The Collegian
Friday, August 07, 2020

Non-art majors display their work

In the quiet of the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art in the Modlin Center for the Arts lies a variety of artwork: from acrylics on paper and oils on canvas, to pen and ink drawings and charcoals, to photography and ceramics and even a video display.

This is the museum's annual student exhibit, where 30 works of art from 27 University of Richmond students, plus alumni, are displayed. The art was chosen from studio art classes from both the fall and spring semesters of the previous year. Nine of the exhibit's artists graduated last spring. The rest of the artists are current students - and not all are studio art majors.

"In 10 years I have never seen this much interdisciplinary diversity," said Tanja Softic, the chairwoman of the art and art history departments. She said there were often many non-majors in the classes, and that the university's liberal arts environment had helped to shape the direction the department had gone in and boost the number of non-majors who had enrolled in courses.

Softic said she liked that these students from other academic disciplines brought their own visual perspective to their work. Leigh Ann West, a senior international studies and geography double major, illustrates this statement. Her ceramic piece, "Stars," was chosen from an introductory ceramics course she took last fall to fulfill a general educational requirement, and it was inspired by her other studies.

West said she had chosen an international theme: "I wanted to flip around the map, because that's something we talk a lot about in geography classes, that we have a very westernized view of the world. But the globe can be displayed in any direction."

Surrounding the base of her clay globe, West added what she called "little satellites" to illustrate that "there's a common experience, the satellites, stars, the skies and just the idea that everyone on our globe sees the same thing."

Laura Barry, a junior biology major and studio art minor, has two pieces from two classes on display in the exhibit. One is a pencil on paper drawing, "Natural Science," which depicts a pair of science goggles next to a beaker containing a flower, and the other is an oil painting, "Vantas," with an owl, a skull and a quill, done in mostly grayish-browns but with bright orange accents.

Barry said she had been very pleased with how her art turned out. She spent a lot of time outside of class working in the studio, she said, and so it felt rewarding to have her extra work pay off.

As a minor, Barry said that she would have ended up taking more classes than were required, but that "it helps [her] relax and gives [her] an outlet."

Senior Natalie Salim, whose photography is displayed in the museum, has taken her interest in art and combined it with marine biology, coming up with a self-designed major: marine photography. Her scientific approach has given her art the interdisciplinary perspective which Softic admires of Richmond's art department.

"It's easy to get that one view of 'Oh, it's pretty and I want to take a picture of it,'" Salim said. But after studying and learning the specifics of marine biology, she said her appreciation for her photographic subject increased.

"I really love that the scientific side has kind of helped me to understand the artistic side," she said.

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Salim's photograph of a shell in the exhibit, "Circles and Stars," is from her final project, she said, in which she focused on the details of the subject.

As a non-studio art major, Salim said she was honored to be included in the exhibit.

"I've really loved having [marine photography] be my own major and be something that I've put thought into, and so it's really rewarding for me to have that be recognized," Salim said. "I'm hoping that it will inspire other people to carve out what they want to do and strive for that."

West said that to have had her piece displayed was an honor because she had not considered herself an artist; she discovered a love for ceramics from taking the class for general education requirements.

Richard Waller, the executive director of university museums, said the annual exhibit had been running for more years than he could remember. The museum staff chooses work from the exhibit from the previous year to display in the library, "so it has a longer life," he said.

Part of the curating of the exhibit, Waller said, is that the professors choose which work from their classes to display.

Softic made sure to emphasize the talent that is in all of the studio art classes.

"It's not like these are the only good works!" she said.

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Hyman at elizabeth.hyman@richmond.edu.

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