For Emily Olszewski, this week is bittersweet. The last four years at Myers School of Art have helped her expand her identity as a creative and meet new friends who’ve challenged her art.
Now, she and four other students from the school are presenting their senior exhibition portfolios at Bostwick Design Art Initiative in Cleveland until May 10.
The five artists are excited about sharing their work with the public and graduating in a few weeks with their Bachelor’s in Fine Arts degrees. And although Elise Radzialowski — whose work is featured on the May cover of The Devil Strip — is grateful for her professors and peers, she’s looking forward to continuing to explore her art and grow as an artist beyond the program.
“It’s hard to force creativity, and I would also say there’s a lot of pressure in art school,” she says. “It’s very difficult to balance everything from work and mental health and having the time to create and create well.”
Method Acting, the name of the exhibition, primarily focuses on identity, mental health and sexuality.
Meet the artists and their work below.
“My work is primarily large oil paintings. They’re pretty realistic in their rendering but often broken up into either multiple pieces, or visually broken up on the picture plane. A lot of it is talking about my own struggle with mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety. And so it’s a very personal reflection of feeling like a malfunctional human-being rather than being able to operate how we’re supposed to.”
“I use geometry a lot [in my work]. And through the repetition, I think about it as units of one’s self, or ways the equation changes when you use components in different ways. Something I talk about is substance abuse and addiction and this idea of attraction and repulsion. I use an industrial foam and I carve into it. And then I will either add a wax or latex paint of salt crystals to make these areas of growth. And it goes into this process of the constant need to touch and take and add and subtract and figure out what I need to be doing to be who I need to be.”
“My work talks mostly about the experience of anxiety. I used to paint very representationally, but as I’ve gone I found that I can be more honest about my subject manner by ditching the representation and painting what it feels like instead of what it looks like. And so I’m working with abstracted human-like forms. And really my work is more evidence of behavior to me then it is something to look at. There’s fingernail marks and there’s hair and all that sort of evidence of repetition and an excessiveness. There’s certain parts I emphasize, like the eyes and the teeth and the genitals and the breasts. And for me those are focal points because a lot of my work deals with bodily fixation.”
“In my work, I use imagery from Grimms’ Fairy Tales to address contemporary issues. In my most recent series I address mental illness, specifically the type of depression that results from isolation. My work is stylized watercolor with mixed-media and I really try to capture the sense of suffocating isolation in the way that I use my material and color choices. My work is a sequential narrative.
Grimms’ Fairy Tales have always fascinated me because there’s that dichotomy of the horror and then the delight. There’s these delightful surreal landscapes and worlds that are just beautiful and then you have these unexpected twists in the story where there will be some unexpected discipline from an overdeveloped sense of justice where children die because they told a lie or they misbehaved or they didn’t listen well or disrespected someone.”
“My work is very much a personal narrative. It’s about issues I have within my life. A lot of it is narratives about mental illness and sexuality. I feel like this semester in particular I definitely got more into my own psychology rather than lighthearted themes. These characters have no faces [and] they repeat throughout the pieces and are manifestations of inner thoughts. And it’s all about coming to terms with what’s going on with your brain but also trying to live with it and trying to coexist with your own mind. I do play around with themes of sexuality and coming into your own as a woman and relationships between other people and relationships within yourself.”