Senior art exhibition goes virtual

Posted on April 16, 2020 by Dana Poleski

Studio art majors from Sweet Briar College’s Class of 2020 spent the beginning of their spring semester working on their senior art exhibition “Avant-Garde is Female.” Due to unprecedented times, the art exhibition—which was originally scheduled to go up in April in the Pannell Art Gallery—has been adapted into an online exhibition. The show features works from the largest senior class in the visual arts since 1981, with a total of eleven students.

The exhibition features work from this year’s graduating seniors: Phoenix Brown, Jordan Leigh Elliott, Samantha Galindo, Joselyn Garcia, Audrey Hardianto, Katherine Martin, Lashlee McCray, Amelia Mendelsohn, Diana Nguyen-Cruz, Alexa Wright and Emma Zak.  

A variety of mediums are represented in the show such as printmaking, photography, painting and digital art. Several students have grown fond of specific media during their time at Sweet Briar. Alexa, a studio art and art history major, said, “Through having been able to experiment with several different types of media as an artist, I have found my true passion and calling: printmaking. My prints, as well as my work in other media, showcase my vision as celestial, charismatic, dreamy, meaningful and poetic,” she said.

When discussing with the students why they chose the title ”Avant-Garde is Female,” Joselyn was quick to respond. “It means new and unusual or experimental ideas, especially in the arts. I thought of this name because our ideas and our artwork are experimental, and since we are a women’s college, I thought it would be an amazing title.”

Students in the class had many inspirations such as Emma whose work “is a world inspired by surrealism featuring landscapes, people, stories, and objects.” While Diana’s work “embraces the female figure and feminine traits.” 

Amelia’s art is inspired by her childhood. “Growing up was difficult and my art is a way for me to be honest with myself about it. Photos of family, friends, and my hometown are frequently my source of inspiration. My creative process is intertwined with self-reflection and by slapping some paint and ink around I can briefly revel in my imperfections and move on,” she said.

View the online exhibition here.

If you are interested in purchasing one of the pieces in the exhibition, please contact Laura Pharis at

Featured Artists

Phoenix Brown working on a painting Phoenix Brown

Phoenix Brown

Phoenix is a studio art major.

Artist statement: If anything, my life has been too interesting. I have been shaped by the many positive and negative experiences that I’ve had. I’ve lived with four different sets of guardians, had at least six houses, nine schools (not including college) and fluctuated between both sides of the poverty line. The main theme of my work is exploration. I like to explore the different avenues of art and where they can take me. One of my favorite things is to constantly experiment with and try new media. I also like to blend multiple media into one piece; for example, blending collage into my painting and printmaking. I focus mainly on color and emotion. Many of my pieces tie back to feelings or experiences which I have had and then tried to capture. I explore not only the world around me, but the world within me. I frequently utilize human and animal forms as metaphors for or allusions to varying concepts, be they psychological, tactile, theological or visual. I also like to utilize pop culture and nostalgia in my work, such as toys or characters. In the future, I hope to explore fiber arts and film more extensively, as I feel they both capture a unique sense of emotion.

Jordan Leigh Elliott

Jordan Leigh Elliott

Jordan is a studio art major.

Artist statement: Art has been many things to me throughout my life—an emotional outlet, a creative experiment, a space where there are no wrong answers—but most of all it has provided me with an opportunity to explore the things I find to be beautiful in the world, and has allowed me to put my mark on them. From childhood on, I have been captivated by the elegance of symmetry, the subtleties of balance, and the rendering of finite detail, and it is the expression of these ideas that dominates my body of work. I strive to create pieces that evoke feelings of peace, joy, and wonder, both in myself and others. To this end, I often make large subjects small, and small subjects large in order to best capture those feelings. Inspiration comes to me from a wide range of natural subjects, and can be anything from sunsets over grand mountain vistas to the perfectly curved intricate lines of a snail’s shell. It is my belief that there is something to be admired aesthetically about almost everything, and that it is my job as an artist to present others with the proper lens with which to magnify those qualities.

Because of my love of color and detail work, my favorite mediums are oil and soft pastel, charcoal, graphite, etching, and wood engraving. In my past work, I have primarily focused on taking the rendering of fine detail to the extreme limits of each medium, but in my newer work I am interested in letting go of some control and working with media that force me to adapt and get messy along the way. Working in series is also a favorite of mine, as it allows me to explore a subject that I find fascinating from a variety of different angles. The desire to try new things and rediscover a sense of childhood wonderment is a large motivation behind my creativity and artistic process, and something that I hope to share with the world.

Samantha Galindo

Samantha Galindo

Samantha is a studio major whose photography work includes nature, portraits, abstract and macro.

Artist statement: I was always interested in photography. I paid close attention to National Geographic magazines that sparked my specific interest in insects and nature. Every moment is unique. Each photo that I capture with my camera is never the same. My macro images capture the moments that people miss, such as fungi families and people caught in a natural state. My landscapes show the sunrise as it peaks over the horizon, as well as animals and mountains. Portraits show the raw side of people when they’re at their most vulnerable times. Photography lets me share these moments with people, allowing them to witness how I see the world through my lens. My photos show the raw, hidden and overlooked experiences that will make people want to stop and find their own secrets. This is what I want people to experience as they look at my photos. I want them to be encouraged, to find their own unique moments, and to share them with others so they too can begin to view the world differently.

Jocelyn Garcia poses with her art Jocelyn Garcia

Joselyn “Joy” Garcia

Joy is a studio art major from the Bronx, N.Y. She was born into a Puerto Rican home and raised by a loving and supportive single mother.

Artist statement: Art has been a part of me since I was a child, and it will always be a part of me. Art is a feeling; it is a way of expressing one’s emotions, good or bad. It is a way of survival and a coping mechanism for those who cannot deal with the everyday struggles of the world. Art is a form of communication, a physical manifestation of a conversation. It is a gateway to a creative outlet. With art being everywhere, it is impossible to repel it or ignore it. It is something that everyone has heard about. As an artist, I find it to be something that I can control and manipulate when I don’t have control over anything else.

Audrey Hardianto with her artwork. Audrey Hardianto

Audrey Hardianto

Audrey grew up in San Diego, Calif., and is a studio art major.

Artist statement: After experimenting with different forms of medium, I have found my favorite medium to be acrylic paint. My work often portrays scenes that I visually enjoy including people, animals, and landscapes. Most of my work is portraits of people from my personal perspective. I mostly paint on canvas and panel. I am especially interested in the gaze, having a good amount of my portraits looking straight at the viewer. I often use light and dark contrast to draw the viewer in and I enjoy using bright colors that clash between warm and cool. My style has been described as painterly and is full of looser brush strokes which allows the viewer’s eye to complete the image. I am inspired by things that I find visually intriguing. I grew up by the coast in Southern California and because of the close proximity to the ocean I have always enjoyed swimming and sea life which has led to some of the subjects of my art to be sea creatures.

Katherine Martin smiling with her photos for her art project Katherine Martin

Katherine Martin

Kat prides herself in being a self-taught photographer who grew up all over the world. Her love for photography developed while living abroad in Valencia, Spain with her family.

Artist statement: Through my love for sports photography, photographing men has always come easy to me. I decided to take a different approach on my usual comfort levels and experiment with studio photography. I gained my inspiration for this project upon learning about the piece, The Academicians of the Royal Academy, by Johann Zoffany. In this piece, you viewed a group of men studying the male form, but what went unknown for a while was the two women who were painted as portraits on the wall. Both these women were actually students there to study the form. Because of my position of being able to photograph men in a male dominant sport, I invited two friends of mine, Arturas Laukaitis and Dmytro Kobylyanskyi, to pose for my own version of studying the male form.

Lashlee McCray smiling in front of her photographs Lashlee McCray

Lashlee McCray

Lashlee is a studio art major from Glen Allen, Va. She found a love for photography in high school and her passion has grown exponentially in college.

Artist statement: Everyone, at some point in their life, has looked up into the sky with dreamy eyes and admired the natural beauty. From the imagination of a child lying in the grass, to finding shapes in the sky, to a breathtaking sunset, the sky is ever-changing, beautiful and wonderfully surprising. So, I decided to look up inspiration for my senior seminar project. I welcome you to “View With the Sky.” Sweet Briar has definitely taught me the sky’s the limit. Photographer and professor Medford Taylor has taught me how to focus on one thing at a time. He has taught me the technical use of my camera. Artist and professor Laura Pharis has taught me how to use different mediums and find my inner artistic side. This has given me a sense of self and the courage to look at subjects in a more abstract way. I wanted to capture the southern skies at sunrise and sunset, near the water and around the mountains. My favorite is “Morning Hike” which was taken on an outdoor excursion with my Sweet Briar field hockey team. I hope you enjoy my “View With the Sky.”

Amelia Mendelsohn holding a paintbrush with her artwork Amelia Mendelsohn

Amelia Mendelsohn

Amelia grew up on the coast in Kingsland, Ga., and is a studio art and art history major.

Artist statement: Growing up was difficult and my art is a way for me to be honest with myself about it. The subjects of my paintings and prints are drawn from personal photographs or ideas hoarded from my past. Photos of family, friends, and my hometown are frequently my source of inspiration. Instead of compartmentalizing difficult events and feelings, I incorporate reminders of my personal history to contemplate why I assign significance to certain images or places. My creative process is intertwined with self-reflection and by slapping some paint and ink around I can briefly revel in my imperfections and move on.

Diana Nguyen-Cruz working on a painting of a woman Diana Nguyen-Cruz

Diana Nguyen-Cruz

Diana is a studio art major and a psychology minor. She is from San Diego, Calif., and is of Vietnamese and Mexican descent.

Artist statement: Most of my work embraces the female figure and feminine traits, with several illustrating my adventures studying abroad in France. These pieces also emphasize Eastern aesthetics. Each piece involves textures and lines with limited color palettes. My watercolor series of food demonstrates the familiar tastes through brushstrokes; it also evokes hunger in people. In addition, I make mixed-media pieces that involve fabric and an elemental scene.

Alexa Wright smiling with her artwork. Alexa Wright

Alexa Wright

Alexa is a studio art and art history major from Leesburg, Va.

Artist statement: Throughout my four years at Sweet Briar College, I have not only had the opportunity to develop as an artist, but to also grow into the woman I am today. During my time in this little slice of heaven, I have found my voice, have learned to speak up when I have something to say, and been pushed by those around me to achieve the near impossible. A phrase that I often use that I feel best describes not only my own journey, but also my time at Sweet Briar would be “No grit, no pearl.” In short, this means no hard work, no results. I feel that this is characteristic of my story, having developed into the artist I am today, and putting in hard work to continue to become better over time. Through having been able to experiment with several different types of media as an artist, I have found my true passion and calling: printmaking. My prints, as well as my work in other media, showcase my vision as celestial, charismatic, dreamy, meaningful and poetic. I like to think that my work reflects how I dream of my own life, which I might describe as beautiful and unknown. This perhaps explains my love for the stars, the universe and all of the energies that come from both. Ever since I can remember, I have always been interested in the night sky, and I am quite the astronomer extraordinaire. This in turn has become the basis of my work and my overall aesthetic.

Emma Zak with her paintings Emma Zak

Emma Zak

Emma is a studio art major and art history minor.

Artist statement: My work is a world inspired by surrealism featuring landscapes, people, stories and objects. I use oil paints and acrylics on canvas, panel and glass. I employ great attention to detail to emphasize the ephemeral quality of my pieces, immersing the viewer into a dreamscape. I enjoy using natural colors: blues, greens, reds, and browns, intermixed with bright colors to draw the eye and entice the viewer into studying the minute. I take inspiration from my own dreams, images, books, music and the world around me. My goal is to inspire my viewers to continue to see beauty and whimsy in their world, to take pleasure in the odd and to stimulate them to create and spread their own originality. I seek to fascinate others through my works as well as explore myself by challenging my own growth as an artist.