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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Gainesville Fine Arts Association showcases local student artists

UF seniors Kerry Wilson and Lauren Mann’s show is the first of four exhibits of the Spring 2021 semester

Both Lauren Mann’s (left) and Kerry Wilson's (right) art deals with themes of isolation, distance and loneliness.
Both Lauren Mann’s (left) and Kerry Wilson's (right) art deals with themes of isolation, distance and loneliness.

For the first time, the Gainesville Fine Arts Association (GFAA) is hosting UF students' exhibitions in its gallery.

The GFAA will host four of these exhibitions throughout the remainder of March and April, displaying the artwork of UF students pursuing a BFA degree. The series kicked off Tuesday with Kerry Wilson and Lauren Mann’s BFA thesis show, “Intimate Interiors: Figures in Space,” which will run until April 3. 

In order to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Florida, students must pass a senior-level capstone course that culminates in an exhibition of their own work. Addressing a need in the Gainesville community for spaces to host these showcases, the Gainesville Fine Arts Association decided to take proposals for student exhibitions. 

Katy Lemle, the gallery director and operations manager at GFAA, described the organization’s mission as supporting artists and encouraging the study of fine arts in Gainesville — a goal the nonprofit has worked toward in previous years. 

In the past, GFAA offered two $1,000 scholarships to students each year. This practice, however, became challenging with time, Lemle, 37, said. In order to bypass financial barriers and reach a greater number of art students in the community, she said, GFAA shifted to offering their space for student exhibitions this year. 

“Sometimes artists can be isolated in their own personal practices,” Lemle said. “Having these exhibitions will help create more conversation.” 

Lemle also said providing an opportunity for the community and GFAA members to see what students are creating is extremely valuable in fulfilling GFAA’s mission of art education. For this same reason, she said she is excited to see how Kerry Wilson and Lauren Mann’s artwork “interact and speak to one another” in their joint installation. 

Wilson, a 21-year-old UF drawing senior, is showing about 10 pieces of her own work at the exhibition — the manifestation of her decades-long relationship with art. 

While drawing was always a notable part of her life, Wilson said it wasn’t until her junior year that she realized she wanted to make art professionally. 

Wilson’s BFA thesis exhibition is mostly composed of tunnel books, accordion-like paper panels structured to create the illusion of depth, illustrated in colored pencil or pen.  She also has a few charcoal pieces on display. 

Wilson said many artists tend to draw inspiration from personal experiences, honing in on these memories in an attempt to connect to their audience. The theme of her current exhibition, she said, stems from her family’s move from Florida to Colorado in 2019. Leaving behind the childhood home she spent 20 years of her life in as her parents relocated over a thousand miles away, she said, paved the way for a slew of different emotions — nostalgia being one of them. 

“That’s what my works are about specifically,” Wilson said. “Archiving those memories and also touching on greater themes of childhood, family, relationships.”

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The pandemic, Wilson said, has not made things easier, putting a damper on many of the resources art students previously had access to, such as studios and in-person assistance from professors and classmates. Still, Wilson said she sees both the good and bad in COVID-19’s impact on the exhibition experience. 

“It did open some doors for virtual exhibitions, but at the same time it closed others for in-person, with some galleries opting out,” she said. 

Mann, also a 21-year-old UF drawing senior, will be showing six large colored pencil drawings in the exhibition, along with some smaller screen print and graphite drawings. Her colored pencil pieces display bright, colorful images in order to demonstrate the personality of the subjects depicted within her work. 

Mann said she has been influenced by the pandemic in her art, with the theme of her BFA thesis show revolving around isolation and loneliness — emotions she said she seeks to understand and express through her drawings. 

All of Mann’s figurative drawings and portraits spotlight individuals in indoor and domestic spaces, she said, reflecting the show’s title, “Intimate Interiors: Figures in Space.” 

“I’m very inspired by the people around me, my friends and family and just everyday life,” she said. 

Mann also said she likes to approach events or tasks people may consider ordinary and illustrate them “in a way that highlights their uniqueness and how every person is different and beautiful.” 

Mann said she is grateful to have art as an outlet to express her anxieties and emotions surrounding the chaos of the past year. She also said she hopes the opportunity to exhibit her art will encourage others to feel less alone in their emotions. 

“I think that’s a very powerful thing that art can do,” Mann said. “Bring people together and be relatable and let people know that, sometimes, what they’re feeling is not just them.” 

Wilson and Mann’s thesis show will be on exhibition at the Gainesville Fine Arts Association, located at 1314 S Main St., until April 3. Masks must be worn at all times, and no more than eight people are allowed in the gallery at one time. The show is the first in a series of four exhibits.

Contact Veronica Nocera at vnocera@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @vernocera.

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Veronica Nocera

Veronica Nocera is a first-year Journalism major with a History minor. This is her first semester on staff for The Alligator, where she works as Avenue News Assistant. She also writes for Rowdy Magazine. 


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