Master of Fine Arts student displays work in exhibits across Illinois, Missouri

Master of Fine Arts student Sarah Gillespie has artwork displayed at exhibits throughout Illinois and Missouri this semester.

Master of Fine Arts student Sarah Gillespie has been invited to display her artwork at four galleries in Missouri and Illinois this semester.

Gillespie, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting with a minor in biology from Eastern Illinois University, said SIUE helped to expand her abilities and clarify her ideas.

“At SIUE I’ve noticed the program helps students find a more diverse artistic vocabulary,” Gillespie said. “Often students are not limited to one particular discipline of art and can combine areas of thought.  Students can find their own individual space.”

Gillespie’s most recent artworks were submitted for consideration and accepted in multiple exhibitions.

Some of Gillespie’s work was inspired from being raised on a farm with family who are naturalists and conservationists.

“The art is influenced by being outdoors and working with the family to manage for rich diversity in natural ecosystems,” Gillespie said.

At Columbia College in Missouri, her piece titled “Phragmites: 38°54’17.90″N, 88°14’56.20″Wis on display at the 35th annual “Paper in Particular” exhibition in which works use paper as a primary element. The piece, titled with a latitude and longitude location on a map, is reflective of a natural community near Bogota. The exhibit has been running since February 3 and lasts until March 2.

Appearing in Gillespie's “Phragmites: 38°54'17.90"N, 88°14'56.20"W” are actual fragments of leaves and stems of phragmites grass.

Gillespie said she classifies her artwork as “invasions” to reveal what she perceives as the “true condition of natural communities, some of which are moving toward a state of imbalance.”

The introduction of exotic or non-native plant species, or “invasives” cause rapid change according to Gillespie.

“My artwork, produced in this strain, emphasizes this unfortunate movement,” Gillespie said. “The concept of landscapes in flux is vital to my artwork. I acknowledge the complexity of the ecological systems and realize my own imprint upon the landscape.”

Art professor Jane Barrow said she thinks Gillespie is wonderful and doing great work.

“She’s quite passionate and driven and she works long hours,” Barrow said. “She’s doing something unique. She’s created a method or particular process of staining paper and making paper that create complex and beautiful images that connotate aerial views of land and references to certain ecosystems and fluxes within the land. Her work is very interesting and the images are mysterious to look at.”

At the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton her artwork “Formation Series,” made of fabric, was selected last summer for exhibition in “Awards of Excellence” this winter.  That artwork enabled her to receive a special invitation to display her “Miniscule and Monumental” series at the winter show held since January 10 until February 22.

Gillespie said she has found in creating “Formation Series” the interaction between fabrics “intoxicating.”

"Formation Series" by Gillespie contains patterns reminiscent of aspects of earth and water including water wave motion of an extinct ancient lake; the accumulation of sediments through time in water which produces sedimentary rock; pedestals of dried clay and crevices within a flood plain which reveal the receding and drying of a river’s water; and residue from a puddle that documents time of evaporation after rain.

“The combination of fabrics is rich with potential discovery,” Gillespie said. “A filtered-dyed organza fabric might exhibit a very subtle hue, yet when another fabric is layered underneath, the hue is enhanced. The search for natural patterns within my fabrics that lead to art pieces is a thrilling quest.”

St. Charles Community College in St. Charles, Mo., features Gillespie’s work at the “MFA Invitational” which opened January 27 and lasts until February 21. The exhibition, which features pieces from select Master of Fine Arts students from Washington University, Fontbonne University and SIUE, showcases nine of her pieces.

Gillespie’s artwork “Formation” was installed this fall as part of SIUE’s permanent collection and is continually displayed at the Student Success Center.  In addition, Gillespie’s art can be seen at the Ballard Nature Center in Altamont.

This spring Gillespie will hold her first thesis exhibition at the SIUE Art and Design West’s gallery April 16-23.  The second thesis exhibition will be at Jacoby Arts Center April 26-May 4. The pieces that will be displayed at the thesis exhibitions have been created during her Master of Fine Arts degree program at SIUE.


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