Spring 2020 visual arts alumni present Senior Exhibition despite pandemic


Elana Guillory/The Lion’s Roar

University alumnus James Gillette displayed his art in the 2020 Senior Exhibition, along with the works of Timothy Johnson and Belinda Flores-Shinshilla. Nine graduates currently have their work on display in the gallery through Sept. 29.

A pandemic could not stop spring seniors from presenting their annual Senior Art Exhibition at the university’s Contemporary Art Gallery.

From Sept. 8-29, work by 2020 alumni Belinda Flores Shinshillas, James Gillette, Timothy Johnson, Kelsey Mack, Mia Maniscalco, Janeva Morris, Robin Wilson, Ra’Jae’ Wolf and Mark Young will be displayed in the gallery. The exhibit contains work from a variety of curriculums.

Kelsey Mack graduated this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in Art. She shared how proud she is of the effort her and her fellow graduating classmates put in to make the show happen.

“I love the work,” said Mack. “I’m so proud of it. I’m proud of myself and the other artists in the show because we made a show happen during a pandemic. That’s just gonna forever blow my mind. We did our best with what we could.”

Mack, who is displaying a collection of black-and-white prints, described the message behind her work. With her sister being a young actress and model, Mack thought it was important to demonstrate a valuable message about confidence as a person of color.

“It was me and my sister, because we’re growing up in this world, a lot of people don’t like us because of what we look like,” described Mack. “We are beautiful works of art that belong in this space that no one would’ve expected us to be. The most I’ve seen people of color in historical paintings was like, maybe a slave holding a white baby, in a field, or referencing history that we had no control over, but I was like, ‘I want to reclaim that whole history, and I want to rewrite it.’”

Timothy Johnson, a recent graduate in Bachelor of Arts, felt that the show offered him a chance at normalcy for his graduation season.

“I just got my diploma in the mail,” shared Johnson. “I didn’t get to walk. It just felt kind of anticlimactic, but seeing this show, now, feels like I’m actually having closure. It’s real now. It really happened.”

After working at a hotel and taking pictures of objects from the lost and found, Johnson’s grandmother passed away. He used inspiration from his previous photos to create his senior display, which features photos of his grandmother’s unfinished work.

“My grandmother passed away, and she made ceramics, and she made these porcelain dolls,” said Johnson. “Looking at the objects that were so precious to her, I felt like that was similar to the work I’d been doing previously, the lost and found work, and that’s when I started photographing the projects she never finished, trying to emphasize her attention to detail.”

Robin Wilson, an alumnus art major, felt like the show was significant in the process of becoming an artist. She described her inspiration for her collection of paintings and the reasons behind some of her artistic decisions.

“I was inspired, I found reference images, I drew it, then painted it,” said Wilson. “It usually starts with a feeling I want to convey. That feeling is usually related to portraying powerful feminine characters. My work is about the arbitrary dichotomy between masculinity and femininity and society’s view on gender roles and presentation.”

Julian Gros, a sophomore art major, recalled his reaction to one of Wilson’s pieces.

“It had some beautiful colors,” said Gros. “The way that they painted it to have a soft gradient, just beautiful color choices. I really don’t know how they knew what to choose, but it was really well done.”

Wilson offered advice to students majoring in art.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” said Wilson. “I would have regretted it for the rest of my life had I not majored and worked in art. Connect with fellow students as well as teachers. Try new things including materials, processes, styles, 2D, 3D, etc. because you never know when you’re going to find something you really like and/or you’re good at naturally. Do not get stuck in your ways too early. Allow yourself to grow.”