Nine student artists have banded together to create Eastern Mennonite University’s first virtual senior exhibition, which will be unveiled on Friday, April 24. Professor Cyndi Gusler said that when the group got word in March that they wouldn’t be returning to campus for the semester, the photographers, illustrators, printmakers, videographers, and painters decided to adapt their material to be shown online.
Seniors Emily Young and Kiana Childress took the lead crafting the website, and all nine students met over Zoom to review and critique one another’s work.
“It’s been a whirlwind of activity, but the group has shown resilience and creative problem solving along the way,” Gusler said. The show will remain online through Sunday, May 3.
See examples of their work below, and be sure to tune in to the digital gallery at emuseniorshow2020.com.
Alsulaiman is a digital media major from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He hopes to work in sports media.
“Photography as an art has the ability to educate people about different cultures and give them general sense by documenting events and traditions using photos,” Alsulaiman said.
Alsulaiman’s photographs feature people wearing clothes from different cultures “that are strange to them … I think that coming to EMU from the Middle East has helped me to discover other cultures and thoughts. My photographs may help viewers broaden their acceptance of different cultures.”
Childress is a communications and photography double major, and intends to pursue her master’s degree at EMU after graduation.
“I truly believe that my purpose is to tell stories and connect with others using my strong communication and visual skills,” Childress said. Her senior show, titled Cultural Inclusion in Infrared, was inspired by the visual elements of infrared portraiture.
“One can notice how it gives each human being the same enhanced dark eyes, dark hair, and pale-white smooth skin … with knowing these characteristics, it’s difficult to assume the person’s ethnic background or origin; allowing the viewer to see the world from a different perspective,” Childress said. “It has the potential to remove racial barriers that could definitely help with societal and social issues that have caused divides in our world today.”
Gilbertson is a digital media major who plans to intern in Washington, D.C. following graduation. She was born in Niamey, Niger and moved with her family to America at age four.
Gilbertson’s show, titled “Faith, Hope, and Love …” is a collection of animations inspired by songs, stories, media, and her family.
“I may tend to go more on the emotional side but, I can also go visual. I can visually perceive how astonishing a basic object can be. That’s the root of my perception of the world and people,” Gilbertson said. “My idea for this piece is to express myself, and display what I see and feel in a visual platform.”
Luna is a digital media major whose future plans are “simply to sharpen up his craft.” He finds inspiration in existential philosophy.
Luna’s video work places himself in the spotlight, because “for the longest time, I tried to separate my voice from my own work. Identity and purpose are things that I have always struggled with, and I created art devoid of me as a means to ignore that confrontation. Through this project, I set out to end that silence, without subtlety.”
Monahan is an art and bible, religion, and theology double major who intends to pursue a master’s in labor studies or a master of fine arts. He is inspired by Cuban pop art, leftist philosophy, and Leninist and Marxist political theory.
Monahan’s show, titled ¡Venceremos!, includes work of different media inspired by figures and movements like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, and particularly the radical political messages behind their art.
“Art has a message inherently, and I think that’s also what draws me to early Soviet art and Cuban pop art; much like Warhol and Haring, these movements made no secret of their affinity for leftism, by infusing their work with slogans, playful text, and revolutionary iconography such as Guerrillero Heroico,” Monahan said.
Puffenbarger is a digital media art and communications double major from Linville, Va. She plans to return to EMU in the fall to finish her college career, and assist with various productions on campus.
Puffenbarger’s show started out as a screenplay, which became a short film, which became black and white diptych images that “portray different identities of the same person” within the film.
“The woman in the film deals with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. The photos on the left is the reality of the event and the image on the right is what the young woman is experiencing. The images follow closely to the script written to make it come to life,” Puffenbarger said.
Sheppard is a digital media major with a minor in business administration. He joined the Visual and Communication Arts department in his junior year, and has developed skills across multiple media.
Sheppard’s surreal collage work is inspired by contemporary artist Robert Rauschenberg, whose “focus was directed towards political, social, and environmental movements taking place during the era,” he said. Sheppard has taken this impetus to look into our relationship with media.
“As the media plays a huge role in our lives with regard towards the content that we have access to, these source outlets have the ability to form content in a biased fashion. As a result, we are sometimes left uninformed of what is really important.”
Tucker is a marketing major who plans to take a position with the ministry Every Nation after graduation. “I am an avid videographer and photographer that is first and foremost a missionary for the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Tucker said.
Tucker’s senior photography show asks the viewer to “be still. In a world full of chaos, the human mind and body takes little time to stop and recharge. We constantly keep moving until it’s too late to save our mental, physical, and spiritual health. The God of peace is allowing us to have peace within the pandemic,” Tucker writes in his artist’s statement. “Using a wide angle lens and lots of empty space, you first would get the impression that the subject is alone… yet in this case he is not alone at all.”
Young is a digital media and marketing double major who plans to return to her hometown of Fredericksburg, Va. and pursue a career in graphic design. She has also developed a cottage industry for herself creating hyper-realistic dog illustrations for pet owners.
Young’s digital illustrations are recreations of photographs made up of tens of thousands of painstakingly hand-drawn shapes.
“The first ship that I created was a birthday present for my dad, which was the ship
that he served on while in the Navy,” Young said. “Even though this is a slow, time consuming process, the end result is always worth the wait.”