April 24, 2020
Photo from the Off Beat exhibit

"Off Beat" by Olivia Rader

The senior art exhibit, a spring tradition on campus, is a celebration of student artists — their skill, creativity, and passion.

“Each one of our studio art students spend more than a year preparing their senior thesis projects,” says Nora Heimann, associate professor and chair of the Department of Art. “All the while, they are imagining the day they will stand at the opening reception in the Salve Regina gallery surrounded by their art, welcoming guests, and sharing refreshments, hugs, and pride. I put that date on my calendar every year with a star.”

When it became clear, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there would be no senior exhibit for the Class of 2020, faculty members quickly shifted to a plan B.

The senior art exhibit is now an online viewing experience featuring the work of four senior studio art majors. The new exhibit takes viewers through each artist’s defining capstone project. The students employ a broad range of methods and media, highlighting the department’s interdisciplinary approach to art making.

With “See Me,” Kate Michaud offers viewers a series of large multimedia self-portraits that she describes as an “intimate, emotional journey of reflection and self-discovery.”

Olivia Rader evokes the feeling of an old record shop with “Off Beat,” a large and immersive installation that uses a variety of materials and techniques to provide “a momentary respite from reality.”

Marcus Perkins presents “an adventurous narrative of childhood imagination” using a combination of hand-drawn and digital illustration techniques in a 25-page graphic novel entitled “Victoria and the Wolf.”

Breny Recinos uses infographics, computer animation, and interactive installations in “ASBE,” to “give insight into an often-misunderstood disorder,” Anorexia Subtype Binge Eating.

“The mix of projects in the exhibit highlights the wide-open opportunities we offer our students,” says Heimann. “Because we are small, students can float between mediums. They don’t have to choose. Kate, for instance, spent her time here developing as a digital artist. But as she expressed her desire to develop a highly personal thesis project, a faculty member asked her, ‘Have you thought about picking up a paintbrush?’ That allowed her to find her voice and the result is astounding.”

Taking the senior exhibit online came with a set of pros and cons. “With any online recreation of artwork, you miss out on seeing such details as brushstrokes. Kate’s paintings, for example, are very tactile and three-dimensional and that doesn’t translate as effectively as it would in person,” explains Assistant Professor Jonathan Monaghan. “Interactivity is lost as well. For instance, Breny created an awareness campaign for eating disorders and she originally planned to have the public write positive or reaffirming notes which would be placed on the wall. This can’t happen now, of course, but she is looking into ways to connect with people digitally. So we adapt; artists are particularly good at that.”

The overwhelming “pro” to the new exhibit available on the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art website is the opportunity to reach a larger audience. “When artists are toiling away in their studios it is easy to forget that you are ultimately making this work to be experienced by the public at large,” says Monaghan. “Now, we can share this work with a much wider audience, including those who may never have had the chance to visit our campus gallery.” 

“COVID-19 has taken us into a new realm,” observes Heimann. “I see this exhibit as a metaphor for what is happening throughout the country and the world. We are taking an extremely difficult situation and finding a way to adjust, rejoice, find gratitude, and hopefully come away stronger for it. 

“And in the midst of a stressful time, we like to think that we are offering a moment of respite.”