The Finale: BFA Exhibit

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BY: GENEVA NODLAND, nodlandge@mnstate.edu

With just under two months left of the 2018-2019 school year, seniors graduating with their Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) are wrapping up by presenting their exhibits in the BFA shows.

The BFA Senior Exhibit #1 was shown Feb. 25-March 21. Exhibit #2 opened March 25-April 17, with an opening reception Thursday. These exhibits feature BFA graduating senior’s art projects, whether their major is digital art or studio art.

One of the contributors to BFA exhibit #1 is Maddy Lykken, a graphic design major with minors in advertising and art. Lykken’s final production incorporated all parts of her degree by creating not only a physical art piece, but also an entire company. Having designed a travel suitcase company, she was able to utilize all of her skills by making wraps for those suitcases, as well as establish a website, app and social media campaign for Instagram.

“One of my biggest passions are travel and fashion, so I wanted to incorporate all of that along with packaging within one project,” Lykken said. “I basically designed the whole brand identity.”

She wasn’t the only one who built a company. This show included projects like a quilting program, an elegant hotel chain and campaign, a website and brand for a video game that is being produced.

“During my show in the BFA, we had everything from photography, to drawing, to illustration, to ceramics, to sculpture,” Lykken said.

The students in the first exhibit have spent about a year on their projects, and a lot of those in the second exhibit have spent a semester. After proposing their ideas for the project, students have midterm reviews and 30-day reviews. After those, the project should be just about gallery ready.

A contributor in exhibit #2 is Jill Johnston, a senior majoring in studio arts with an emphasis in ceramics and minoring in art history. She is the single ceramics artist in the show and features a three-part exhibit made up of a concrete reclining chair, 12 smaller sculptures from molding concrete in fabric chunks and an old TV combined with a clay portion.

The 12 individual pieces held a special place in Johnston’s heart, as the fabric came from her grandmother’s quilting collection. Johnston said her grandmother had been sewing for a long time, and she struggled with that part of the process while making her project.

“It was a way of connecting with her … it was the kind of stuff that I took for granted,” Johnston said. “We lost her pretty unexpectedly this summertime, and it had a really big impact on me, so I wanted to do something that was like an acknowledgement to what she did and her craft of sewing. It was a kind of cathartic experience.”

The antique TV set has clay flowing out of the screen and features a vintage photo projected on it. Johnston said it is like an abstract “sort of gooey, oozing thing,” but also features a deeper metaphor.

“[The TV sculpture] was kind of a culmination of thoughts and feelings or grief, and it was all put out into this one piece,” she said. “It’s stuff that I’ve never done before and typically I would not. I don’t particularly like being very vulnerable—it’s a safe thing to keep things to yourself, so I really wanted to do something that scared me.”

Johnston’s entire exhibit was new territory to her, using non-traditional

materials and going outside of her usual utilitarian pieces like cups and bowls.

“This project ended up being very experimental and very sculptural, which is something I never anticipated doing,” she said.

But before any of the artists can feature their exhibits, they must begin with the proposal of their project. The proposal involves questions laid out in a format of some sort, and then presenting that format and your idea. Grading for these shows begins right away with the proposal.

“It’s up to your discretion how you want to produce [proposal questions], and normally you propose that in front of your advisor and any professors and people who volunteer,” Lykken said. “Then if you pass that, you go on to getting more information for starting your senior projects.”

Besides weekly feedback by giving suggestions through critique, the students have independence with their creations.

“That’s what’s really nice about your senior proje

freedom and free range to create whatever you want,” Lykken said. “What you have thought out in the beginning changes at the end, which is exciting.”

Johnston experienced this firsthand. She originally had the utilitarian concept for the project, but ultimately went with something outside of her comfort zone. Along with that major change, she had a minor hiccup when her original plan to have a sculpture inside of the TV, rather than coming out, collapsed.

Sculptures on display at the BFA exhibit created by Jill Johnston.
Photo by: Tylar Frame

“I had to scramble to do something new, but I think there was part of that pressure that made me do something I wouldn’t have thought of beforehand—using new materials,” she said. “I actually like it even better than what I would’ve had.”

Showing in the exhibits is something that is required for BFA students to graduate, but student’s proposals can be turned down or they can withdraw from the show for various reasons; so feelings range from nerves to excitement.

“You’re nervous beforehand as you’re prepping everything, getting it finalized, but then I think once you put it up you realize, ‘Ok, all of my hard work is in display’ and it’s really something that’s fulfilling as well,” Lykken said.

Lykken also pointed out that the reception that is held is a great way to get feedback on projects.

“It ended up being exactly how I imagined or even better,” Johnston said, “and it was wonderful to step back and look at that and just feel a mixture of relief and pride in yourself.”

These shows are one of the final things for BFA students, and Lykken and Johnston are both pleased with the ending results of their exhibits.

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