BFA students celebrate the semester’s end with closing exhibition


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Sep 06, 2023

BFA students celebrate the semester’s end with closing exhibition

Claire Olivier's triptych painting titled, "Low Country Shade," of a live oak

Claire Olivier's triptych painting titled, "Low Country Shade," of a live oak tree displayed in gallery of visual arts.

The work of five graduating students accepted into the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the University of Montana culminated in a varied showcase of their perspectives at the Gallery of Visual Arts in the social science building.

This is their closing exhibition on view until May 12. For many, their journeys as artists are just beginning.

Mari Rizzito with a student in the gallery of visual arts at UM for the opening of the BFA show.

Red strings dangle along a narrow pathway between the gallery sides. These strings are a part of Ceramicist Mari Rizzuto's display, "Red Strings of Fate," a reference to a belief originating in Chinese mythology that two people connected to the thread are destined to be lovers. Ahead are ceramic sculptures in different organic forms representing emotion.

Rizzuto's art centers around change and how it moves through our lives. She described how transformation is uncomfortable and says she has a hard time with that sometimes. She said the sculptures are general feelings, open for everyone, and not specific to herself.

"Emotion is difficult to verbalize, so being able to represent emotions visually has helped me process.

Claire Olivier in font of her seascape painting on canvas for the BFA opening show.

Painter Claire Olivier brings the sound of waves and a cool breeze to the imagination.

Olivier, from London, England, enrolled at UM in 2018 after being inspired by her creative writing classes in Missoula. Olivier said creating these paintings was a way to discover where she belonged. She created nine 24-by-24-inch seascape oil paintings on canvas titled "Belonging." She said her art brought her back to the chalk cliffs of the Sussex coast of England, the mighty shores of South Africa and the salt marshes and vast beaches of South Carolina.

"As the scene grew, I grew with it," Olivier said

As the viewer approaches the end of the seascapes, they are met with a large-scale tree created with three 8-foot high and 4-foot wide maple wood slats. On the tree is Spanish moss, an organism that can live without roots. The moss serves as a metaphor for Olivier.

"Creating this body of work brought clarity to my search of belonging, like the Spanish moss, I can belong fully without any roots at all," Olivier said.

Keilani Curran with professor Krutek in the gallery of visual arts for the opening of the BFA show.

Keilani Curran, from Missoula, explores the growth and decay cycle using painting and printmaking. The paintings have no spiritual ties, and she leaves it to the viewer's interpretation.

"My life experiences directly affect my work," Curran said. "There are eight of us living in one house."

She said her childhood influenced her work, but it's in the past and her memory is hazy, which is reflected in her work. Curran said the work represents a person entering a new cycle of growth.

"Over time, we start to forget the past, and memories fade," Curran said. " I want people to put themselves in my portraits, and I didn't want to make my work very specific."

Walter Medcalf's wall display of his paintings for the BFA exhibition at the gallery of visual arts.

Walter Medcraft takes us into a world society gets lost in. Medcraft's work reflects pop culture and current events that he sees through his life and social media.

Medcraft, originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, was a journalism student who found himself skipping class to paint. Reluctant to apply for the BFA due to additional credit requirements, he found the courses were actually beneficial after he was accepted.

His large-scale mixed media painting is a visual interpretation of someone's self-image defined by society. He paints an image of a person taking a selfie with their shirt up on a canvas in the shape of a phone.

Medcraft took advantage of reclaimed wood from the UM painting studio, home resources and found-salvaged material. He uses it as commentary on human waste and climate change.

"Technology is changing our information," Medcraft said. "Your self-image is influenced by technology."

Andy Bugos's display for the opening BFA show

To the right of Olivier's exhibit is Andy Bugos’ exploration of Montana's surroundings. Referring to his art as the clay library, Bugos borrows some dirt he dug up from central Montana and transforms it into clay and glazes. He displays a sample of dirt along the perimeter of his show with the wheelbarrow and tools he used to gather it.

His exhibit goes deeper than dirt. Bugos wanted to bring his process and research as part of the art displayed. It took him many samples in a period of a year to get the right formula that could work in the kiln. As part of the exhibit along the wall, he displays test tiles of the clay he made from the dirt. He made the blue-tinted glaze from crushed rock, eggshells, white clay and crushed blue glass bottles.

Bugos’ idea behind this process is making work out of local materials and finding ways to lessen the environmental impact by taking things from the waste stream and repurposing it.

"I wanted to bring people into the world I have been inhabiting for the last year," Bugos said. "I got really excited finding all these different clays."

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