The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Turning the Page

UW-Eau Claire displaying artwork from BFA candidates in the Foster Gallery
Photo by Isabella Matczak
The display is free and open to the public from April 26 to May 12.

At UW-Eau Claire, the bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree in integrative visual arts is a comprehensive major where students can become well-rounded artists while choosing their own area of focus, whether that is photography, illustration, ceramics, painting, etc.

This degree is designed for those who intend to pursue a career in the visual arts or continue their education with a graduate MFA program.

To recognize the BFA candidates at UW-Eau Claire this year, the Foster Gallery in the Haas Fine Arts Center has presented a senior exhibition, featuring artwork from eight students. The display is free and open to the public from April 26 to May 12.


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The artists showing their work are Grace Burgess, Anna Buss, Christopher Ehlert, Kay Ex, Bethany Mennecke, Erin Phelps, Abigail Saari and Natalia Sexton.


Burgess is a photography BFA candidate presenting a collection of black-and-white photographs. She said the images contain text drawn from her own words, Taylor Swift lyrics and a monologue from the movie “Barbie.”

“Much of my work has explored the concept of gender identity,” Burgess said. “Choosing different phrases, models and locations played a large role in the creation of this series. Experimenting with these different variables allowed me to explore different identities within individuals.”

Buss is a graphic design BFA candidate who created a series of typographical structures. She said her work focused on the juxtaposition between bright, colorful materials and “sassy” or mean phrases.

“I have always loved playing around with typography, so that was the foundation of this body of work,” Buss said. “I am inspired by designers such as Kel Lauren and Emma Bers that do unconventional treatments to their type and also keep their work light and playful.”

Ehlert is an illustration BFA candidate presenting multiple different needle-felted dolls as well as the sketches he drew during the process of designing his creations. His inspiration mainly comes from cartoons, comics and “furry art,” which are human-animal hybrid characters.

“All of my art in this exhibition was done within this semester,” Ehlert said. “The sketches didn’t take very long to make, but each doll took around 15-20 days with breaks in between. Working in 3D makes anatomy more clear and almost gives the characters a living presence.”

Ex is a graphic design BFA candidate who is displaying a series of books. The three books are each told from different perspectives, formats and genres.

“Presented in childlike formats, themes circling identity are explored. The juxtaposition between the serious subject matter and its twee appearance captures how we dismiss the truth in favor of what is easier to digest,” Ex said.

Mennecke is a graphic design BFA candidate presenting a small book, six by eight inches in size but 62 pages total, describing how to take care of almost 30 different plants. Illustrations accompany each plant and the explanations are in simple terms, according to Mennecke.

“The main inspiration for my book was, well, plants,” Mennecke said. “I’ve had plants in my apartment all of college and have just grown to love them all, all the different varieties and just how much they brighten up a space. I wanted to bring that love to others.”

Phelps is a drawing and painting BFA candidate who is also an apprentice at Dutch Tattoo in Eau Claire. Her work displayed in the gallery consists of flash designs that clients might choose from.

“A flash piece isn’t supposed to be perfect but more of a base outline or inspiration for a tattoo specific to the client’s desires. My work mostly uses the American traditional style, which consists of bold lines and a limited color pallet,” Phelps said.

Saari is a graphic design BFA candidate who created three different coloring books. They each have a separate theme: western, coastal and botanical, according to Saari. She says the illustrations are meant to attract all ages.

“I wanted to create images that are more advanced than a child’s coloring book but less intimidating than an adult coloring book,” Saari said. “I also wanted to create a project with an interactive element and coloring pages lend themselves to that perfectly.”

Sexton is an illustration BFA candidate who created a series of paintings based on animals, specifically luna moths, snow leopards and koi fish.

“For each one, I researched symbolic meanings of the animals and incorporated subtle symbols in the work such as color, the position of the body and floral elements. I also enjoy character design, so this was a way to explore that while painting,” Sexton said. 

The exhibition will be on view in the Foster Gallery until May 12. There will be a closing reception from 5-6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 11. 

Matczak can be reached at [email protected].

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