John A. Day Gallery showcases student work
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John A. Day Gallery showcases student work

Student art lines the walls of the John A. Day Gallery inside the Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts.

The Wilber Stilwell Juried show is hosted every year in this gallery.

Michelle St.Vrain, interim director of the University of South Dakota Art Galleries, said the show typically runs for about a month.

“(How art is selected) depends — for the Stilwell show we had an outside juror pick,” St. Vrain said.  “For other shows sometimes finding an artist that we really want to have and then also finding a great pair or artists, and sometimes there are themes for the shows — like we might have a show that focuses on art alumni from previous years — it depends on the concept of a show.”

Most shows, however, are made possible by student-driven efforts.

“(All of the artists) are students, and all of the works have been made within the last year,” St.Vrain said. “But (the artists) don’t have to be art students, just students who have taken an art class at the University of South Dakota.”

Junior art student Rayna Hernandez has had her art in the show for two years now.

“It feels really nice (to have my work displayed) because it looks so different in a clean space,” Hernandez said.

Graduate student Klaire Pearson has also had her art in the Stillwell show for two years and has been painting since she was young.

“It’s very exciting (to have my work displayed), because I spend all this time on my paintings and I never grew out of, ‘Hey look at this thing I made’ phase. It’s very rewarding to get recognition,” Pearson said.

Both students have art currently displayed in the John A.
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Day Gallery.

Hernandez has a painting called “Between a Blanket and a Dream.”

“I base most of my work off of my cultural identity. I’m Native American and Mexican. I don’t really explore the Mexican part of me, at least not yet. The quilt I put in my piece is my baby blanket,” Hernandez said.

Pearson has four pieces displayed in the gallery this year — “She Hurled the Frog;” “Feminine Attempt #1 (Dishes);” “Angela Maintains a Happy Face;” and “Feminine Attempt #2 (Sweeping).”

“The three housewife paintings are based on the expectations of femininity. (The paintings are) a way for me to have a visual representation to contrast characteristics women are supposed to have — modesty and sexiness,” Pearson said. “They’re supposed to be perfect and have everything together but do really gross jobs.”

Both artists use their art to create expressions and conceptualize their surroundings and personal experiences.

“Personal experience and being around others (gives me inspiration),” Pearson said.

Hernandez said her art speaks in ways words may not be able to.

“Instead of communicating through writing or speaking, I like being able to just look at something and just get something from it,” she said. “I like visual languages. I like being able to respond to pictures.”

(Photo: Junior art student Rayna Hernandez has had her art displayed in the John A. Day Gallery for the last two years. This year her painting, “Between a Blanket and a Dream,” was showcased in the annual Wilber Stilwell Juried show. Britney Thorns / The Volante)