In the Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts, students create and express themselves through art. Though it takes time and effort to produce, students say it’s a rewarding experience.
Here are three students who are dedicated to their majors and artwork.
Printmaking for equality
Senior printmaking major Emma Johnson said she’s always been interested in art, but it wasn’t until high school that she found she wanted to do it for the rest of her life.
“In high school I was pretty involved in art,” she said. “I was always going to school early so I could work on stuff in the art room, so I knew I wanted to go to school for art.”
Johnson said she didn’t get into printmaking until college.
“I started as a ceramics major, but I think I was drawn more toward the imagery as opposed to form, so I ended up switching,” she said. “I also thought printmaking was more practical, because you can make a lot of one thing.”
Johnson said art plays an important role in society.
“There’s a lot of different ways to look at art,” she said. “It’s a person’s expressions and ideas becoming something visual. Art is always reflective of the times and what’s going on. It involves everything.”
A lot of Johnson’s pieces reflect inequalities of gender.
“I talk a lot about it in my art because I am female,” she said. “It’s interesting being a female artist because there is a lot of inequality. In almost every museum you go to, you’re not going to see a lot of female artists. Every art history class I’ve taken, there’s no female artists in the history books.”
A project she recently completed, called “Ornament,” focuses on that theme of gender inequality.
“My focus this year talks about inequality in health care,” Johnson said. “I’m trying to talk about how young women are often not educated about their bodies growing up, and how the physical experience of being a female is often defined in media and social pressure.”
Johnson said some of her projects can take days and even months to install, which means she spends a lot of time in the FA.
“I’m here 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at least every day,” she said. “You kind of lose track of time. It’s something you get used to, though.”
Johnson said she wants to go to graduate school for art history and possibly studio art.
“Art is an overlooked major,” she said. “You really do learn a lot in this degree.”
Junior ceramics major Elizabeth Skye said the art department’s Oscar Howe Summer Institute inspired her to attend USD.
“Being indigenous, it was really important to me and helped me to realize that I do for sure want to go to school for art,” Skye said. “It’s a good program for ceramics — the program is really thorough and you learn a lot.”
Skye said she’s been into art since she was a child.
“(I liked) the process and how it helped me understand myself as a person,” Skye said. “When you create something in the way you envision it, and it turns out better than you expected, it feels really good. I don’t see myself stopping.”
Skye said she creates in a number of mediums: printmaking, painting, portraits and even poetry.
Her daily schedule consists of three-hour classes and studio time.
“It’s a lot of coming in on my own time and being dedicated to what I’m doing,” she said.
A member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, a lot of Skye’s pieces are inspired by Native American art.
“It’s not stereotypical art that you find,” she said. “The Great Plains tribes don’t have ceramics, it’s not in our history. It’s kind of difficult being in my medium in the Native art world.”
Skye said everything she does is “Native art.”
“A lot of art majors and artists in general have difficulty understanding who they are and where they come from, and I think that creates a lot of discrepancies in their work,” Skye said. “Drawing from my culture, although I’m not exactly completely surrounded by it, I feel it gives me a sense of belonging. All of the things I come up with on my own are inherently influences by my culture.”
Connecting with nature
Art has always been a form of expression for senior ceramics major Courtney LaVallie.
LaVallie said she went through a “rollercoaster” deciding what to major in during her first years of college.
“For a while, I thought that I would be a sculptor,” she said. “For the most part, I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t really feeling a connection to the work that I was making.”
Since then, LaVallie has found her niche in ceramics.
“I was taking a ceramics class on the side, just for the heck of it, and I found that I was feeling a lot more connected to this material with myself and my work and the work I wanted to create,” LaVallie said. “I think it’s a better way to get your viewers more interactive and up close and personal with these pieces.”
LaVallie said her ceramics pieces are explorative and focus a lot on one of her biggest loves: protecting and preserving nature.
“I feel like when you pick something like this up and it looks so earthy and natural and something you would see in nature, that’s what you’re going to be thinking about as you use it,” she said. “I grew up a very nature-y, outdoors-y girl.”
As an art student, LaVallie said time management is important.
“Definitely most of my time is (in the ceramics room),” she said. “I spend every day in here for sure anywhere between four to 12 hours a day. Balancing time and being sure that everything gets the time that it should (is important).”
LaVallie said she hopes to continue producing art that reflects her passion for nature.
“I’m definitely at a point of still practicing my craft and learning about what I’m doing,” she said. “I’ve got (art pieces) broadly narrowed down to a reflection of myself and what I think is important, which is nature and preserving nature and being connected to it.”