Works "In Progress"

November 18, 2011

By Abby Rhodes

(L-R) Alicia Conway, Cassie Lawlor and Sarah Zaleski 

Master of Fine Arts student Sarah Zaleski fears that, like her grandmother, she may one day find it difficult to remember details about the people, places and emotions that have shaped her life.

So the third-year studio art major molds her cherished memories into clay. Her exhibit "Livestock at N 41.20452762136679, W 89.829620718956," now on display in the Hartmann Center Gallery, uses long strands of white earthenware moldings to represent bovine vertebrae. The coordinates refer to her grandparents' rural Illinois farm where, as a child, Zaleski curiously studied the skeletal remains of dead livestock tossed into a wooded area.

"I was fascinated by the bones that had been drying in the sun, so I would stack them up and play with them," Zaleski said. "I want to preserve that memory because over time, when you recall memories, they become different. I want to hold onto the originals." 

Zaleski's installation and the work of nine more students pursing advanced art degrees is showcased in the exhibit, titled "In Progress," on display in the Hartmann Center through December 3. The artists featured include first, second and third-year graduate students, each at a different stage of progression in their M.F.A. or M.A. program.

Master of Arts student Alicia Conway, who contributed two steel and cast aluminum pieces to the exhibit, just began her graduate school journey this semester. At Bradley, the East Texas native found a supportive community of faculty and graduate students eager to help her better express the deep emotion embedded in her work.

"As I progress I hope to have a much clearer idea and voice behind my pieces," Conway said. "We're encouraged to really break down the historical avenues and technical aspects of our work and refine those, so as I'm just getting started I'm really digging deep into what I'm trying to say with my work."

"We encourage our students to consider what they do as contributions to cultural discourses, some that reflect on modern and contemporary aesthetic theories and others that define the role of artists in a world veering toward virtual reality and escapism," said Dr. Paul Krainak, chair of Bradley's art department. "Making pictures and forms in real time and real space is a disciplinary practice and a form of knowledge with a deep history, and it's critical to see how younger artists respond to that challenge."

In an exhibit statement the students noted the constant state of progression and growth each feels: "Graduate school is not a place for an artist to verify that he or she is in the process of creating great works of art; instead, graduate school exists to experiment, fail, learn, fail again, but in the end "progress."
Part of second-year Master of Arts student Cassie Lawlor's artistic growth is incorporating her research on food pesticides into her ceramic pieces. The materials list for her installation titled "Poisoned?" could double as a farmer's market shopping list: apple, avocado, banana peel, bell pepper, bread, egg shell, orange peel, strawberry and tomato.

"My work involves a cyclical pattern of collecting the remains of food I've eaten, documenting its decomposition and then putting it into use on my forms via glaze," Lawlor said. "During my final year here at Bradley, I'm hoping to work out some function issues with my glazes and get to a point where I'm really, really proud of my work."