Graduating students’ thesis projects on display

Photo by Danielle Meadows

Danielle Meadows

Pieces by graduating studio art majors will close out the semester at the UNO Art Gallery.

From the shading and precise lines that form an awestruck cat, to the expressive view of dealing with a sick family member, students shine in UNO’s latest exhibit. These BFA thesis students include Ian Bless, Nicholas Clark, Mia Matlock, Rachel Cunningham, Mary Heldridge, Lindsey McIntyre and Trinity Noble Cameron.

A hexagon-shaped homage to bees hangs in a horizontal line inside the gallery’s first room. Within each shape are vignettes highlighting the importance of the endangered insect. Clusters of crisp, white geometric shapes by another artist decorate the opposite side of the room, showing texture and complexity.

Leading down the exhibit’s hallway, the immense contrast between artist styles and inspirations among the students is apparent. Some choose to work with unconventional items like plastic bags, while others choose bold oil paint on linen material. Students work for hours perfecting each piece and give an accompanying talk to describe their art.

Nicholas Clark’s group of pieces is titled “Slow Fun.” Included are a series of interrelated paintings, drawings and collections. Clark said these works are attempts to solve emotional memory puzzles, replacing missing pieces with symbolism – which he describes as both “redeeming and damning.”

“‘Slow Fun’ refers to stoicism in moments of grief, and the pro-cess of appreciating that grief,” said Clark.

Through using multiple mediums, Clark establishes a deeper, nuanced physicality that invites a feeling of déjà vu. His work is autobiographical and considers each image or theme in his work as a hive. Clark revisits ideas from other works and keeps them alive. He often creates a study – otherwise known as a sketch – in graphite, to explore and highlight where the focus and drama of an image lie before starting on his painting versions.

“In practicing this for several years, I’ve realized that I don’t create studies for preparatory purposes,” said Clark. “In fact, I value them as much as the paintings.”

Clark said his “Invisible Fence” piece refers to a sense of long-ing for a friend and the desire to come out of isolation without having a foot to push off. He de-scribes it as a “thick, intangible barrier which separates one’s inner world from the external.”

The setting of this piece takes place outside of his old house. The architecture of the home is set beside precise detail of a woman clad in a floral, red robe. This piece also features his dog, who lays motionless near a closed door.

Clark’s “Pneumonia Motel” is inspired by a candid 2016 photo of his brother, Alex, and his dad at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital. Alex was sick at the time with walking pneumonia, described as a “regular occurrence” by Clark. At 11 months old, Alex had a traumatic brain injury which froze his mental development, leaving him completely paralyzed and stricken with multiple seizures each day.

“Miraculously, Alex is 19 and happier than anyone I know in ways I cannot understand,” said Clark.

Clark’s father is shown distraught in the background, seemingly exhausted. Clark said there are three repeating black barriers to “Pneumonia Motel”: between the viewer and Alex’s bed, between Alex’s bed and his father and the window separating his father from the outside world.

Another of his pieces on dis-play, “Play Dead,” shows red and pink blooming trees such as the Japanese cherry blossom and dogwood. The types of tree flowers symbolize an existentially heavy scene. The figure is Clark’s friend, whose successful beat poet father passed away. This left his friend with a large body of his father’s unpublished work, essentially inheriting his father’s career and life. Clark describes this person as deeply sophisticated and enigmatic, filling a depth in conversation he craves in a friend.

“Interested and subscribing to some fringe and occult ideas, [he] believed that his radio was responsible for him crashing into and destroying part of a cemetery last year, not alcohol,” Clark said. “This denial of reality sometimes relieves the guilt of responsibility to make some-thing greater than one’s self.”

The BFA Thesis exhibit will be on display in the Weber Fine Arts building gallery until Dec 16. Visiting the gallery is free. The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday; however, special appointments can be scheduled as needed. For more information, visit