MCAD, Thoughts & Exploration

MFA Candidacy Evaluations & Reflection

I spent the weekend away in Chicago to kick off “Spring Break” to evaluate how my work is progressing and how it correlates with my research.  In about 5 weeks, my 1st year peers and I will be reviewed for MFA candidacy.  Are we prepared to enter year 2 and prepare for graduation/professional careers?

This mid-term review involves presenting a cohesive body of work, an artist statement, and process book to a committee.  In my mind, it’s an opportunity to hone in on what really matters in my art practice and reevaluate my methodologies, solidify pertinent influences, and place myself in the contemporary art world.  Additionally, we have a major research paper due at the end of the semester that can effectively prepare us for the review.


Detail, Untitled (Perpetuating the Cycle), 2016


As I take this week to reflect, work, and read, here are a few things that have been occupying my thoughts:

+ In an attempt to find an artist working with sexual identity that made sense in the context of my work, I wrote my mid-term essay on the invisible nature of sexual violence and Tracey Emin.  Sitting down to spend some time with Emin lit a fire that was out; I was numb.  The raw nature of her imagery, interviews, and performances made me feel exposed, overwhelmed, and ashamed.

In this same time frame, I also participated in a Break the Silence event, where I volunteered and ran an art table.  In hearing other survivors tell their stories, I built up the confidence to tell my story, and for the first time since I was assaulted, I allowed myself to grieve publicly.  To hear the words, “I believe you”, helped dissolve some of layers of guilt and revealed patterns of self-deprecation.  I was able to face Emin’s drawings.


+ Learning more about participatory art and its criticisms made visible the wall I had built between myself and my audience through instruction and interaction in order to protect my own vulnerability.  I felt a disconnect in my visual language that prevented me from reaching my viewer.  So, I had made the decision to focus on painting this semester, specifically to think about abstraction.  The result for my first critique were 8 shaped paintings, yet the disconnect remained.


+ Abstraction, primarily through a mixed media approach (oil paint, pencil, chalk, etc), has been the most logical way for me to communicate in the last 5 years.  That nature, however,  was really a disguise for coping and putting pieces back together; it is not yet a language that urges people to act or possibly even react.  I know a lot of people would say that my paintings are not necessarily passive, but the spectrum of emotion in them is subdued, put out, silenced.  This is a reflection of the cultural climate in which I operate as a rape survivor.


+ In my first critique of this semester a couple weeks ago, my critique teacher made a point to tell me that other artists use their trauma as a way to avoid criticism of their art work.  Although this was general advice and not a targeted, personal attack, I continue reading more under the surface:

“Your vulnerability and experience makes us uncomfortable, so choose your language carefully as to not seem defensive or overly upset.”

In reality, this is something I am painfully familiar with; continually feeling uncomfortable in order to make others feel comfortable.  I don’t mean this in a conformity aspect of how we should act in a critique or institutional setting, I am referring to masking mental illness, to the discomfort of operating in a skin that feels owned by others, to suppressing a level of anger and sadness that does not go away with time, only through coping mechanisms.


+  So, is abstraction an effective way to communicate this discomfort and the full range of my experience?  I am no longer as convinced (at least through painting) in terms of an authentic reflection of myself.  Unfortunately, I see complacency and comfort in painting that is limiting my practice, at least right now.



Detail, Untitled (Perpetuating the Cycle), 2016

Thoughts & Exploration

Memories and Reflections of 9 Years in NE

In 2006, I packed my car full of belongings and left North Carolina for the 21 hour drive out to Omaha.
With encouragement from family and friends, I left everything comfortable behind to find a path – or maybe simply stability.

This warm, laid back city would become the environment to realize so many dreams, cultivate growth as an artist and human being, and challenge my sense of place in the universe. This month marks 9 years of searching for answers in a community that I’ve become so invested in.

As I head to graduate school in the next few months and begin another incredible life transition, I have been painting a series of smaller works, combining map elements, line, and paint.

This amalgamation of bits and pieces is a reflection of my time here, the growth I’ve experienced, and most of all, Omahans!

The people that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know.
The artists that continue to electrify the landscape with murals,
forward ideas, and a hunger for advancement for the peoples of the community.

As with any city, there are divisions, but the vision is alive for unity and expression.

To celebrate the diversity of cultures,
the farm-to-table philosophy,
the power of small business,
the struggle for equal rights.

Opportunities here seem hidden, but are widely available as more and more people become involved and active.
With so many paths, I can only be thankful for the immediacy of the future pushing me forward onto new series, new landscapes, and more research.

Please join me and fellow local artists Gerardo Vasquez and Andrew Gustafson for the Emerging Artists show in Algona, IA to see these small works in person.

Details below:

The Stinson Arts Council presents Emerging Artists show featuring Omaha area artists
March 27 – April 21 at the Gallery at the Library
Opening Reception Friday, March 27 from 5-7 pm

Thank you so much for your continued support.