SUU Student Expresses Herself Through Studio Arts

Kelly Chuning is a senior this year and is finishing up her major in studio arts with an emphasis in photography. When asking Professor Sam Davis about some of his stand-out students, he responded, “Kelly Chuning has been exhibiting both nationally and internationally and is making some provocative and thought engaging work.”

The student explains that although she loves photography, she is going into mixed media. Chuning argues that sculptures evoke different reactions than photography does because pictures are only two-dimensional. Because of this, she has been experimenting with her work so that it can be more sensory-based. 

She spent a week in Barcelona, Spain, after her work was accepted into the Biennial of Fine Arts and Documentaries international show, in which four of her images from a series were exhibited. Chuning explains that the inspiration came for this series after being diagnosed with Endometriosis and having to undergo surgery to get a tumor in her left ovary removed. She wanted to open up about her condition and reach out to women in similar situations. Her work paid off, as it received an honorable mention award in the self portraits category.

During Chuning’s sophomore year she was focused on landscape photography. She was the Zion National Parks Student Artist in Residence, where she had the opportunity to stay in and photograph  the parks for a week. The following week, she was able to show off her work in a solo show at the museum there.

Her work has shifted dramatically since then, and she explains that she now considers it as an “inquiry into my femininity.” Chuning expands on this concept, saying, “I look at my work as self-exploration, and through my work, I’m working through things that happened in my up-bringing.” 

Chuning is currently researching how different industries are “targeting women’s identity.” For one of her current projects, she has collected a list of makeup brands, in which she is exploring the “offensive titles they are using” to increase their sales. She is using makeup as pigment in hand made prints.

Regarding her mixed-media art, she says that “concept based art bring me the most inspiration. The idea means more to me than the output, and I like to focus more on why I chose to make what I do.” 

This has paid off for Chuning. Along with the show in Barcelona, she has been exhibited in two shows in Rome, made the shortlist in Athens, and has also been accepted into a prestigious show in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She was quick to add that although she has had obvious success with her work, she has also faced a lot of rejection. The advice she gives is this:

 “Don’t lose hope in what you’re making. You’re going to get so many rejections,  so get a tough skin. You’re putting your soul into what you’re making and so getting rejected hits hard. For me, though, If I wasn’t creating, I feel like I wouldn’t be the same person.”

The student’s work will be on display at SUMA in October. The exhibit is a result of a group project and will open on Oct 14. For more information on the artist, visit her website.


Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong
Photos by: Kelly Chuning