Graduate art student presentations give insight into works, motivations and more

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 at 6:30 PM
Graduate art student presentations give insight into works, motivations and more by Livia Homerski
Embroidery of Alana Wilson's home

Undergrads, professors and grad students alike piled into Doucette 107 for this year’s annual Graduate Art Student Presentations (GASP) on the snowy evening of Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. The annual presentations allow graduate students to tell their journey through art and to show off the body of work they’ve been creating since entering Edinboro’s Master of Fine Arts program. 

Five seniors presented their works: Phil Ambrose, Marie Dewerff, Brandon Lipe, Kyle Reidmiller and Alana Wilson. The work spanned mixed media, ceramics, metals and painting, nearly encompassing all major art mediums. 

Phil Ambrose

Ambrose’s presentation started from the very beginning of his life by talking about his childhood in the swamps of North Carolina and his fondness for books and comics. He explained that reading and spending time with his grandparents eventually led to a love of storytelling, which is something that shapes and directs his art. Ambrose described his work as “mixed-media jewelry and art objects.” 

Ambrose first got into craftwork in his early 30s. “I had this restlessness, an emptiness inside of me that I was trying to find something to fill [it with]. So, with the encouragement of some friends, I decided to take some workshops.” 

Ambrose attended the Jenkins Fine Arts Center for his four years of undergrad, where he produced a series of broaches relating to laborers, inspired by his family. He also produced a body of work consisting of unusual spoons made over the course of a month called “30 Spoons in 30 Days.” 

After being accepted to Edinboro for graduate work, Ambrose made a tin can broach with a smaller, fish bone broach he made in tribute to his friend Carol. “And eventually, I made this a relative-art piece where the bones themselves are a broach that you can take out and wear...In the same way that once you’re done with a conversation, all you have left are the memories of it...the bones are the essence of what reminds us,” said Ambrose.

During the course of his first wood shop class, Ambrose caught the flu that goes around and knocks out half of campus, and through this he saw a peculiar thing in a fever dream. Feeling inspired by his dream — which encompassed a King imprisoned under the ocean by his brother on the moon, and people worshiping this object instead — he decided to make part of it a reality. The piece was called “The Altar to the Drowned-King.” 

“So, it made me realize that [what] I wanted to do was tell a lot of strange stories in my work,” said Ambrose. 

Marie Dewerff

Dewerff’s concentration in metals is an appropriate marriage for someone whose work continually bounces between jewelry and sculpture. 

She attended school at Southern Illinois University and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in jewelry. One of Dewerff’s most notable undergrad pieces was an interactive necklace that would pet your cat when it walked under the piece. It turned the creative tides, and Dewerff realized she enjoyed making functional jewelry rather than sculptures. 

She also learned blacksmithing and enjoyed the work, but stated that the scale “just didn’t resonate with me.” Now, Dewerff applies that knowledge and those techniques to her work, such as working more intuitively and loose. She has also taken to other materials, such as fabrics, to give earrings volume and texture without weighing them down. 

From there, she bounced between sculptural and jewelry pieces, reflecting her resolution to work more intuitively and trust her instincts. Upon working on a collection of earrings, she discovered that she really enjoyed colors of the natural world and it has brought a whole new life to her work.

Post-graduation, Dewerff hopes to open her own jewelry business in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. She hopes to create fine jewelry that has unique detailing. “I aim to make pieces that are very functional and elegant, but also have imagination” she concluded. 

Bradon Lipe  

Coming from sunny Southern California to cold and snowy Edinboro, it may be no surprise that Lipe’s specialty is adaptation and a willingness to go with the flow. 

Lipe began school as a graphic design major at California State Florentine, but fell in love with ceramics. After he graduated, he worked as a production potter at WRF Products. A production potter’s job is to create near identical ceramics set for restaurants and stores. “It pushed me in efficiency and taught me a lot about the business side of ceramics,” said Lipe. 

Due to being held to such pristine standards, Lipe’s work at Edinboro focuses on “collaborating with uncertainty and risk.” His work is inspired by being able to see motion in still images, such as in pictures of tidal waves or snow falling. He had difficulty creating anything he liked at first, and it took him writing a list of things he didn’t want in his work for him to hone his style. 

Lipe also talked a good deal about the firing and kiln process. He explained that this is a main collaborator in ceramics made with uncertainty and risk because every firing is different. “Collaborative movement is an idea I try to instill in every piece I make. Predominantly using atmosphere kilns for my work brings some uncertainty I try to embrace,” said Lipe. 

He also talked about what happens when a collaboration turns out well: serendipity. Before wrapping up his presentation, Lipe urged the audience to trust the process and find serendipity through uncertainty. 

Kyle Reidmiller 

The body of work Reidmiller presented was called “I Refuse to Be Buried,” based on the trope of LGBT fiction characters getting killed off for plot reasons and the issue of queer erasure. Reidmiller talked of his own struggles growing up gay in a conservative area and the torment he would endure from those around him. 

During his undergraduate studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Reidmiller found his inspiration to be human bodies, as he had a difficulty connecting to other people. 

Reidmiller wanted to attend Edinboro to be a better artist. He attended nearly every “Figure Friday” he could and eventually painted a nude of an Instagram model which gained him some internet kudos and followers. He explained that there is even a convention where people who create artwork of LGBT people exhibit their work, even if they lack real artistic ability, because they’re simply painting gay models. “This is also slightly poking fun at the idea that we’re so obsessed with classical male beauty in our community [and] that it doesn’t leave space for guys like me to exist out here,” explained Reidmiller. 

From there, Reidmiller’s next works were about ideas of queer male sexuality and gender identity, with a self-portrait titled “Man Up, Grow a Pair,” and a portrait titled “Machismo Roja,” the latter of which is his boyfriend in a pin-up pose with oversized tools. The backgrounds of these paintings are cardboard doodles, adding whimsy and putting the focus on the human subjects. 

“Queen for a Day” was Reidmiller’s break from painting nudes. His 8-feet wide “personal white whale of a painting” examines “the reality of gender-expression policing from more than just the necessarily male gay-point or queer-point,” explained Reidmiller. The piece was for his friend Marissa and the pressures she felt growing up under the weight of “proper” gender identity. 

Reidmiller makes queer art to raise awareness of queer issues he’s experienced and more extreme threats of violence against the LGBT community. His thesis show will be exhibited in April at the Meadville Council of the Arts.

Alana Wilson

The final presentation focused on the nomadic works of Alana Wilson, whose focus is in ceramics. She grew up in Canada and has always had a passion for spending time outside. She finds seasonal work at tree planting camps and has also held a job as a fire lookout in Alberta, Canada. 

Despite moving from camp-to-camp and spending days by herself without talking to anyone else, Wilson’s work is inspired by the ideas of temporary homes, bringing communities together, and how people can feel like a home too. “I make pots because I think that coming together to share food and conversation is one of the fastest ways to build friendships and create community,” said Wilson. 

In addition to ceramics, Wilson also enjoys embroidery and has a self-taught background in textiles. Since she is often away from the studio and a wheel for long periods of time, she took up the additional crafts so she could still work with her hands on something more portable. 

“The Isolation Project” was a gallery Wilson created with Bridget Fairbank that documented their time in isolation working as fire lookouts. A series of pots and coordinating embroidery work showcase images of houses and sights from “The Isolation Project.” 

Wilson has traveled across the U.S. in a camper. She has also traveled all over the world and has done residencies in Australia and Mexico. She took many photos of architecture and buildings from other countries because the textures and patterns interested her. 

“I made a series of pots investigating some of the ways we communicate in romantic relationships. I was interested in layering colors, words and images,” said Wilson. 

This led to Wilson examining the way we also interact in other relationships, such as friendships. She found herself embroidering pictures she took with her friends and with strangers during her world travels. Her current body of work consists of translating these images to clay and the themes of daydreams and clouds. 

Livia Homerski can be reached at

Additional Photos:

Embroidery of Alana Wilson's homeVessel by Brandon Lipe30 Spoons in 30 Days by Phil AmbroseEarrings by Marie Dewerff

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