The Oxford English Dictionary defines art as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
For these recent Salisbury University graduates, they each found their muses for their art in different ways in pulling from their own thoughts, experiences and emotions of the world around them.
The students’ collections were on display for the public in SU’s Downtown Art Gallery for a brief period in December. The students expressed that the exhibit was the product of the hours spent studying, creating and learning at SU, and by means of expression, it conveyed how each student defined their art in a unique way.
SU graduate and hot glass major Blaine Steiner was not initially a liberal arts student.
Originally coming to SU with an inclination for biology, Steiner spent four years studying science when her true calling came to her in the elective glass blowing.
Though she changed her major, she does feel that the part of her that spent so much time learning about organisms in the natural world has made its way into her art.
Steiner’s display of work at SU’s Downtown Art Gallery consisted of glass sculptures suspended from the ceiling, along with sculptures and panels working with both metal and natural materials.
Steiner explained that her work was centered around the concept of dichotomy and the relationship that a material can have with itself.
“What I love about glass is its ability to be incredibly fragile like the panels or really tough like the cast glass,” Steiner said. “So, I love that conversation between the two parts of it, and I wanted to make a body of work that really showed the range of what glass can do.”
While pulling from her knowledge of her background in biology, Steiner explained that a big part of her art is also about her desire to surprise people.
One piece that Steiner held pride in producing this element of surprise in her current collection was a snowflake sculpture.
The sculpture, symmetrical and porcelain white like a real snowflake, was, however, not made with the delicate resources that one would normally associate with the snow-fallen precipitation.
“One thing I really love doing is messing with the viewer and their preconceived notions of beauty,” Steiner said. “I love making these beautiful objects where you want to get closer to them and look at them, but it’s [a] snowflake made of coyote skulls.”
Steiner aims to create work like the snowflake that provoke deeper thought and question the ideas that society instills in us. Her definition of art is shown in her intent behind her pieces.
“Like, why do you find it beautiful and do you still find it beautiful when you find out it’s made of dead animals?” Steiner said.
Similar to Steiner, SU graduate and painting major Marley Parsons found the inspiration for her collection to come from nature and her own experiences as well.
But Parson’s true muse was not initially the reaction she would evoke from others, but her own personal love for her home on the Eastern Shore.
Parson’s collection was a series of pastel paintings and resin plants and flora from Assateague Island. She explained her inspiration behind the pieces, highlighting the emotions and connection she holds to the pieces.
“I’m born and raised here. I live five minutes away, so that’s somewhere in my heart, and that’s always kind of been somewhere that my heart is,” Parsons said. “And I’m moving in two weeks, so I figured that would be a great way to end my career here, kind of appreciating where I came from.”
Along with her personal ties to the pieces, Parsons also tried to highlight the changes in our natural world and how climate change is impacting the local nature.
“My paintings are about landscapes at Assateague. I actually resin plants that I took from there onto glass so you could see through them,” Parsons said. “So, I did the transparency of climate change and the effects that Assateague is getting from the environment.”
Highlighting both influences of society and personal motivations of empowerment and technology, SU graduate and graphic design major Stephanie Stuehler defined art by way of fashion and media.
Motivated by the latest trends in pop culture, Stuehler’s collection in the gallery consisted of an entire interior design of her allotted space with wallpaper, mirrors, signs and décor that she found to be expressive of her work and aesthetically pleasing.
Along with her interior design, Stuehler displayed a collection of fashion pieces ranging from jean jackets to purses, hats and more.
Stuehler explained her inspiration, highlighting a personal love for creating to guide her.
“I like to make my own clothing as well as my own graphics work,” Stuehler said. “So, I like to combine them both, and I like to think about a lot of pop culture and infuse that, trendy designs and stuff like that.”
Stuehler went on to explain her passion for graphic design, highlighting that it is always evolving, fast-paced and changing with the times.
After their graduation, these seniors have gone on to pursue dreams of creative jobs or plans for graduate school all in line with their aspirations of continuing their love for the arts, whether it be in sculpting, painting or graphic design.
The graduates accredit their time at SU to be an element aiding in their success and future endeavors, and they each plan to take their experiences and practices learned in the classroom with them as they continue to expand the true definition of art and the impact it can have on the world around them.
“I realized that there was this thing I wanted to do all the time, and it just made me a much better version of myself,” Steiner said. “And since then, I can’t imagine not doing this with my life.”
By CAROLINE STREETT
Gull Life editor
Featured photos by Caroline Streett Images.