Three senior art students collaborate on diverse exhibition

GVL / Courtesy - Jillian Thompson
Respect the Chain

Jillian Thompson

GVL / Courtesy – Jillian Thompson “Respect the Chain”

Kate Branum

Three Grand Valley State University art students have collaborated on a senior thesis exhibition called Arbitrary Associates. Through their bodies of work, these students portray important topics, including: overconsumption, the connection between humans and nature and cultural expectations.

Arbitrary Associates will open Sunday, April 10, in the Stuart B. and Barbara H. Padnos Student Art and Design Gallery in the Calder Center on the Allendale Campus. The exhibition will close with a reception held Thursday, April 13, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the gallery.

Metalsmith artist Jillian Thompson has always been interested in hip-hop culture and grew up listening to the music and watching the videos. Now that she’s older, she’s come to understand that hip-hop is more than just catchy music; it’s culture-driven. Thompson has created a line of unique women’s jewelry intended to show that women are just as involved in hip-hop culture as men.

“I started to incorporate hair into my work, trying to give black women’s perspective,” Thompson said. “(I also wanted to) highlight issues in modern culture that force black women to change their appearance because of Western culture’s beauty standards.”

Through her work, Thompson wants viewers to delve into the history of her topic, understand that it still affects individuals in the world today and adopt a new perspective.

“It’s important for people to be exposed to issues that might not directly affect their day-to-day lives,” Thompson said. “I think (the great thing about) (is that) people always have a different interpretation of an art piece, which always leaves room for conversations with others.”

Metalsmith artist Audrey King decided to focus on the important, but often overlooked, connections between humans and nature. Her work boasts a variety of diverse mediums, including: silver, bronze, driftwood, hair, collagraph prints and other repurposed or natural materials.

“My main inspiration in most of my work comes from nature and emphasizing natural elements with connections to the human body,” King said. “In this collection, I draw inspiration from fungi, root structures, environments, life, decay, cycles and connections.”

King hopes her pieces inspire viewers to consider how their actions can impact others and the environment that surrounds them.

Printmaker Michael Pierce explores the ideas of overconsumption and neoliberalism through an array of advertisements and pop culture references designed to leave viewers wanting more. Pierce also uses those pop culture elements to talk about climate change in a satirical tone.

All three artists’ work touches on very different subjects, all meant to spark meaningful conversations and stir up fresh outlooks.

“Jillian, Michael and myself make work that is not very similar in terms of processes or concept,” King said. “That (fact), mixed with our somewhat random or chance placement as a group led us to emphasize our differences rather than trying to grasp for similarities.”