Showing off four years worth of growth and talent, the annual senior art exhibit will close out the University of Nebraska at Omaha Art Gallery’s spring 2017 exhibition calendar.
Elisa Wolcott and Katy Baker, upcoming graduates of the Bachelor of Fine Arts program, have thesis works on display in the gallery. Selected works by fourteen graduating Bachelor of Studio Arts seniors are also on display there, as well as in the Osborne Family Gallery, located in UNO’s Criss Library.
Wolcott’s work focuses on painting and ceramics. According to her artist statement, she uses the womb as a vessel in her work through using symbolism and the expressive nature of the human figure.
“The work explores the biological aspects of the male and female and the impact that the ability to bear children has had on both,” Wolcott said. “Humanity is connected through the commonality of birth.”
Wolcott makes a connection to the womb as a container through employing the use of symbolism with large nude-colored eggs. Figures are near the eggs; however, they aren’t interacting with each other. These figures conceal their faces while in passive poses, highlighting their isolation and ambiguity.
“The narrative of strings pulling and tugging at the figures represents societal and internal projections, expectations, and fear as they pull from sensitive points of contact,” Wolcott said.
This pulling acts as an irritant, a form of abuse or a means of control. Wolcott’s paintings are deeply affecting, using neutral shades to show off the complex nature of the human body. One piece in particular is striking—displaying a naked woman curled up in a fetal position with one arm across her chest and one covering her eyes. The texture of her hair and bruised skin make the painting come to life, leaving the viewer concerned and questioning what happened to this woman.
Baker, the other senior featured in the exhibit, uses photography as her artistic medium. Her work is deeply influenced by her Jap-anese heritage, being drawn to patterns on Kimonos to materials like Japanese paper and other relics passed down in her family. The title of her thesis is “Enough But Not Enough”, which describes her experiences growing up and being told she doesn’t “look Asian enough.”
However, Baker couldn’t help but smile when a stranger in Japan came up to ask if she was Japanese because “they could tell.” She is also the one her siblings call when they forget the recipe for ozoni, a soup traditionally enjoyed on New Year’s Day.
“I’ve taken all of these comments and occurrences to heart and hear them resonating in my head years later,” Baker said.
Photography opened the door for her to explore self-portraiture, a genre Baker used to avoid at all costs. According to her artist statement, Baker uses natural lighting to convey a meditative mood and a subtle color palette for most of her images. Printing on inkjet velvet paper has helped to soften her image and deliver a quieter mood that she’s searching for in her own memories.
Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery, results in the object becoming more beautiful than before. “I show the act of mending myself in this series multiple times,” Baker said.
Through her artwork, Baker shows the journey of restoring her physical and mental health—from being involved in a bad car accident to having to go through chemotherapy at just 20 years old.
“I’m not treating the work as a way to cover up or mask what happened, rather as an acknowledgement of these histories,” Baker said. “I’m developing an understanding of my past, my cultures and society, and how it is intimately bound to the formation of self.”
The UNO art gallery is located on the first floor of the Weber Fine Arts building. The senior exhibit is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., closing May 6. All events at the gallery are free and open to the public.