In the Frick Fine Arts building hangs an oil painting self-portrait of an artist staring into a mirror, shock and anguish playing across her face as she holds up a single silver hair.
Stephanie Taylor’s “Gray” — one of six pieces the senior studio arts and art history double major has in Pitt studio arts annual student exhibition — is based on a true story.
Taylor was looking into the mirror, preparing to start sketches for a self-portrait assignment, when she noticed a few strands of gray hair.
I’d been getting ready to start the sketches for a self portrait, and it was the first time I noticed a few gray hairs,” Taylor said. “We see things like that as so severe, but they’re really not. That’s what I wanted to put across.”
Pitt’s studio arts department’s annual exhibition spreads across five rooms and features pieces from graduating studio arts majors, as well as exceptional works by other major and nonmajor students. The gallery opened on April 6, and visitors can view the student’s artwork in the Frick Fine Arts building Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. until April 29.
Taylor has been spending time in art studios since middle school and wants to pursue her passion after she graduates, either as an art teacher or a museum curator.
“Putting things in perspective, I know my work isn’t that significant,” Taylor said. “But by making art, I feel like I’m contributing to our culture.”
One fan of Taylor’s work is Julian Schooley, a 28-year-old tutor and Mount Washington resident who enjoys strolling around the gallery to see what students create. He came to the last three Pitt studio arts exhibits and said “Gray” is his favorite piece this year, because he can relate to the aging subject.
“I’ve had moments like that before,” Schooley said, with a smile.
Schooley paints as a hobby, but he was quick to qualify that he’s not as skilled as the students with art on display.
“It’s fun to come through and see what ideas they put in my mind,” Schooley said.
The gallery features more than paintings — sculptures and other 3-D art forms lie atop pedestals, while geometric sketches and manipulated photographs adorn the walls.
The artwork ranges in tone from dark and somber to light and cheerful. Senior psychology and studio arts major Brent Yingling’s dark acrylic ink piece “Pause. Scream. Repeat.” depicts two screaming humanoid faces covered in a web-like liquid next to disjointed words like “ANXIOUS,” “DISSOCIATING,” and “SCREAMING.” Senior studio arts major Sam Coutch created more lighthearted digital prints of transparent women with curvy forms, bulbous lips and brightly colored hair over a celestial sky background, called “Space Babes.”
Senior studio arts major Sarah Thornton’s abstract acrylic finger painting, “Your Existence Isn’t Impossible, Just Highly Improbable,” is an abstract collection of waves drawn in pointillist style that catches the eye with its unorthodox color scheme and detailed texture. Thornton — who recently collaborated with an astrophysicist through the physics and astronomy department’s Artist in Residence program for a different piece — said science helps inspire their art.
“Everything had to come together perfectly in order for us to be here,” Thornton said. “What an artist means with a painting isn’t as important as what the viewer gets out of it … It’s all about what the viewer brings to the table.”
Thornton said they were always interested in art, but that a turning point in their life came in 2012 when they suffered a brain injury after falling off a horse.
“It changed the whole way I thought,” Thornton said. “I wasn’t good at math anymore, and I read slower, but I became more sensitive to light and to color. Visual language became my default language.”
Thornton said creating art allows them to both better understand their own emotions and to better relate to others.
“There’s no option that is me not making art,” Thornton said. “It’s just a byproduct of my existence. It’s like oxygen from plants — it’s just what happens.”