I visited the School of Art & Design BFA exhibition at Krannert Art Museum two days before the Campus commencement festivities began. But even then, the bittersweet feeling of endings and beginnings hung in the air. These emerging artists, working in a variety of media including photography, sculpture, painting, studio art, industrial design, new media, and graphic design, should be celebrated for the work they created. But they should also be acknowledged for their resilience and their ability to learn and create during a pandemic. 


Much of the work displayed in this exhibition felt deeply personal, showing a commitment to using their talents to create space for more diverse identities, to deal with grief, to give back, and to imagine better ways of doing and being in the world. 

From Brendan D. O'Shaunessy sculpture, The Consummate Creature, shown above, to Josie Danielle Pines' mixed media installation, Suspended in Time: Familial Gatherings, seen below, materials were employed in new ways to tell unique stories. 

a series of colorful mixed media 3d cake-shaped structured attached to a white wall.
Photo by Debra Domal.

So many of these young artists took on the uncomfortable truths of the world that shaped them and their art. Linda Obobaifo's Burning Homes, top right, shown with accompanying text below, investigates themes of destruction, sexism, violence, and racial injustice.

A Woman Sanitized

Even after death
a woman's body
torn into indecipherable pieces
of dry clay crystalized
by browned disease
a cover of white hands
to hold down screams
of cut open stomachs
gutted further down the vaginal 
opening—reproductive organs withering.
A woman's body 
even after death
santitized in Black.

A series of black, white, and red mixed media work interspersed with poetry.
Photo by Debra Domal.
Chair built with arms that hold shelves in the foreground with other paintings, sculptures, and drawings on the back wall.
Photo by Debra Domal.
A row of product and service design posters suspended from the ceiling.
Photo by Debra Domal.

Grief and loss remained a recurring theme throughout the exhibition. Izzy Zavala's COVID mask rug, shown further down, alchemizes what has become the icon image of the pandemic, into a handcrafted, everyday household item.  Megan Hann's The Hardest Goodbye, one of my favorite concepts in the show, creates custom books to "teach children how to approach losing a pet for the first time."

Poster and book samples explaining The Hardest Goodbye project for kids.
Photo by Debra Domal.
Floormat made of COVID maks.
Photo by Debra Domal.
Maniken in drag in front of posters and digital displays for Drag for Foster Kids project.
Photo by Debra Domal.
Close ups of posters for Drag for Foster Kids program.
Photo by Debra Domal.
Wide view of gallery with paintings and posters on wall and design prototypes on pedestals.
Photo by Debra Domal.

Photographer Madeline Pierce's First Loves: Transitional Objects is a fitting exploration of the role of totemic objects as we move through the stages of our lives. 

Photographs of people with baby blankets and teddy bears behind a teddy bear on a shelf.
Photo by Debra Domal.
One subject's letter about the role of their baby blanket as a transitional object.
Photo by Debra Domal.
Two paintings of contemporary women in 17th century garb.
Photo by Debra Domal.
Painting on wall with book prototype displayed before it.
Photo by Debra Domal.

In case you missed the exhibition, you can still experience much of the work, and congratulate those who created it, on the School of Art & Design's Facebook or Instagram.

The School of Art & Design BFA Exhibition
Krannert Art Museum
500 E Peabody Ave
Champaign

Top photo by Debra Domal.