have this idea, my ‘destination’ is no physical place but instead a new way of thinking and seeing.
My initial response to why am I making work is that I am making it to help myself figure out how to live. Perhaps it is selfish of me to make work solely for myself, but I’m not even sure that I am making art for myself alone anymore. I think that’s how my practice started, wanting to quiet a constant noise in my head by making that noise into physical matter. Now I make work because I want others to see this noise and walk away with a produced emotion, happiness, anger, confusion, inspiration. Maybe that’s still selfish, but aren’t most choices we as humans make based on one’s self?
Sculpture is a relatively new element of my studio practice. I have always been drawn to work that involves physical labor, as it bonds me to what I am doing. Especially with sculpture, I ask a lot of the material, so it is only fair for the material to ask something of me. The pieces I make are heavily influenced by color and the passage of light through a material. I form organic shapes out of inorganic mediums, such as cellophane, and metal wire. The contrast of the cold hard metal and the flimsy sheer film creates a balance in emotion and weight of each piece. My sculpture practice came from my need to address my dyslexia. Dyslexics use colored acetate to relieve the visual stress of mutating words, I struggled for a long time with what I thought were shortcomings due to my learning disability, but through my exploration of those ‘shortcomings,’ I have found strength. My investigation of color as a reading aid also aided my practice and my state of mind.
Wizdom Renee Scott
Wizdom Renee Scott is an artist, songwriter, and performer majoring in Studio Art with a minor in Psychology. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Wizdom seeks to create art that instills ultimate self-confidence and motivation. She has been involved in many activities on campus including World of Dance, the 50th Anniversary of the Black Student Union, and a recipient of the Young Scholars Program (2019). Wizdom is part of the Step-Up Mentorship program and works at the Crown Fitness Center desk.
I fell in love with art at an early age. I used to perform in the lunchroom for all the students mostly singing. It was such a natural experience for me. I painted for play throughout the years. At some point, I even played the violin in elementary school. Dance was another way that I connected to art. There has never been a limitation to my creative practice. I am the type of person to explore any medium that expresses my creative need in that moment. I do not consider myself specializing in one aspect of art. I am an artist that expresses myself in limitless ways. An artist that inspires me is Nicki Minaj. She made me fall in love with rapping. Nicki Minaj is a Black woman working in a male-dominated industry. She pushes the boundaries to what it means to own your body, write your own lyrics, and be a creative individual as well. Her creativity inspires me as she does not put herself in a box and she owns her story. It is important to me to own my story in my art. Another artist that inspires me is J.Cole who showed how music can be used to tell compelling stories. He made me think about how important creating an impact is in art. He details how dangerous the living conditions are for Black men in America today in his music. It makes me wonder how I can use my music and art to tell the perspective of a Black woman in America today. That means I have to be vulnerable which is the most terrifying aspect of creating my art.
As an artist telling the truth is important to me. My goal is to tell stories that inspire people to stand up for themselves. Do not allow your circumstances, misinformed opinions, or your own insecurities take you down. I believe in the underdogs. I believe in those that have seemingly no glimmer of hope and mostly doubted. Those that transform from being an underachiever to conquering all they dream of. I relate to the underdog in the fact statically I am supposed to be a teen mom with no education. Since I don’t know my father, has a family with no educational background, grew up in poverty, and experienced multiple forms of trauma. These factors have restricted me from seeing my full potential. It has set a seemingly fixed narrative about my life story. However, I am using my artistic practice to transform my own narrative. To one that I create. I will not give up hope despite my poverty-stricken upbringing. I use music, painting, photography, sculpting, and the list goes on to liberate myself. Even though I am insecure and I am not sure of myself. I keep creating to be the inspiration I needed growing up.
I seek to create art that instills the ultimate self-confidence and motivation. I desire for everyone including myself to have unwavering self-love. I struggle with being confident every day in everything I do. I really hope that my artistic practice can improve my confidence through the lyrics I say and visuals I create. My raps are affirmations and my visuals are rituals of freedom. And together they give me safe space to share myself and create my own story.
Shruti Shankar, born in Chennai, India, is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work investigates practices of looking, belonging, connections to home, memory and identity. She works with processes of photography, drawing and installation. She is a candidate for the BFA program in Studio Art with a minor in Art History and Visual Culture. Shruti is a recipient of the Young Scholars Program (2019) and Off-Campus Scholars Program (2020) for research in Studio Art, a recipient of the Vail Scholarship (2019), the Osborne Scholarship (2019 and 2020), and the Nan Nowik Memorial Award (2020). She is a teaching assistant in ceramics, print-making and art history. She has participated in a number of group and solo shows within and outside campus. Most recently, she presented as an undergraduate speaker at the 2020 MAPC Remote Symposium.
At this moment, I wrestle with where to situate myself and my practice. Using photos that I took of my body as a point of departure, this particular work has evolved into photo-drawings and videos-installations that allow me to create a new and liminal space in which to exist. Situating myself in/as the work has given me the agency to choose how I make myself visible. Incorporating materials found in my studio in Ohio (charcoal, plywood, thread) and materials I brought from Chennai (fabrics, henna, glitter), the work has become a balance of home and away.
I cut circles into photographs. The circle replaces the camera in the image and stands as a metaphor for a place of possibility and creation. The circle acts as a portal where it is hard to define a beginning or ending. At the same time, there is a violence in the act of cutting into the photo, seen in the marks and torn edges it leaves behind. I am learning to appreciate this displacement I feel as both a wound and a gift in crafting my personal and cultural voice.
Decoration and ornamentation are often relegated to a lesser category of craft due to associations with non-western practices or women’s work. I use decoration in the work as a way for a gendered and cultural ownership of making and processing the photograph. The work exists simultaneously as photo, drawing, and installation. A part of my process involves working beyond the frame of the paper and onto the wall the work occupies. This is eventually removed when the work comes down. This partial ephemerality of the work is important because it makes connections to rituals or traditions that I draw from. It also offers the work a lived occupancy of space and time.
It is important for me to keep trusting the process, making multiples and stepping back and forth with the work. I also look to artists like Ana Mendieta, Chitra Ganesh, Sa’dia Rehman, Jamilah Sabur, Padma Rajendran, Paul Sepuya, and others. For me, it is important to be able to look to women and artists of color – to see the possibilities for myself and the work to exist.
Sandra Spurlock is a senior Studio Art BA and Communication double major from Mandeville, Louisiana. Her risograph printed zines unpack Louisiana heebie-jeebies through colorful stylization and visual storytelling. Sandra is a two-time recipient of the Mary G. and G. Harold Osborne Endowed Scholarship (2019-20, 2020-21), the Vail scholarship (2019-20), Lifeshare CBS Scholarship (2017-18), and Denison Alumni Award (2017-21). Sandra is also a member of Kappa Pi and Lambda Pi Eta.
If I could have one wish, I’d wish for a really sticky brain. That way, my thoughts might linger long enough for me to think them through. I am an over-thinker with a goldfish memory: I panic, I process, I forget, and then I panic, process, and forget the same thing over and over again. On good days, I think about how my memory makes every day feel brand new. On bad days, I dwell on the worry and stress it causes.
Artist zines, aka small DIY self-published and illustrated (maga)zines, emerged as a way to process my ever-changing thoughts, ideas, and preoccupations through visual, metaphorical, and literal stories. As a medium, illustrated zines give me the chance to unpack and solidify memory through both abstraction and representation. Zines are also meant to be distributed, and I want my audience to have copies of my work so that the memories don’t fade for them too.
These zines are printed using a risograph printer, which is a type of stencil duplicator somewhere between screen printing and photocopying. It prints just one color at a time, and I love the way it challenges me to use limited colors and overlapping techniques.
This body of work focuses on the critters, crawlers, and heebie-jeebies I grew up with in southern Louisiana. I see these zines as an exorcism through color: most of my thoughts are still stuck in memory limbo, and this art practice helps me confront fear through playful stylization and color.
XianTian (Ivy) Wang
XianTian (Ivy) Wang is pursuing her BA in Studio Art with a minor in Psychology. Born and raised in WenZhou, China, her digital illustrations deal with social issues related to gender and sexuality in her home country. She has exhibited at the Denison Museum. More of her work can be viewed on Instagram @xiantian_art
I like to use sarcasm to call out absurd gender phenomena. Digital mediums, such as videos, GIFs, and animation have always been my medium of choice.
My art deals with social issues related to gender and sexuality, particularly when it comes to how these subjects are approached in China. My art was inspired by my own experience as a Chinese person.
The artworks I present in this exhibition mainly discuss topics surrounding Chinese marriages and birth issues. Many women in China feel pressured to get married and have children because they have been told it is their responsibility. Women face an immense amount of pressure that only increases as they age. Society’s obsession with women marrying before their biological clocks expire seems really problematic, and it has always troubled me that this was never really acknowledged in Chinese education.
I do understand that gender and sex-related topics often cross-national and cultural boundaries. However, feminist issues are at different stages in various countries and are often culturally specific. Directly using traditional Chinese symbols such as Chinese characters, the new year poster baby, and colloquialisms might be a little bit hard for non-Chinese viewers to understand, but it also helps me authentically state the issue. Things might be mistranslated when I change to another language, and I want it to stay as a ‘Chinese issue.’