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'Portals of Perception': Thesis students showcase talent through unique, colorful art installations

Student artist Bekah Porter blends in with her artwork.
Daily Record photo by Shannon West

'Portals of Perception': Thesis students showcase talent through unique, colorful art installations

Student artist Chris Adams poses with his work.
Daily Record photos by Shannon West

'Portals of Perception': Thesis students showcase talent through unique, colorful art installations

Sunday, December 10, 2023

A recent exhibit created by Texas State University Fine Art thesis students took the community to another dimension on Dec. 2.

'Portals of Perception' was an aptly coined installation that utilized the entire space and incorporated multimedia elements to create a three-dimensional world. The space was made available to the students by Mothership Studios, which according to their website, is a San Marcos-based studio with hopes of developing the local art scene and providing affordable studio space for the community’s artists.

In addition to building what many visitors called a stunning installation, creators Mei Williamson, Hanna Walker, Bekah Porter, Emily Nunn, Ren Blank and Chris Adams were responsible for hosting this unusual art exhibit, open to the public. In addition to the art, guests enjoyed music, drinks and an atmosphere that showcased what is underway artistically at the university and in the community.

The entrance into the portal was created by Williamson with an extraterrestrial vibe complete with a three dimensional alien painting and a space monster sculpture. The area was black, for the most part, and the ceiling had various shaped cutouts made from multicolored translucent material. The ceiling lights project brightly colored shapes onto the ground.

“Mei is the only non-sculpture major, but she made a lot of sculptural stuff,” Porter said of her peer.

Walking further into the building, the backdrop goes from the darkness of space to a vastly different environment. Walker created an installation that contained a canopy structure made from different blankets that were handstitched together. The intimate space contained a mobile and was the perfect place for visitors to escape into one's thoughts. Next to it were a sculpted pair of heels and a matching painting on the wall.

“Initially, I just wanted it to be about comfort and to be a welcoming space,” Walker said. “With knowing what's going on right now [in the world], it's just about the privilege of comfort and the privilege of warmth.”

Porter was able to create, with only two walls, what felt like its own space, within the whole of the installation– an illusion likely created by the monochromatic color scheme. The room was doused in pink tones. Each element had what looked like skin and blood and seemed to be made of flesh from the table, to the mirror, lamp, record player and, finally, the oddly cute, giant flesh monster with bulging eyes and a smile.

“It was basically a love letter to solitude, so it’s about being comfortable in your own skin. The whole motif is shedding the expectations of the world,” Porter said. “It’s about being able to be okay in your environment– understanding that all parts of you are beautiful.”

Sculpture Interim Head Sarah Hirneisen pointed out the dissonance between the bodily elements and the cheerful pink tones in Porter’s piece.

“This is grotesque, but with the other elements, it’s still fun and playful,” Hirneisen said. “It’s the right balance.”

The viewer rounded a corner to find Nunn’s multimedia piece which had a draped sheet and a video loop projected onto it. Nunn created a frame for the viewer by incorporating sculptural pieces around the video that gave additional context; The sheet had ribbons that looked like they were soaked in blood and were running from the edge of the sheet to a two-headed, dead lamb on the ground. On the opposite side was an altar made of foam, which had the appearance of stone, complete with wafers and a glass of wine. The performance art video showed Nunn eating various fruits with juices running down her face– creating what could only be described as a sticky situation—then walking to the river and cleansing herself.

“This is very [much like a] fairy tale, especially when it goes to the darker outfit and the long red nails,” Hirneisen said, adding that she found the contrast between sweet and violent elements in Nunn’s piece very interesting.

The mood shifted with the next area by Ren Blank, which incorporated two videos and sculptural elements. On one wall, a video played that was alternating between images of Blank’s laughing face and waves washing onto the shore of a beach. The other wall had a video, which overlaid a beach scene and Blank’s figure stretching, dancing and walking. There were tan and pink sculptural elements on the wall that breached the edge of the projection and mirrored the colors of sand and coral, as well as sand on the ground.

“This gives me beach babe,' Nunn said of Blank’s work. “Seeing that [the beach scene with a whole body silhouette] coupled with the beautiful expressions that you make on this side, there’s something about it that I just feel like I keep staring at–the way that you overlay and the different colors that appear.”

Adams made a separate room by fashioning walls from lumber and hanging a curtain entrance. When one walked inside there were tan-painted walls made of various square pieces of cardboard, which gave the look of old, peeling wallpaper. In immediate sight was a table with a small television in the corner of the room playing a video. When the viewer turned, they were confronted with a large skeletal sculpture with black hair flowing over its face and a large pink bow and a painting of the character that is in the video. On the TV, the short film vacillated between a scene of a character manipulating a marionette–as if playing for an audience, presumably the viewer–and the same character sitting in the closet. The soundtrack sounded like music from an old silent comedy overlaid with a warped voice telling a story and, toward the end, escalating moaning sounds playing in the background.

“I wanted it to feel a little voyeuristic,” Adams said. “Tina is this character I’ve developed in a lot of my video work. I like to do installation work alongside my video, so I wanted to make an immersive installation that was contained inside the story of Tina. The space that you're in kind of ties into the universe and the video series in an indirect way.”

To learn more about the event, the Instagram handle is @portalsofperceptionshow.

San Marcos Record

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