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Emerging Artist Thrives at Trinity

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sculpture student says, ‘if you go to any of the professors, they will help’ with projects, ideas, creativity

by Susie P. Gonzalez

SAN ANTONIO – The lure of her sculpture studio is what gets Trinity University senior Kelly Johnston going every day. Since she discovered a passion for art in a beginning ceramics class taught by professor Kate Ritson, Johnston has pushed herself, working on and finishing a piece she didn’t particularly like, and in the process, learning the value of perseverance.

The day before a deadline for the “Rising Eyes of Texas” exhibit at the Rockport Center for the Arts, Johnston was in a car accident. Still, she managed to enter “Aptitude,” a brass ball fashioned from 11 metal strips connected by copper rivets. “For me as an artist and in my practice, my work is concerned with interior and exterior forms,” she says. “In my work, the viewer should see two states of emotion or understanding that are coexisting – the interior and the exterior.”

It is the second time her work has been accepted into Rockport’s “Rising Eyes of Texas” that showcases emerging artists from Texas colleges and universities. Previously, she submitted two ceramics pieces, observing they were her “first pieces, first class, first show. It was surreal. I was very honored.”

Presenting in Rockport is a “big deal,” says Liz Ward, professor and chair of art and art history at Trinity. It was a “big deal” to Johnston, as well, who explains, “Getting into the show was an affirmation of my art because it’s what I want to do with my life.”

Selected to receive a senior award for excellence in art, Johnston, a double major in art and art history along with sociology and anthropology, currently is finishing an untitled piece under the direction of visual resources curator Holly Goeckler. It is a larger-than-life plaster mold of a male figure hoisted by poles and paralyzed within a black frame. “It represents the rigidity of society and the expectations of other people,” says Johnston, who began the piece nearly a year ago while continuing to incorporate concepts of interior and exterior forms.

She says she could not have gotten as far in the work without the guidance of a nurturing and collaborative art faculty. “It doesn’t matter what class you’re in or whether you are even in a class. If you go to any of the professors, they will help. And I’ve found that the more questions you ask, the more you learn.”    

Susie P. Gonzalez is director of public and media relations at Trinity University and can be reached at susie.gonzalez [at] trinity.edu