Boise State’s BFA exhibition showcases the talents of incredible student artists

Boise State’s BFA exhibition, open through April 26 in The Center for the Visual Arts, provides talented student artists graduating from Boise State University with the opportunity to present the breathtaking pieces they’ve been working on for the last two months and to reflect on their time in BSU’s art program. Each work provides impactful commentary and challenges the way various artistic mediums can be utilized. 

Artist LiBang Zhang was inspired to try his hand at painting, despite not having much experience with the medium. However, you would think Zhang had been painting his entire life after seeing his awe-inspiring oil painting entitled “Sin.”

Serving as a reimagining of the biblical characters Adam and Eve, Zhang’s work depicts a struggle between the exploitative nature of humans and the natural world. The piece features Adam and Eve alongside a peacock, representing pride and vanity, the iconic snake representing deceit and lies, a tiger which Adam is cruelly pulling the tale of, and a deer that is nosing at a skull on the ground, representing the destructive nature of human beings.

Zhang was inspired to place the peacock in the eye-line of Eve as it illustrates humanity’s obsession with beauty and aesthetics and ties it into a Chinese saying. 

“There was an old saying in China, I don’t know how to translate it, but it’s like if you die next to a flower or something really pretty, it’s worth it to die. You can just enjoy [it],” Zhang said.

This painting reflects the oftentimes degrading side of human nature and instinct. So much of society is centered on fulfilling personal needs and losing sight of the bigger picture and Zhang’s piece serves as a reminder to slow down and consider that one’s actions have consequences.

As if this painting wasn’t already an incredible feat, Zhang touched on the fact that he had very limited resources as far as references for the faces of Adam and Eve and the bodies of the animals.

“I didn’t have resources for most things,” Zhang said. “I had a reference about the tiger’s face. but I didn’t have one for the whole body, so I just had to keep making everything up.”

Continuing with the theme of human influence in the natural world, artist Wendy Heaton’s set of sculptural pieces illustrate the human desire to freeze scenes of nature in time. “River Wall Piece” “Water Wall Piece” and “Trees Wall Piece” are each multi-medium 3D sculptures that depict various scenes of nature utilizing unconventional materials. 

Heaton wanted her pieces to depict the duality of nature by causing the viewer to feel a sense of both chaos and peace when engaging with her work. Each component of these sculptures was intentional; Heaton utilized actual pine needles for her work that depicts the life of a pine tree. 

Heaton broke artistic boundaries with her bronze pinecones that were sculpted in wax and immediately cast them. In contrast, the work features real pinecones as well, providing an interesting juxtaposition between the permanence of art and the everchanging natural world.

“I wanted the dichotomy of the chaos of nature brings peace because I want people to get that calming feeling like when they sit and look at the water, they’re just like, ‘oh, yeah, this is kind of nice, no, wait, there’s actually a waterfall,” Heaton said. “There are so many teeny teeny tiny pieces that go into it that they don’t necessarily need to see the teeny tiny pieces just to [feel] peace.” 

The choice to have the pieces in gilded frames arose from Heaton’s belief that humans attempt to commodify or immortalize nature when most individuals can easily step outside and experience it firsthand.

“I wanted to kind of say people bring it into their homes and it’s a luxury, but all they would have to do is literally walk outside for free,” Heaton said. “I’m not trying to talk bad about consumerism… but you have this extremely ornate frame and this piece which is beautiful, but in reality, why don’t you just go down to the river?”

Heaton’s pieces attempt to embody the centering effect nature has on her, although she notes that it is impossible to truly ever copy nature as it is constantly changing and evolving. 

In a complete thematic change, Roxy Albig’s painting “Influencer and the Influenced” utilizes airbrushing and screen printing to portray the parasocial relationship between influencer and follower. 

Albig chose the medium of airbrushing to depict the superficial and unachievable perfection of social media. 

“I think that the airbrush for a long time has been used as an allegory for superficiality or perfection,” Albig said. “Back in the day they’d hand airbrush posters and billboards for advertisements, so there were a few pop artists that use the airbrush they were kind of the first of their kind to experiment with that sort of correlation, I took a lot of inspiration from them and from the term airbrushing, kind of like altering reality into this hyperreality right.”

Most of Albig’s semester was spent teaching herself how to screen print and how to balance achieving the level of detail she wanted in this piece to shine through. 

Albig wanted this piece to be a departure from previous mediums she’d experimented with at Boise State as she felt equipped as an artist to break away from the styles she had grown comfortable with. 

In many ways, the parasocial relationship between influencers and their followers can be damaging for both parties. Albig’s painting serves as a reminder not to allow yourself to get swept away in the falsity of digital spaces.

“I want people to understand more of the psychological effects of being in the sphere of the internet and think about their relationship to influencers,” Albig said. “In general, I really hope that people start to think more about media literacy as we move into the new age.” 
Each of these gifted artists has provided a unique take on various issues while establishing their personal style as creators. If you need a break from the busy finals season and want to enjoy some beautiful art, be sure to stop by this wonderful exhibit which will be held at The Blue Galleries located in The Center for the Visual Arts building on campus until April 26.

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