As the first snowfall of the Fall 2016 season entered its final stretch on Wednesday morning, a handful of brave individuals gathered on the upper level of Washburn’s Art Building to hear senior Jessica McAtarian, showcase her work with “A Muse of Fire,” the last gallery talk of the fall semester.
An avid reader, McAtarian chose to build her show around a theme of books and the endless possibilities that come with immersing oneself in their pages.
“I wanted to present something I was passionate about,” McAtarian explained. “Reading just seemed like the best option.”
In her statement, McAtarian cited the fact that, despite many hardships, books have successfully carried the world’s stories through the centuries and they continue to inspire anyone who will read them. She writes, “..sometimes it is good to just sit in a cozy chair, pour a cup of coffee, and enjoy the peace of reading a good book.”
A general studies major, nearing completion of her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree, McAtarian’s passion infectiously flooded the building as she delved into her work which consisted primarily of letterpress printings, each devoted to a genre of storytelling.
“I specifically took the letterpress class so I could use the skills for my show,” McAtarian revealed. “I wanted to make something that wouldn’t come across as a library poster.”
Also on display were two coffee drawings, a poem authored by McAtarian, a single watercolor painting and piece of typography. McAtarian mentioned ceramics as another possibility for inclusion, but decided against them, as well as a 3D model of a dragon with a reported wingspan of 26 feet.
“We tried to get the dragon in, but the space wouldn’t allow it,” she explained.
No matter, as the theme she described for the dragon was the frailty of the written word and its impact on reality, which came across in her other pieces, primarily the hybrid typograph, where she presents the font as rigid, like the spine of an old book.
However, the stand out bit of McAtarian’s show was one that couldn’t be seen. Upon arrival, spectators noticed a soft, but audible, whisper coming from the book shelves aligning one of the walls. McAtarian had composed a looped recording on Audacity and placed a Bluetooth speaker inside a hollowed-out book on the shelf.
“The idea was that the stories are calling to you,” she said. “Will you listen?”
McAtarian chose to come to Washburn not only because of its convenient location and friendly recommendations, but because she was attracted to the university’s size and focused curriculum.
“I liked that the class sizes were manageable, unlike a larger school like K-State,” she explained. “I find that hands-on approach much more appealing.”
When she’s not in class or buried in a book, McAtarian works for Andax Industries in Saint Marys as a graphic designer and marketer. Her father runs the company. While she enjoys her work for the company, McAtarian wasn’t shy about voicing her many ambitions, including the possible writing and illustrating of her own books.