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Gallery Spotlight: Student stories on display at Hopkins Hall Gallery

Art often provides an outlet for tackling big social issues or a way to carry on more personal battles. At the Hopkins Hall Gallery students are showcasing both with the Undergraduate Arts Scholarship Exhibition, which is currently on display.

The annual exhibit is a showcase of selected student work that was submitted for scholarship consideration by the Department of Art. Abbey Turner and Madeleine Rico were two of the 33 students who received scholarships this year. Both are second-time recipients and both are delivering “very different” messages than in years past.

For Turner, a third-year in studio art and Daniel J.L. Firestone Photography Scholarship Fund recipient, the shift from her usual abstract photography to documentary style is a reflection of a change in her personal life.

“My mom got diagnosed [with breast cancer] in October and it was just a complete shock to my whole family,” Turner said. “So, I kind of decided to use photography as a way to cope with it and to figure out what kind of place this has in my life.”  

As a result, Turner said she started documenting her mother’s journey from the big moments, such as when she had her head shaved for chemo to the everyday moments like her little sister eating lunch in bed with their mom. That photograph, “Janey Refuses To Eat Her Lunch,” is hanging in the exhibition now.

As noted in her artist statement, Turner believes pictures like these encompass quieter grief, exhaustion and mental battles that are often unexplainable.

“With any type of cancer, you always see these monumental moments,” she said. “But there’s always this other side of what’s emotionally and mentally going on. It was really important for me to capture all these little moments.”

Turner’s scholarship-winning photograph comes from an ongoing personal documentary series she said is meant to help her and her family reflect on this difficult time, but she hopes others can gain insight through her work as well.

“I really just wanted to give people access to something that many don’t understand and don’t deal with,” Turner said.  “I hope for people to have a little bit more empathy or to just try and see another side to someone else’s story.”

The theme of empathy doesn’t stop there. Rico, a fourth-year in studio art and recipient of Department of Art Faculty and and Staff Scholarship Fund, created a digital animation piece that taps into that same idea.

Rico’s video, “Cashier Confessions,” is a comedic narration of her experiences with racial discrimination and stereotyping while working in customer service.

The animation depicts a cartoon version of Rico battling with the idea of the customer always being right when faced with offensive situations. She said it is an attempt to contribute to a dialogue about racial experiences that aren’t easy to work into casual conversations.

“Having an Asian heritage, I used to talk about my experiences in retail to my friends who did not have an Asian heritage and they wouldn’t believe it because they didn’t really have that happen to them,” she said.

However, these conversations don’t always have to be heavy. Rico said she incorporated comedy in her storytelling to show others how to look on the positive side of these situations.

“Overall, it is about experiences with dealing with people who have different mindsets and backgrounds and learning to respect one another,” Rico said.

The Hopkins Hall Gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Monday through Friday. Admission is free.

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