When I started Findlay’s illustration program, I had no idea that part of graduating meant being in a senior art exhibition. In other words, I was going to be in an art show! Two of my fellow seniors and I were grouped together and tasked with filling the walls of the Lea Gallery. From the beginning to the end of this endeavor, it was an exciting adventure.
The whole process got rolling during the fall semester, when we had to make a poster for our show. We sorted through years of archived examples, looking for a creative way to fill an 11 x 17 inch poster. After much deliberation, we settled on a photo booth theme. In an ultimate expression of creativity, we cut that standard poster size in half lengthwise, making a long, thin, 5.5 x 17 inch poster that echoed the shape of a strip of photos. One gray Friday afternoon, Katy, Kacie, and I gathered together in the empty printmaking studio, bringing with us zany props, wigs, and accessories. We hung up a sheet and started shooting. A mannequin, a baby doll head, a hula hoop, an animal skull, various fake flowers, pieces of fabric, and many other items made appearances in our photos. We settled on our favorites and I, having the most free time in my schedule, assembled the poster. The photo of me in cat ears made its way onto my family’s Christmas card.
Having finalized our poster, it was time to sort through a college education’s worth of art and pick what would actually be in the show. I like to work very small–rarely over 11 x 14 inches–so I could get away with fourteen pieces, while my showmates had to get their numbers down to around seven each. Unintentionally, my selection process left me with a piece in almost every imaginable medium: oil painting, photography, printmaking, ink drawing, collage, and a healthy number of watercolor paintings. Kacie chose to show her large and expressive oil paintings and charcoal drawings, and Katy focused on ceramics.
Canvases are easy to frame, and ceramic works just need a pedestal. Since I like to work on paper, I had the extra task of cutting mats and finding frames for my extra large number of show pieces. For months, I sorted through secondhand stores for picture frames. I found some. I borrowed some from my kind professor. I even brought one back with me from Hawaii after Christmas (it’s so much fun having a nice piece of glass in your carry on, especially when they run out of overhead space and make you check the suitcase it’s in… I had to take it out and board the plane with a random frame in my hand). I learned that thrift stores do not ever have 9 x 12 inch frames, which was the size I needed for a number of my watercolors. Still, I can’t complain: with all my scrounging, I only had to buy three frames new (all the 9 x 12 ones).
Framing accomplished, it was time to hang the show. We carried in our art, leaning it against the walls and deciding where to put things. After a few hours of arranging and rearranging our work, we found a way for our different pieces to mingle among each other in harmony. The actual hanging took another our or two. There was measuring, math, and a good amount of hammering involved. In my humble and unbiased opinion, the gallery looked great!
I enjoyed comparing the three of our styles. Kacie’s paintings are intense and emotional, Katy’s things are strange but interesting, and then there’s me with all my happy fantasy imagery. Six of my pieces (almost half of them all) had a mermaid (or merboy) involved. I have loved merfolk and their swirling, magical hair for years, and it showed.
Of course, I was so proud of the show that I pestered all my friends to go and see it. I was so excited to see my work hanging up, and to have people I care about looking at it. I would have been content if it had ended there. But, one last thrill came in the form of sales! I did not expect to sell anything, but four of my pieces were bought. Plus, one of them was bought twice. It was a photocopy of one of my favorite ink drawings, so I was able to simply make and quickly frame another copy for the second buyer.
This was my first real art show, and it was an absolutely wonderful experience. Hearing positive comments from viewers of the show, and selling work, was affirming. I am so thankful for everyone who was able to come to the gallery and enjoy our artwork. The show went down all too soon, but my memory of it will last a lifetime.