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Graduating art students featured in new exhibition at BAM


JONESBORO – The final student art exhibition of the academic year will open to the public Thursday, April 27, at 5 p.m., in the Bradbury Art Museum at Arkansas State University.

Included are seven students who will graduate with a studio degree from the Department of Art and Design.  The featured artists include Michaela Babb, Hillary Brooks, Christopher Pirtle, Elizabeth Spain, Jordan Stubblefield, Ashleigh West and Hao Zheng. 

The 2017 Senior Exhibition runs through Friday, May 12.

Michaela Babb will receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in painting and drawing in May. As a student she earned an art scholarship in 2015 and 2016.  She was awarded an assistantship to work in in the Fine Arts Center Gallery and was an active member of the ASU Art Student Union, participating in two of their sponsored juried student exhibitions.  Babb was also included in the “Invent & Repeat: Advanced Painting Projects Engaging Abstraction, Repetition, & “Post-Internet Art”, held in the A-State Fine Arts Center Gallery.

Her work can be found in several private collections in the region. Currently she resides in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Discussing her paintings Babb says, “Within my body of work, I transform landscapes by focusing on texture, brisk movements of paint, and saturated colors. By recreating the landscape, I want to make people share my positive response to nature. I want viewers to look at my work and hear the wind whistling or feel like they are in the woods hiking. I want to motivate the audience to be outside as a result of encountering my work.

After graduation she plans to work in an art gallery or museum and continue her career as an artist.

Hillary Brooks, who was just awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Department of Art and Design has been an active student involved in numerous artistic activities. She served as an A-State Student Ambassador; currently is the president of the ASU Art Student Union; and is an active member of the Communication Center Impact Team, an interdisciplinary group charged with creating a vision for the communication center. 

Brooks participated in research projects that demonstrate the importance of art to create a better quality of life in older adults and children.  Recently she was chosen to participate in the STEAM Professional Development Workshop and earlier this year she took part in the DNSPE Printmaking Symposium, giving demonstrations of artistic practices to a learned audience at both.

Brooks has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions and collaborations, including “Wet Paint” an exhibition held in Everett, Pennsylvania and the “2016 ASU Art Student Union Annual Juried Student Exhibition” where she won first runner up for best in show.

According to Brooks, “Painting and sculpture reimagine the mundane and undesirable parts of a woman’s life by turning them into traditional forms of feminine beauty. The use of objects such as tampons and underwear—things we don’t talk about in polite conversation—showcase what goes on “behind the curtain” in a woman’s life, and comment on the ridiculousness of the stigma attached. My work comments on the female identity in response to the male gaze by using imagery from art history combined with contemporary female figures. This work combines the beauty with the grotesque to create an honest and vulnerable representation of a woman’s life.”

Her painting and sculpture embrace mortality through the female identity.

For the past two years Brooks has served as the registrar at the Bradbury Art Museum.  In 2016, as an employee at BAM, she won the “Outstanding Part-Time” Distinguished Performance Award and the Arkansas State University Student Worker of the Year.  She will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio art and then continue as a practicing artist with a museum career.

Christopher Pirtle who is from Jonesboro will graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in painting and drawing.  After graduation he plans to continue creating, showing and selling his oil paintings. His work has been seen in the exhibition “Invent & Repeat: Advanced Painting Projects Engaging Abstraction, Repetition, & “Post-Internet     Art”, which was held in the A-State Fine Arts Center Gallery.

His oil paintings of fantasy fiction are inspired by his interest in the subject. In a statement he said, “I abstract the human body, creatures and inanimate objects into grotesque forms. I feed my interest in entertainment such as violent games, horror television series and medieval fantasy novels into my work. I utilize decay, mutilation and distortion as well as thick paint, rough textures and nonlocal colors. With paint, I can complement the dark theme I have chosen by creating gashes, crusty textures and viscous surfaces.

Elizabeth Spain received her Associate of Arts degree in studio art from A-State in 2015. Currently she is completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in photography and intends to graduate in December. In 2012 she was awarded an honorable mention from the Arkansas Young Artist Association and in both 2015 and 2016 she appeared on the A-State Deans List.

She has exhibited her sculpture at several university venues and was included in the “2017 ASU Art Student Union Annual Juried Student Exhibition” held in the Fine Arts Center Gallery. She has been an active member of the art student union and has participated in several special problem education classes working with dementia patients, older adults and children.

Spain’s work focuses on both external and internal female beauty. After graduation she plans to live and work in Paragould where she will operate a private photography studio.

Jordan Stubblefield, who is known as “Stubby” anticipates earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in studio art and minors in both Art History and Biology, Magna Cum Laude, this May. As a student, she received many awards and scholarships such as the Thea Foundation Senior Scholarship, and the ASTATE Leadership Scholarship and she appeared on both the A-State Chancellor and Deans Lists.

Her artwork, which explores the relationship between human nature and material culture has been shown in several exhibitions on campus, including the 2013, 15, 16 and 17 “ASU Art Student Union Annual Juried Student Exhibitions” and “Invent & Repeat: Advanced Painting Projects Engaging Abstraction, Repetition, & “Post-Internet Art”, held in the A-State Fine Arts Center Gallery.

Stubblefield states, “In both the arts in sciences, it is said, ‘form follows function, and function follows form.’  I am interested in this principle as it relates to my own interaction with physical things. Shifts in context impact meaning greatly.  This process is evident from ancient relics to Internet meme culture.  I push this process to the extreme in private and often domestic spaces.  I pretend play with tangible objects to tell stories, bridging fantasy and reality.  The result is an oddly familiar, but unsettling world.  It is dark, humorous, uncertain, and fleeting.  I explore the nuances of everyday, transient life from the view of an analytical outsider.”

In the fall 2017 she intends to attend pharmacy school at Harding University.  Upon receiving that degree, she plans to return to Jonesboro, dividing her time equally between pharmacy and art.

Born in Hot Springs, Ashleigh West, whose mother was an artist, decided to pursue art as a career at an early age.  While still in high school she was included in state and regional competitions and earned a prestigious Thea Foundation Scholarship which she used to further her art career.

As a student at A-State she was a member of the ASU Art Student Union, participated in the “2017 ASU Art Student Union Annual Juried Exhibition” and will now receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in painting and drawing.  

In a statement about her work West said, “The art I create is typically in black and white and is inspired by life experiences that have happened to me and those around me.” She continues, “Portraits and figures have always intrigued me ever since I started learning how to draw. All of the individual poses, lines, shadows, stories, interested me more so than anything else has.”

After graduation West will move to Florida for internship with Disney.

Hao Zheng is a student of both studio art and graphic design at A-State.  His many illustrative styles are drawn from his homeland of Canton, China. Currently he works as an illustrator at the A-State Digital Press and has earned several awards in the American Advertising Federation Northeast Arkansas (AAF-NEA) including Best of Show for his book titled “The Alphabet of Affliction” which also earned him a student Addy-Gold.  He received a student Addy-Silver for his photography.

Zheng states, “Unlike most of the people of my age who grew up with the internet, I grew up with books instead. In childhood, my biggest hobby was reading. I read different kinds of books, such as science, novels and poetry. The books about nature, myths and folklore from the various cultures of our world were my favorite.

These stories about gods, dragons or devils have influenced us from the beginning of human existence. They are the soil of our life. Everyone must have heard more or less about those fantasy creatures back in their childhood and gained hope and imagination from them. That is why I think these stories are so important, and I remain obsessed with painting them from my point of view.”

After graduation from A-State in December, he plans to continue his education, receive a Master’s degree and ultimately become an illustrator.

Bradbury Art Museum is in the Fowler Center, 201 Olympic Dr.  Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and by appointment.  The exhibition and the reception are admission-free and open to the public.  For additional information please contact the museum at (870) 972-2567.

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