The first senior art exhibit of the semester is being kicked off by Rebecca Shields, an art major with an emphasis in graphic design and computer animation. Every art major is required to exhibit selected pieces as a graduation requirement.
Although Shields’ emphasis mostly involves computer-generated works, the majority of pieces on display are more traditional mediums of art. One of the works on display is a television that plays a computer-animated version of a ship and then a castle that Shields created in 2006 with a relatively new program called “Lightwave.”
Of all the pictures on the wall, one stood out in Shields’ mind. “Finger Tree,” a pencil drawing done in 2007, was a turning point in her artwork.
“It was essential for what became my theme,” she said. It was inspired by a favorite childhood climbing-tree that was cut down a few years ago by the power company when it threatened power lines. Shields was so overcome when she learned what was to happen that she ran outside with a camera and took dozens of photos. From those pictures, she tried to draw the tree in a way that would be more meaningful to others.
“They started butchering trees,” said Shields, “and it made everything so ugly. I wanted to show a direct connection from us to nature.”
She chose fingers as a way to make trees more human.
“Fingers and hands identify us,” said Shields. “They are the main way our sense of touch is communicated, and they are very personal.”
This drawing, the only one hanging in the display, became the focus for much of her artwork from that point on. The gallery is peppered with pieces that are inspired by those symbols, including several woodcuts and prints of hands, fingers carved into the wood of a tree stump (called “Inside a Tree” for emphasis) and a particularly interesting work called “Diabetic Hand” that is a diabetic inhaler that’s been formed into the shape of a human hand.
Most of the works in the gallery are oil paintings that show her distinctly hard-edged style of shading, which she said earned her the nickname “Iron Lady” by one teacher. Shields said the art works that have been most formative for her are the ones that aren’t hanging on the walls.
“They don’t really look good, but I learned a lot from doing them,” said Shields.
Although it has been stressful trying to get everything together, Shields never let the pressure become overwhelming.
“Putting it up is kind of the hassle,” said Shields. “Having it up is a lot of fun. And I’ve learned a lot. It’s been a good experience.”
Shields’ work will be displayed through Thursday in the art building on campus.