GVSU to host “Artist Talks” for graduating seniors

Sarah Edgecomb

A handful of Grand Valley State University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts students gave an “Artist Talks” presentation on Friday, Nov. 30 at the Mary Idema Pew Library as part of their Senior Seminar course. Each of the six seniors gave a presentation about their creative process, inspiration and work.   

Meghan Moe Beitiks, a visiting professor at GVSU, explained that artist talks are a common occurrence in an artist’s career. 

“The artist talk is a standard aspect of professional artist practice,” Beitiks said, adding that artists can be invited to give these presentations at universities or art exhibitions. “Especially within the context of academia, it’s a good, professional tool to have.”

These talks give graduating art students the opportunity to prepare for their careers with support from professors and fellow classmates. 

“You get the experience of doing it, and it’s less scary because you have your peers who are also doing it and who are also just as terrified,” said Grace Sementkowski, a BFA student whose work centers around representation and the use of space through photography and unusual installations.

Although each presentation gave insight into the artist’s personal life, the students’ sense of community provided ample support. Holly McDermott, a metals and jewelry artist whose art focuses on vulnerability and emotion, said that both the small class size and nature of art as a whole contributes to their closeness. 

“We have this really unique connection…so our class has been really comfortable for us to be talking about such uncomfortable and personal things,” McDermott said. 

Despite the anxiety that accompanies a major presentation, McDermott said that artist talks are necessary in the art world. 

“How does anybody really know what your perspective about your art is unless you talk about it?” McDermott said. 

Although the students have varying specializations, including metalwork, performance art and video, vulnerability continued to be an underlying theme. Each artist spoke about the insecurities that went into creating and sharing their work, and the confidence that an artist talk brings.

“It really is beneficial because there’s so much vulnerability and self-doubt throughout the process of creating art,” Emily McKenna explained. McKenna’s work focuses on feminism and challenges stigmas about the female body.

The work put out by the Senior Seminar students is sophisticated and thought-provoking, often addressing identity, emotion and uncertainty. Castina Bombardo primarily works with metals and jewelry, referencing her interest in psychology by capturing mental illnesses in her work. Vic Martinez explores their identity through performance art, using it as a way to reconnect with themselves. Ashley Acton expands her boundaries through her art and uses it as a form of healing.

“They are doing really phenomenal work,” Beitiks said. “It is at a level that is on par with professional work that’s happening in Chicago and in local galleries and museums.” 

As the semester wraps up, exhibitions will continue to be held to showcase the BFA seniors’ work.