Four senior artists appeared in “Creature Comforts,” an exhibition that opened March 29 in the Ralph Arnold Gallery (1131 W. Sheridan Road). The gallery is owned and operated by Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts.
The four artists, Rachel Hyland, Linh Nguyen, Kavya Tiwari and Sara Lochmueller, were gallery interns in 2017 and the first class to experience the gallery internship for studio art majors. Previously, a gallery internship was offered for art history students, according to instructor and gallery director Rafael Vera.
After spending months installing and uninstalling shows and liaising between artists and promoting the gallery, the students got an opportunity to put what they had learned to the test.
“This is all very much a student effort from start to finish,” gallery director Betsy Odom said.
Odom said the students collaborated to create a cohesive show — but remained true to each artists’ individual style.
Rachel Hyland, a 22-year-old visual communications major, created an installation piece of scarves and pillows with thoughts she’s had embroidered onto them, such as “you’ll do,” or “I can’t explain & won’t even try.”
Hyland said each artist found meaning with the words creature comfort and everyone has had a stressful experience creating art on time while also adhering to their own timeline. Hyland, who deals with sleep anxiety, found her bed to be a focal point in the experience.
“My bed is also a place of comfort for me, but since I have such anxiety with sleeping, it also creates this weird juxtaposition,” Hyland said. “I’ve also had professors be like, ‘Oh, you guys have to stop sleeping so much, you need to work really hard.’ I feel like I’m doing that, but it’s still not enough.”
Linh Nguyen used the show to explore her vulnerability. Her work, an installation of messages in bottles, was inspired by people seeking help at sea.
“In each of the bottles I’m speaking about my struggles and things that I want people to know but then don’t want people to know at the same time,” the 22-year-old said. ”It feels weird to have messages that potentially make me vulnerable to other people, but then it’s comforting knowing that it’s not going to be read ever.”
Nguyen is considering expanding her work outside of the gallery where people might be more comfortable interacting with her display.
Like Hyland’s and Nguyen’s, Sara Lochmueller’s work is minimalistic in appearance. Lochmueller combined her focuses in visual communications and studio art studies for her piece, in which the words “tragedy is so mundane” in precise lettering covered one wall.
“I just wrote as many phrases I could think of things people have said to me, or phrases that I’ve thought, and picked what seemed to resonate the most,” the 21-year-old said. “I want people to think about the phrase and what it might mean and how they might apply it to themselves.”
In her two hand-drawn pieces, Kavya Tiwari explored her Indian heritage as well as the different labels and identities she carries. Tiwari’s usual works are monochromatic and are five feet tall by eight to 14 feet wide in size.
“I wanted to try something a little different in this show, so these are kind of experiments that I’m putting out there,” the 21-year-old studio art major said.
To the students, having their own show is both something to be grateful for and proud of. The graduating seniors view the show as the finale of their time at a professional gallery where most of their work was first featured, according to Hyland.
“[The exhibition] makes me really appreciate this space and the people who run it a lot,” Tiwari said. “I’m glad to be a part of it all, but I also know that this is a very underrated, contemporary art space in Chicago, especially in this neighborhood where there aren’t too many galleries.”
Through gallery exhibitions and internships, directors Vera and Odom hope to expand Loyola’s fine arts program.
“You know how the basketball team is putting a name to Loyola?” Vera said. “We are trying to do the same thing, but with art and the gallery.”