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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

BFA fine art students caught in limbo

CAAD | Courtesy Photo

Andrea Byers works on one of her double portrait pieces that hangs in the “LIMBO” BFA thesis exhibition in the Colvard Student Union Art Gallery. Byer’s portraits riff on inner struggles and ask viewers to better understand themselves through reflection.

French artist Paul Cezanne once said, “A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.” 

Three Mississippi State University fine art majors with an emphasis in drawing have created artwork steeped with emotion that shines through physical interaction with their artwork.  

This fall, the mixed-media works by Andrea Byers, Larry Davis and Jeff Nickell each tell a different story to their viewers.

According to its bachelor of fine art thesis exhibition news release, MSU’s art program is the largest undergraduate studio program in the state of Mississippi and offers exhibitions of its seniors’ work each semester. 

The ‘LIMBO’ Fine Art Thesis Exhibition showcases students’  thesis work in the Colvard Student Union Art Gallery until Dec. 7. 

As the senior thesis coordinator, Brent Funderburk, professor in the Department of Art, said he plays a hand in the evolution of the students from learners to leaders.  

“I manage the structure of the senior thesis class — teaching professional practices and portfolio building, guiding thesis committees, studio spaces and supervising the team processes in exhibition planning, building a visual archive and developing applications for graduate study, competitive exhibitions, grants and gallery representation,” he said. “The students become leaders in this cooperative process.”

Funderbunk said the students’ work displays an immense ability to convey a message through art. 

“These three students are showing skill in the range of communication hierarchy of fine art,” he said.

Byers’s portrait work plays on one’s inner struggles, and she said she would like for her viewers to gain a better understanding about themselves.

“There’s a duality in everyone that causes one to be pulled in two different directions, and eventually a choice has to be made, and you have to face the struggles that come along with it. You have to accept one decision or the other, and that’s just a part of life,” Byers said. “I would like my viewers to experience not only what I’m going through personally, dealing with acceptance, but also to come to terms with their own struggles and the possibility of never feeling satisfied.”

Funderburk said Byers’s work psychologically speaks to the viewer and provokes careful consideration and reflection. 

“Byers’s acrylic/oil double portrait work is quiet, nuanced, will call the onlooker forth to consider a quiet psychological relationship between contemplative viewer and image,” he said.

With titles including “Sandbox,” “Gumball Head” and “Circus,” Nickell’s artwork takes viewers back to their childhood. 

Funderburk said Nickell’s work is playful regardless of the surrealist structure of the paintings.

“Nickell presents a more accessible, bright palette with whimsical retro-iconic characters in a sort of Rube Goldberg dreamscape that somehow remains cheery, despite impossible architecture amid anarchy,” he said. “It’s a show of contrasts — of mood, methods and motives.”

Nickell said everyone longs for some sort of connection to being a kid again, and he hopes he can accomplish this through his artwork.

“My work is a play on childhood reminiscence — simple illustrations and doodles from a fine arts stance,” he said. “I’d like to appeal to my viewers’ sense of innocence by highlighting upon the playful sense of childhood.”

Davis’s work reimagines environments like Dante’s nine circles of hell. He said he would not only like his audience to reflect upon his digital drawings, but he also wants viewers to recognize concept art as a fine art.

“I was really influenced by Dante’s ‘Inferno.’ The enclosed and repetitive nature of my pieces exemplifies not only my own personal hell, but they were meant to evoke certain thoughts in viewers,” he said. “I want my viewer to think and imagine. If I get them to do that, then I’ve accomplished my purpose.”

Funderburk said Davis’s artworks’ compositions are slightly ominous and involve destruction but are still imperturbable in their own right.

“Davis’s digital drawings are more cool — distant yet brooding, apocalyptic, industrial spaces that are vast and empty,” he said.

According to the exhibition’s news release, this is the final presentation of senior students before graduation and represents a year’s worth of research and thesis studies, four years of foundational coursework, survey, art history, academic and emphasis classes.

A reception for the gallery will be held Thursday from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
BFA fine art students caught in limbo