The McGuffey Art Center is typically home to works from a number of professional Charlottesville artists, but the second floor of the gallery is home to a hidden gem — a hallway recently lined with student masterpieces. University studio artists, whether enrolled in the major or just a studio art class, contributed a selection of thought-provoking and personal pieces to the exhibit.
Many of the student artists said their studio art classes are an expression of personal emotions, stories and ideas. Third-year College Student Heeran Karim — who has two of her pieces on display — makes connections between the personal and academic facets of her life in her art.
Karim, as a double major in human biology and studio art, often focuses her work on the human body and its power to tell stories. For her piece titled “Protrusion”, Karim used an online simulator to fix the image of a superior view of a human heart, using it as inspiration for her piece.
“I want to show, metaphorically, the life of a heart being taken, but it's also the pain that you would feel if you lost someone,” Karim said.
Karim often uses the corporal body as inspiration for her pieces. Her other gallery submission, entitled, “Almost”, features two hands reaching towards each other, representing relationships in her own life, though she opens her audience to their own interpretations. She is currently working on a children’s book, in which this piece will be featured on the last page.
Like Karim, the students used many different materials while creating their pieces. Some made sculptures, some painted and a few even compiled video projects.
Liv Cochran, second-year College student and studio art major, experimented with a variety of materials for a collage she entitled “The Traveler”. The work is a woven depiction of a world map, constructed using materials she sourced — food labels, masks or old prayer flags — to bring the meaning behind her idea to life.
“It's sort of a representation of unity yet lots of fragmentation,” Cochran said. “You can see it in a couple of ways… from the back it's a map, and then as you get closer you can kind of get lost in the details.”
Through assignments from studio art professors, students like Cochran drew inspiration for the projects they would later submit to the exhibition. Cochran recalls a weaving assignment in her class that took a mind of its own, leading to her vision for “The Traveler.”
For fifth-year College student Valentina Maria Deshler, who picked up an art major during the pandemic, the piece “Govinda” was the product of Studio Art Professor Marlatt pushing her out of her artistic comfort zone.
“I was too afraid of using ugly colors,” Deshler said. “So [Marlatt] was like, ‘I want you to make a really ugly one.’ Ugly colors, ugly shapes, ugly ideas, ugly everything… I ended up spending a lot of time on it, and it ended up being one of my favorite paintings, though supposedly everything about it was ugly.”
Deshler’s piece — gouache on paper — is an amalgamation of jarring colors and shapes, that when put together, create a beautiful abstract ensemble.
No two pieces in the exhibition are alike, and neither were any of the artists’ processes. One work of art can take any length of time to complete, some only lasting a day and some stretching out over months.
“When I do art, the minute I start it, I want to finish it within that day,” Karim said. “I might have sat down for 18 hours and just knocked [“Protrusion”] out in one day.”
Each student shows dedication to their work, spending countless hours to perfect it on an abnormal schedule.
“If I'm in the mood to paint, I’m gonna go to the studio. I don't care if it's 2 a.m,” Deshler said, who would often use her keycard to swipe into Ruffin Hall after hours.
The dedication to their artwork is evident through the striking final products hanging in the gallery today.
“Hearts: A U.Va. Student Exhibition” will be open on the second floor of McGuffey Arts Center until Feb. 26, free for all who wish to attend.