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Arts scholarship showcase features materials from a pine cone to human hair

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Sometimes masterpieces are right in your backyard.

The 23rd Annual John Fergus Family Fund Scholarship Awards incorporated a variety of art forms this year from 10 Ohio State students and alumni. The scholarship is fine arts-based, and the winners’ pieces are now open for public viewing at the Urban Arts Space.

Ryan Wells, a third-year in interior design and one of the recipients of the award, said the recipients are selected by a jury encompassed by faculty members from various arts and design departments of OSU.

The majority of the recipients said they submitted several pieces at the recommendation of faculty.

“The piece that they chose is essentially … a pine cone (I found) in my yard,” Wells said.

Wells said he was doing material studies in his design course on biomimicry — a principle of mimicking elements of nature in design ­— looking for patterns and textures outside to incorporate into design decisions, and stumbled on the pine cone in his backyard.

“I just pulled it apart, all the pines out individually, and I arranged them by size from largest to smallest and started gluing them back together,” Wells said. “As I was doing this I was creating this natural vortex … so it resembles a pine cone in a way, but it’s much more ordered and intentional.”

Wells said of all the pieces he submitted, the decision of this one, which is part of a larger project,was shocking.

“Winning a $1,000 for gluing pieces of a pine cone together … you can make it sound a little silly,” Wells said.

Kelsey Shankle, a fourth-year in painting and drawing, said she also is looking forward to the reception where Trevor, her brother and the subject of her two oil paintings, will be joining her.

“My brother was in a motorcycle accident last year and they’re paintings of his knee injury,” Shankle said. “We’ll try to get some pictures of him with it.”

Shankle said painting from the reference photos of Trevor’s knee was a strange experience for her.

“It was fairly emotional,” Shankle said. “That’s the kind of thing I like to explore in my work. And it’s kind of hard to be staring at proof of the mortality of someone you love.”

Shankle said she is interested in exploring the idea of the body as something external that cannot be completely controlled.

Mumushu Sitot, a third-year in art education and design, said she used her piece, which was created with plastic and human hair, as an opportunity to explore her Ethiopian culture.

Sitot said she thought to use hair after remembering an Ethiopian flyswatter is made of the same material.

“It’s so related to my culture,” she said. “I’m so connected with art because my culture is rich with it.”

Noelle Klein, another third-year in art education, chose to work with black-and-white photography in her piece titled “Nature’s Nurture.” The piece was a 16-by-20-inch black-and-white print on fiber paper. Klein describes her work as a photo that captures a deteriorated wood shed with an unhinged door that is being taken over by multiple different vines, leaves and plants.

“That’s the reason why it’s called Nature’s Nurture,” Klein said. “You have this old wooden thing that came from nature then became this manmade object and now is being taken over by nature once again and returning to where it came from.”

Christopher Summers, a fourth-year in art and technology, took the opposite approach and created a piece from a Victrola — an old brand of phonographs that plays a video feed of an undressing woman called “The Hand-crank Hologram”.

“Art is usually perceived as being paintings and drawing,” Summers said. “I would consider this like a new media sculpture. New media is a word for art that means a type of art that uses some sort of information technology, like computers or data visualization.”

He said he was mimicking old movie players from the 1930s and ‘40s, called peeping toms, that play a small video of a woman undressing.

“It’s kind of like a new-age peeping tom,” Summers said. “You watch this girl undress for like six minutes, but then you never see anything. So the joke is kind of on the viewer as being perverted and spending all this time for nothing.”

Michelle Vieira, a senior in painting and drawing, said she feels honored to be part of the show.

“This is something I’ve worked towards for three and a half years, and to finally receive that is really awesome,” she said.

Vieira said her piece, composed of paint chips from Hopkins Hall Gallery’s old walls, evolves with every setting.

“The piece I got in this year is called ‘From the Wall to the Floor IV,’” Vieira said. “The material that I used is 10-15 years of paint that we peeled off the wall. And so I have it in floor installations right now so it changes.”

Vieira said her work has been long and skinny, circular and triangular, and now it stretches between two pillars. But in every one of its lives, it is on the floor.

“Originally I was going to put them on the wall so they’d be this sort of tunnel thing, but I was laying (the paint chips) out on the floor and I liked it and I liked how it changed the context of it. It was originally on the wall, now it’s on the floor,” Vieira said.

Andrea Emmerich, a fifth-year in drawing and painting, said the inspiration for her painting came from women’s issues. She said she played up the roles and stereotypes that women have in American society. She said that these views involve things like ultra pink or “girly.”

Emmerich said her piece uses a 1960s wallpaper that gives off the housewife feeling followed by a contrasting religious style.

“It’s kind of like an irony between the two sides of those women. There’s the side where you’re the religious, humble, covered type and then there’s the American girl, flashy, girly type who uses her assets,” Emmerich said.

She said she doesn’t intend to give off a negative feeling toward either side.

Kyle Downs, a second-year in the MFA sculpture program, said he created a small play while at a summer residency in Maine and decided to convert it into a four-piece video for the Fergus scholarship.

“I basically converted my studio into a exhibition space,” he said. “I reversed the architecture of the studio that they provided for me and built the interior and exterior platform. I decided towards the end of summer that it would be activated in a better sense with a short play. I wrote a little three- to four-act play that starred myself and other candidates that were at the program.”

Downs said the experience was different for him because of the separation between the actual project and the performance in front of a live audience.

Qicheng Kuang, a third-year in drawing and painting, said his piece is about imagination.

“This piece gives people the opportunity to explore their imagination,” Kuang said. “I allow them to have their own imagination and interpretation.”

He said that the piece includes three identical groups of two paintings: one square canvas with a black shape and a chalkboard made out of a canvas.

“This work is interactive,” Kuang said. “The texts on the chalkboards are the viewer’s springboards. One can add any information or erase existing text to participate in the piece, which is like leaving comments on Amazon, YouTube or Facebook.”

Kwong said he felt frustrated while creating the piece because he had to make several pieces with different materials before he got it.

Tala Kanani, an OSU alumna who graduated last fall in sculpture, said she was interested in exploring new materials.

“I was curious about weaving and textiles, so I tried to do something that would involve that,” Kanani said. “I decided to weave plywood essentially and that’s what the piece is about.”

Kanani said her piece, “Blue and Yellow,” also involves canvas and that she just wanted to experiment.

All the artwork is currently on display until Jan. 29, with free admission at Urban Arts Space, and a reception to showcase the students and their work Saturday.

The Urban Arts Space is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with hours extended to 8 p.m. Thursdays. Admission for the 23rd Annual Fergus Scholarship Award Exhibition is free.

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