GSU’s Fine Arts students share their works


Ray Harkless

Show goers admire works of the Fine Arts students.

Ray Harkless, Phoenix Staff Writer

Participating in an art exhibition can be one of the most emotion-inducing experiences for a practicing artist. It is a roller coaster of fulfilling and inspiring highs, coupled with lows of self-doubt and nervous anticipation of the anticipated critique.

Critical to the professional development and success of an artist is their ability to conceive, execute and articulate a cohesive body of work, prompting audiences’ dialogue. This spring six graduating artists have had their artistic careers at GSU culminate in this group show.

As a fellow Fine Art Major, I have been able to share classrooms and produce in creative spaces alongside some of the exhibiting artists. What I have witnessed is an inspiring manifestation of stick-to-itiveness and the kind of creative growth that takes place when students are sharpened by the talents of their peers and by guidance of their willing professors.

Before attending the show on May 3, I was able to speak to April Smith and Gabriela Garcia as they were putting on the final touches for their respective displays.

April, who has worked in printmaking and glass, focused her efforts on ceramics for this showcase.  Not being familiar with her art, I asked April: “What is your art about?”  The first element that she listed was “making connections.” April’s abstract, biomorphic sculptures are about “layering different layers of self,” explaining that layers like motherhood, student life and just being, in a more general sense can be looked at as separate facets, but together they form a representation of life experience. April describes ceramics as a metaphor for life, adding that “there’s no crying in ceramics.”

Having seen April’s work, I can confirm an intriguing and masterful display of her talents. Taking on another level of the production, April made her own glazes, resulting in an inspiring variety of color, pattern and texture, ranging from glossy to “flesh like.” I enjoyed that April’s work,  whether mounted on the wall or perched on pedestal, was spread throughout the gallery, not confined to a designated space. Her work left the greatest impression on me because I saw the works with fresh eyes. April crafted a unique body of dynamic work that, while abstract, read formal and grand.

Gabriela Garcia is a print maker who utilized skills in linocut and screen printing to create seven works for this show. Linocut is a technique where an image is carved into the linoleum surface and what is removed from the linoleum is what is printed. The prints were portraits of herself, her spouse and of her little brother. I was able to see some of her work in progress throughout the semester, and I was impressed with the level of detail Gabriela was able to achieve in her designs. Moreover, the patience, dedication and consistency necessary to make large works like hers was inspiring as a fellow art maker.  I hope that effort translated in a similar fashion for the viewers.

Gabriela’s artist’s talk during the reception was heartfelt.  These portrayals of figures who are instrumental in her life create for the viewer a vulnerable and authentic connection to both the artworks and the artists. Such connections are invaluable relations in the art world, perpetuating the vital role of art in the human experience.

Being able to formally view Gabriela’s work confirmed what she intimated prior about what the process of putting on an exhibition has taught her. She stated that she learned perseverance and was reminded of the value of her support system that has empowered her to push through, adding the one can still accomplish things and achieve the goals that they have set out for themselves, even if life does not go in the order that you had planned.

The exhibition also featured artworks from digital artists Angelo Storino and Manny Ochoa; print makers Gabriela Garcia and Dominique MacLean; drawing/illustration from Madelynn Prieboy and ceramics by April Smith.

The facilities are as such that Storino and Ochoa, who created interactive, virtual “worlds,” had their displays set-up outside of the gallery in the E-Lounge. Angelo created a virtual reality installation that was projected onto one of the walls of the lounge.  Manny’s artwork was delivered via computer at a station that was decorated to match the aesthetic of the world she had created.

The work of the remaining artists was displayed in the gallery. The lighting focused on the artwork, paired with the bright, natural light of the outside, created a space that was intimate, as one would expect, but lively too. Indeed, this exhibition was a celebratory affair, congregating classmates, friends, faculty and family. 

Prieboy presented impressive line-work and an extremely bold color choice of hot pink to portray representations of herself as she navigates mental health struggles. Her artist talk was real, authentic, and a refreshing step away from the formality and posture that is typically associated with the obligatory artist statement.

The star of the show was Dominique MacLean. Because of her excellence as a student and her kind and willing spirit as a lab tech in the printmaking studio, she has become for many students, synonymous with their positive experience at GSU. She is inspired by folklore and the latitude that art-making provides in enabling her to create and tell her own stories. In this body of work, the starting point was the Slavic folklore character Baba Yaga.

I was able to witness firsthand Dominique’s progress. What impressed me was her craftsmanship handling a demanding medium and intricate compositions. She also exhibited a distinct ability — by word and by hand — to articulate lofty and abstract ideas, making them digestible for the masses—fellow art-makers or otherwise.

Dominique’s ability to wield grandiose concepts materialized by way of the cabinet that she installed as an art piece—integrating her prints, found objects, plants and other works into the cabinet. Like April, Dominique was able to add to our definition of how artwork is displayed.

This semester’s showcase was evident that all participating artists have grown tremendously in their respective crafts and are on their way to achieving much greater heights in their creative pursuits.