Senior students share artwork in final exhibition in Conkling Gallery

The Effie R. Conkling Gallery, located in Nelson Hall, is featuring the first of this semester’s two Senior Exhibits, where soon-to-be art program graduates display their works for their peers, educators and community to see.

This exhibit features 10 artists who specialize in a multitude of mediums and use their skills for many different goals. Three of said artists are AylaJean Root, Kim Cao, and Kenzie Burdick-Levang.

Root is an Art Education major, but had not always known that education was the route she wanted to go. 

“My junior year of high school I realized I wanted to make art a part of my career,” said Root. “Originally, I wanted to go to school for psychology and be a high school therapist, but during my junior year, my school unfortunately lost two students to suicide. During this time, I watch my peers turn more towards their teachers for support rather than the professional therapists my school had brought in. I realized I would be more successful in making an impact on the future generation- while also sharing my love of art- as a high school teacher.”

“Most of my works speak on experiences I have lived throughout my life; many of them touching on topics of foster care, adoption, mental health, and traveling,” said Root about her exhibit. “The piece that I think is most eye-catching to the viewers is a collaboration piece I did with another student, Logan Neal. It’s a large, coiled pot sculpture with many sharp angles and points that I then went back in with to create paintings of soft human forms. It touches on the relationship between the artwork and the artist.”

“Since coming to MNSU I have been able to not only define my abilities as a teacher, but also define my abilities and my own aesthetic as an artist,” she said. “I have learned so much from working alongside artists from various backgrounds, as well as working with art professors with so much diversity in their lives, experiences, and artistic processes.”

Kim Cao is an international student from Vietnam, who is currently completing her second bachelor’s degree. Her first, which she completed in 2020, was in art education, and her current one is in graphic design, which she discovered a passion for when completing her art education degree.

“My passion for art and design comes very naturally — I feel the desire to create things inside me, and I just follow it,” she said.

Cao’s focus for this exhibit was print-based pieces. 

“My favorite project is the ‘Pho Anh Restaurant Rebrand,’” said Cao. “It is a project where I feel the connection between me and my own culture. I think the cultural concept behind the project is the reason it stands out for the audience as well.”

“I enjoy the art community that we have here as well as the time that I am able to spend to create and design my work,” she said. “We have wonderful faculty members who are always there to guide and support us; everything about my experience at MNSU has been very joyful and invaluable.”

Kenzie Burdick-Levang focuses mainly in photography and ceramics. “Art was always one of my favorite things to do when growing up,” Burdick-Levang said. “It still feels like yesterday that I was in my first design class figuring out how to bend wire, to now taking advanced art classes and getting ready to student teach this upcoming Spring.”

One of her favorite works in this exhibition is a ceramics piece called “Bork,” where the word itself is modeled to look like a spotted, colorful dog. 

“My goal for ‘Bork’ was to get people to think it was funny, and I felt that I reached that goal,” she noted.

Burdick-Levang noted that her favorite part of her time in the art department at MNSU has been, “getting to know [her] classmates and attending guest artists’ talks when they have visited the school.”

The first Fall Senior Exhibition, featuring the above artist plus seven more of their peers, runs from Nov. 8-19 in the Conkling Gallery. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Header Photo: The Conkling Gallery is located in Nelson Hall where currently being featured is an exhibition of artwork created by seniors at MNSU. (Hanna Mun/The Reporter)

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