Bachelor of Fine Arts Senior Exhibition at SUMA

Southern Utah University’s Department of Art and Design gave 31 graduating students the opportunity to feature a collection of their work at the Southern Utah Museum of Art. The exhibit includes work in many different art emphases, including illustration, photography, ceramics and graphic design. For seniors graduating with their Bachelor of Fine Arts, the showcase is an important part of their senior year, and students spent both fall and spring semester preparing their exhibits. 

Israel Contreras 
“I like how I can express myself a bit more with art. It’s easier to have an anonymous mask at times and express what I’m feeling at the moment. Making people happy makes me feel pretty good, and if I can do that with my artwork, I’m golden.”
Instagram: @icondraws

Contreras is an Illustration major from Salt Lake City. His style consists of graphic design and illustration, and he one day hopes to work in an animation studio. The art student’s exhibition stands out from the others, as he took the opportunity to display his work on t-shirts. Displaying four printed out pieces and three pieces printed on the t-shirts, Contreras utilizes the unique form of clothing to show off his personal style. 

Liv Braiker
“It gives me genuine satisfaction to create something that wasn’t there before that I find beautiful or that other people can find beautiful. I love creating something that tells a story.”
Instagram: @rulebraiker 

Braiker isn’t only a part of the BFA exhibition, but is also the outstanding scholar chosen for illustration in the Department of Art and Design. The illustration major chose to tell a story with her exhibit, creating three paintings, one sculpture and one compilation of sketches. Focusing on classic fairy tales, Braiker created art that reflected her “spooky storybook” style, including a “king of trees and queen of the beasts.” Her inspiration came from artist Kay Nielson and Ivan Biliban, and Professor Hala Swearingen took a personal interest in Braiker’s work, encouraging her storybook art.

Michaela Garcia
“I kept changing my major, and photography is something I finally decided on. My mom always told me, “do what you love’ and for me, that’s photography.”
Instagram: @mgarcia_fine_art

Garcia started on her project earlier than most. The photography major came up with the idea last spring and has been working on it ever since. The six 20×24 prints aren’t just art, but a collection that highlights an important part of her life. Garcia was in attendance when the Las Vegas shooting occurred in 2017, enduring a breakup with her boyfriend that same night. She had a hard time dealing with those events, and is open with her sexuality, as she turned to other men as a coping mechanism. Her exhibit “Surmount” features six enlarged polaroids of men, and Garcia hopes to bring attention to the fact that some people cope differently than others, but that it’s healthy to work through those things no matter what. Garcia plans to continue working on her art this summer in Alaska. 

Kelly Chuning
“I want [my work] to bring awareness. I love working with image-based material because we live in a society where we are oversaturated with photographs now, and I like putting my ideas into my work.”
Instagram: @kelly_chuning

Chuning is the outstanding scholar for photography and was asked to speak at graduation. The photography major displayed six photographs and an installation created from gum bichromate, a historical process that Chuning uses to implement makeup pigment into her work. After extensive research into how marketing and media’s demographic include young women, Chuning hopes to bring awareness to the fact that major chains selling lingerie target girls ages 12-16. She wants to get people thinking, “How does this affect women when they’re older?” while viewing those six photographs. Chuning’s installation includes makeup pigment and over 250 titles of makeup products that explore the Madonna-whore complex. For this student, her work isn’t just about displaying her talent, but about bringing awareness to problems in society that she is very passionate about.

Alice Anderson
“For a long time, I felt guilty about pursuing art because I didn’t understand that it could be used to help people. I realized I shouldn’t be ashamed for pursuing something that’s been on my heart my whole life.”

Anderson is a graphic design major. By displaying her website, she hopes to bring awareness to the mental health professional shortage that is a current problem in the state of Utah. The idea came when she realized many of her friends sought help from Southern Utah University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, having to wait several weeks before they could get an appointment. The website she created not only educates others about the shortage but illustrates a concept for a Utah mental health job-search site that streamlines the job-finding and application process by functioning solely for Utah’s mental health field. Anderson also included a vinyl infographic to display the startling statistic that there are only six psychiatrists for every 100,000 kids in Utah. In the future, Anderson hopes to continue to use her talent to help and said that her dream job consists of working in branding for non-profit organizations. 


Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong
Photos by: Israel Contreras, Liv Braiker, Michaela Garcia, Kelly Chuning, Alice Anderson