Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said that the aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
Four Grambling State University (GSU) students showcased their inner thoughts and feelings through skills they’ve refined as art students in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) held the opening night of its annual Senior Art Exhibition.
“The exhibition will be up through next week,” said Rodrecas Davis, head of GSU’s VAPA Department. “We’re going to post a virtual sign-in sheet and comment book so thoughts and ideas can be shared with the students. And at some point, before we leave here after graduation there will be a virtual version of the exhibition online that can be shared and viewed that way as well. There is some nice work these students have done here and we’re proud of their efforts and to have them as students here at Grambling.”
GSU’s VAPA facility is located in part of the old Grambling Lab High School complex on the southeastern edge of the university’s campus.
One of the four seniors whose work is on display, Shemar White of Ruston, said that he expects to graduate this summer and that he’s been drawing all of his life.
“Growing up I was always into cartoons and superheroes,” White said. “That led to me trying to draw them. I’ve been drawing all my life. It literally started from nothing up to stick figures all the way to the portraits I do now. I try to find the best photos to capture the true artist — most of the people I draw are rappers — and then [I] just put them on wood and go from there.”
Much of White’s artwork are portrait collages he does on wood that he cuts pieces out of, helping give his artwork an almost 3-D-like effect.
“I work with markers and prism colors on wood and then I have a machine that cuts the wood out. I paint, too. I use acrylic paints,” White said. “When I draw, I want to catch the eye with detail, using different shades and blends with different colors to give the right look. Poses and gestures along with colors can give viewers a mood to go with the expression drawn.
“When I’m drawing someone, I gather up the best pictures of them. Different facial reactions, poses, and studying what they like just to add to the work. After deciding on the photos, I start drawing them and begin coloring. Depending on the expression the picture gives that I’m drawing, I may color it with a color to match it. Even in my graphic work, I do the same process. Once it’s done I step back and look at the finished piece and make sure it’s what I want it to be.”
Many of the paintings and drawings by QuarDestion Alexander of Shreveport have an out-of-this-world element and focus on the cosmos and what lies beyond the planet Earth.
“In my art, I bring you into my universe where you can see my astronomical vision,” Alexander said. “I think of my art as the direct embodiment of spacing out, disconnecting, so that it almost removes you from reality for a few seconds. I associate space with my inner self, meaning space is vast and it can make you feel small and it seems very dangerous at times but on the other hand, it’s peaceful, calming, and beautiful and it gives a sense of being a part of something bigger.
“Growing up I would sit and watch documentaries about the universe, and it had me stuck to the TV thinking about how vast the universe is and how colorful and complex it is, and personally, I just want to be able to see and touch everything and be surrounded by while also knowing we as humans — at least in this point in time — will never be able to personally see the entire universe ourselves. I just create what comes to my imagination in order to show people what might be. I’d view myself walking or either floating through the void of space, creating these images in my head of what could be and then use the materials I have to bring it to life. In most of my art, I deal with spray paint, regular acrylic paint, and markers, but because my major is in Graphic Design I also use editing software to create flyers, invitations, and more.”
Itzel Hernández León of Mexico uses a theme of emotion and memory in movement in her oil and watercolor paintings. “As my central inspiration, I have been investigating impressionist and expressionist artists for my artistic growth. I got captivated by the human figure,” León said. “Its interaction through emotion and experience and the uniqueness of its beauty. Beyond the human shape, the human body shows energy, and emotions which it becomes even more exciting for its development and in what it can be transformed from the mind and spirit.
“What I wanted my work to be is to depict the human body’s momentum and its energy through emotion (colorful, imperfect, joyful, and mysterious). I knew that using the learning experience, I was unsure on how I wanted to represent the energy of the human body and its evolution. My principal purpose was understanding the insecurities, fears, and emotions of others. I decided to depict my own memory individually creating a narrative of my experiences that most impacted me for my self growth.”
Leon, who has also been part of the Lady Tigers Tennis Team during her time at GSU, said her principal style of painting is expressionism inspired by impressionist paintings.
“I started researching and observing Hellenistic Greek statues and I felt attracted to bring the flow of their clothing fabrics to make my painting mysterious and innocent at the same time,” Leon said. “I got attached to the vibrance colors of Impressionism and Expressionism movements. I made use of personal pictures and anecdotes from myself, some relatives, and friends as inspiration to place my subject in a spacial background.”
Graduating senior Jakyra Langham of Collinston, Louisiana, said her preferred techniques are watercolor, oil painting, charcoal, pencil color, and print-making, using bodies without faces to portray the enigma of life.
“I think these three techniques, even though they all have different textures, they also bring that effect of power and elegance,” Langham said. “I consider the human body as one of the most beautiful poems in the world. One of the topics that I have always felt very intrigued to learn about is depicting the human body as well as the beauty and mystery behind the human body.
“Depicting the power and energy, through curved lines and destroying the shape to reach movement is what I look for to tell a whole mysterious story that probably is going to have an unpredictable destiny. Through the vibrance of the colors and the energy of brush strokes, my style and ideas are influenced by my favorite artist Vincent Van Gogh and the ancient Greeks. I think that the visible brush stroke lets me communicate my own thoughts and the way that I feel.”
GSU President Rick Gallot was on hand for the exhibition’s opening night and said he was stunned by the depth of the students’ talents.
“I’m almost at a loss for words to see the depth of talent of our students, and quite often there are certain groups that tend to get more publicity, but as I’m standing here viewing all of your work, I am blown away,” Gallot said. “Just to see the talent these students have, I am amazed, I am blown away and so incredibly proud of all of them and the fact that God has given them this gift and is allowing him to work through them for everybody to be able to view and enjoy their gifts in all of the ways those gifts are represented.”