Graduating Newman University art majors Austin Hillhouse, Marissa Kucharek, Yanni Martin and Olivia Robben presented their thesis works Friday, May 7, for their Senior Showcase.
Senior Showcases are held at the end of each semester and allow artists to display their student work as they mingle with interested viewers in the gallery. Even though the spring showcase was held on the same day as commencement, the Steckline Gallery doubled its regular attendance for 2021 so far.
“This is the first time we’ve had seniors present in Steckline,” Director of Steckline Gallery Shannon Johnston said. “As I was setting the schedule and thinking about what our seniors needed to have to prepare them to go out into the art world, we wanted them to have the opportunity to present as professional artists would.”
Johnston said she held the seniors to the same expectations that she would with any other artist. The graduates were required to sign contracts, meet their deadlines and collaborate with their installations.
“In the art world, missing a deadline or not signing your contract could mean you don’t get to exhibit,” Johnston added. “By bringing the seniors into the gallery not only do we get to put the seniors on a bit of a higher pedestal, but also we get to showcase lowerclassmen students in the hallway.”
Yanni Martin, who received his bachelor’s degree in art on Friday, said his showcase focused on the theme of transformation as well as Newman’s mission statement.
“My first project involves my nonprofit called Family Friend that focuses on feeding the homeless,” Martin said. “I created an app design that resources soup kitchen chefs with nutrition facts to make them conscious of homeless people who have dietary restrictions like diabetes.”
Martin works two jobs and is currently vice president of Family Friend Outreach. His next career goal is to attain a third job to put his graphic design skills to the test.
“I am also auditioning for ‘Wheel of Fortune,'” Martin said. “As of right now, I already submitted my audition and now I’m waiting for them to contact me back.”
Fellow graduate Austin Hillhouse created a series of paintings that portray the consumption of vices.
“We all have our bad habits,” Hillhouse said. “My series is meant to show the growth we can all make from them.”
If Hillhouse could choose one painting to sum up his experience at Newman, it would have to be his final self portrait.
“It was meant to represent my transformation as a student, artist and person,” he said. “It’s my favorite painting I’ve made in my career.”
Art graduate Olivia Robben chose watercolor as her primary medium of choice. In her artist’s statement, Robben described her appreciation of watercolor being reliant on water — a source straight from nature — particularly because “I paint a majority of foods that come straight from our earth.”
“These compositions of food on plates are full of bright colors and deep shadows,” Robben said. “I bring these together and use them to portray my full, happy life. Much like how after eating a full meal we have this warm comforting feeling, this same feeling is what I want others to feel when viewing my paintings.”
Graduate Marissa Kucharek showcased a collection of photographs which reflected on moments in time, memory and change. Viewers tend to describe her work as “vintage, haunting and experimental.”
“Most of my inspiration for my photography work stems from art movements like surrealism, avant-garde and pictorialism,” Kucharek said in her artist’s statement. “This body of work is also inspired by my aunt. Four out of the eight photographs in the show represent her in my work.”
Kucharek is currently working at the Wichita Art Museum and looks forward to to seeing what career and showcase opportunities may open up in the future.
Johnston is proud of the seniors for all of their efforts and is grateful for the impressive turnout at Friday’s Senior Showcase.
“The opportunity to celebrate our seniors was definitely a big draw for guests,” she said. “We’re glad our seniors managed to have this unique opportunity, and hopefully we can open up the gallery to display more student artwork in the future.”
View each of the artist’s work from the Senior Showcase in our Flickr gallery.
The Steckline Gallery is located inside the De Mattias Fine Arts Center on the Newman campus, 3100 McCormick.
For more information, please email Director of Steckline Gallery Shannon Johnston at [email protected].