Strangers frequently approach BYU studio art major Julian Harper and tell him what black person he reminds them of. Often times it’s someone they’ve seen on TV, most frequently Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel on the TV sitcom “Family Matters.”
These encounters are annoying and sometimes offensive, according to Harper. These instances led him to think about the implicit-association test, a social psychology test Harper said evaluates people’s unconscious associations. The implicit-association test is part of the inspiration behind Julian’s art show “Implicit” which was displayed in Gallery 303 in the Harris Fine Arts Center from May 16-30.
Harper is one of several BFA and MFA students who display their artwork throughout the year in the student-oriented HFAC galleries.
Gallery director Jason Lanegan said students petition to display their artwork through an online application. Lanegan sits down three times a year to schedule the gallery spaces for the different terms and semesters.
Priority for the spaces is directed by the art department. BFA and MFA final shows are scheduled first and faculty curated exhibitions or grant projects are scheduled last.
Elizabeth Lew had her final BFA show displayed in the back area of Gallery 303. Her show “Reconstructions” was different than anything she’s done and she worked on the idea for over eight months.
“It’s been a matter of making stuff and focusing in and making stuff and focusing in and paring down,” Lew said.
Her show’s themes revolved around memory, how people tell the story of their lives and how their memories change based on current experiences.
Lew spent about 18 hours setting up her show, including arranging her own lighting. She said being able to use the HFAC gallery spaces is an important experience for students.
“Having these spaces available to students is really important,” Lew said. “If we’re making art, these are things we need to learn to deal with and figure out and think through.”
The HFAC was originally home to BYU’s permanent art collection. The collection moved to the Museum of Art when it opened in 1993, allowing the HFAC to be used to display students work. Artwork is seen in Gallery 303 and the B.F. Larsen Gallery which includes the main atrium area as well as the third, fourth, and fifth floor walls and fifth floor balconies.
Lanegan described the HFAC as a mentoring gallery. He’ll work with the students to talk through their projects and figure out what space will be best for their artwork. However, the way the shows are curated is the responsibility of the students themselves.
“Everything we do is geared toward the student experience,” Lanegan said.
Harper said being in the studio making the artwork is very different than being in the gallery arranging the work. Curating the work himself provided an interesting experience.
“BYU is really quite good at teaching you how to do things so you can become pretty self-sufficient,” Harper said. “I think that’s a good expectation BYU has for its art students.”
Lanegan has seen a wide range of shows over the 10 years he’s worked at the HFAC. Some of the most memorable were a student’s exact replica of a room in their grandmother’s house, 500 pounds of salt in a mound with a ship, and a large vinyl maze on the floor that took 3 days to setup. There have also been live artistic performances and a student set up a salon and cut student’s hair for free.
The quality control of the shows relies on the students and their professors. Lanegan assigns the spaces based on needs, not necessarily content.
“I think putting the student in the curator spot is important,” Lew said. “Having to make those decisions about your own work makes you think about your work differently.”