It’s a day away from the end of the semester at Northern Arizona University and many students have already left, leaving the campus is devoid of its usual lively bustle. But in the Beasley Gallery, tucked in the north side of the mid-century Performing and Fine Arts building, the walls are still very much alive.
“It is always a pleasure to witness student growth over the years in this show. As a teacher and curator in the gallery, I get a chance to know the students and work directly with them," Chris Taylor, Beasley Gallery coordinator and senior lecturer with the School of Art, says. "The BFA show is bittersweet. It is great to see the students succeed and a little sad to see them leave."
Every spring, Beasley is bespeckled with the final projects of NAU seniors, majors in the fine arts of all varieties. The students’ years in their discipline shows in all that hangs on the walls and—as is the case of the recent show—all that is suspended, built tall or mounted, too.
Frankie Logan’s idea for her capstone project came about two years ago. The printmaking major wanted to explore character through animals standing in for people. Eventually that became a deep examination of her own identity, using animals to represent members of her family set up in a family tree. The tree is a series of frames hung to resemble a Catholic altar.
Logan is the daughter of two Hispanic parents, she says, one with a recent migration story and the other with a history that placed them in northern Arizona for many decades.
“This reflects cultural and familial [themes],” she says. “How I understand my family and my culture. This is the iconography I saw all throughout growing up.”
Prints of Abuelo and Abuela (grandpa and grandma) top the family tree, the former represented by a coyote, the latter by a bird. Both are prints designed to look like 19th-century family photographs.
Just below the frames of Logan’s grandparents is more symbology that works to represent both sides of her family. That includes a print of a chapel: The side of the family whose members are clergymen. Above that, Logan has placed prints of food that different family members like to eat, depicted in the form of enlarged lotería cards. Logan incorporates the classic hues and fonts associated with the Mexican bingo game and contrasts the different foods.
“The side of the family that came to the United States most recently really likes American foods,” Logan says. “So I made an image of a hamburger and of a Chinese food takeout box. They love both both.”
La Comida China (Chinese food) is placed next to El Tamale, and Las Enchiladas share a frame with La Hamburguesa.
At the bottom of the family tree, Logan set up a table to complete the altar—purple and lace cloth draped over it. Centered on the table is a goblet encircled by a rosary. Conchas, doughy Mexican cookies in bright pinks and whites, sit in delicate piles on either side.
Logan completed her BFA in its designated four years, but she’ll stay at NAU a fifth year to complete her dual major in fine arts and arts education. She’ll spend the coming year in Phoenix student teaching.
Not far from Logan’s piece is a print and a sculpture by Riley Hutchings, titled "Coltan vs. Child." The Los Angeles transplant decided she would focus her capstone on child miners, specifically in Central Africa where Coltan, or Culmbite-tantalite, is mined for its use in laptops and smart phones.
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Hutchings has been a sculpture major since she first came to NAU and decided to dabble in both it and printmaking—a medium she’s much less familiar with, she says—in her thesis project.
“I think it’s important for art to start a conversation about things that people don’t necessarily know about,” Hutchings says. “For me, doing all this research about the miners and what is essentially slavery for the materials that go into phones and laptops was really a learning experience.”
In her print, a young boy with a miner’s headlamp looks out at his viewer and onto the floor of the gallery where lays a box of hardened dirt that Hutchings filled with a material whose appearance mimics that of coltan. A pair of feet, a buttocks and arms holding a pickaxe stick out of the dirt, a headlamp and an iPhone at the buried subject’s head.
Hutchings assembled the sculpture on site in the gallery after bronze casting each body part and placing it in the wet dirt.
“I’ve always been a messy person so sculpture just made sense for me,” she says.
Celeste Chavez took the opportunity as a painting major to depict her sister’s struggle with lupus. She painted her younger sister from three different photos in three different emotional states. Butterflies appear in one painting— the symbol for the autoimmune disease. In another image, wisps of blue depict depression, which is one of many side effects of Lupus.
Chavez began as a biology major in the hopes of becoming a dentist one day before making the decision—which she says wasn’t an easy one—to switch to painting.
“I’ve always loved it so much,” she says, referencing specifically acrylic paint.
Chavez, who is originally from Yuma, plans to join the Air Force after she graduates this Friday, where she’ll apply for the dental program.
The BFA show is short-lived in the grander scheme of time, but the students have each poured years and late nights into the pieces—which were briefly immortalized in the small, well-lit NAU space. Riley McClellan’s “Color and Emotions” features intricate paintings of people, sometimes together, sometimes alone, each with faces painted bright greens or purples or to depict otherwise hidden emotions. Or Sydney Smith’s paintings of body parts—lips, feet arms—painted onto thick swatches of paper that she suspended between wooden frames with string.
"Studying these images of my body as I recreated them from photographs, mirrored the self-evaluation that I underwent to become more aware of my mind and its motifs," Smith writes in her artist statement.
The last day to see the BFA art show at NAU's Beasley Gallery is Friday, May 10. The gallery is open Monday-Friday 12-5 p.m. Beasley is located in the Performing and Fine Arts building at 620 S. Knoles Dr. in Flagstaff.