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  • Michelle Smith

Grads Interviewing Fellow Grads

Although this interview was required for my Integrated Seminar class, the process was interesting and speaking to a fellow graduate about my solo exhibition helped me tap into my previously un-realized intentions with the installation.

Photo credit: Michelle A. Smith 2023

The following exchange is JMU MFA 1st year graduate student Kareena Solanki interviewing fellow 1st year student / artist Michelle A. Smith (ME!) about her Spring 2023 pop-up Grad Solo exhibitio entitled: Mindspace.

(Kareena) What are some of the messages your work conveys?

(Michelle) With this Solo, I was playing with different ideas. My previous work was very dark and heavy. Sticking with the same theme of emotion, dark thoughts, mindscapes, and depression– I wanted to insert more joy and the potential for positive outcomes. I am thinking of this space as a mind space, a retreat within, a safe space to experience these emotions (the ceramic pieces used here as placeholder for these twisted and contorted feelings) and to be okay with what they are, to honor their existence, thus rendering them less powerful.

(Kareena) What struggles did you overcome while creating this work?

(Michelle) I made several components of this show at different times, most over Winter break, but all working with the same intention– mood and feeling– but with different mediums. There’s the pour painting experiments on wood that are reminiscent of psychological Rorschach Test ink blots, extruded ceramic obelesks used as stand-ins for emotions and moods, and then the draping and twisting of sheer, black fabric throughout the room. The fabric represents the swirling thoughts that are ever present, can physically get in your way, but still can be navigated and seen through… I don’t know, there’s a lot more there yet to explore. Bringing all the elements together was a struggle in such a confined space and limitations on where and how I am allowed to hang things in the crit space is always an interesting challenge. I found solutions by just playing. I’m not sure if it is the right outcome or iteration of these ideas, I’d like to try it again in a different space.

(Kareena) Can you speak a little about changes your work has gone through recently?

(Michelle) Yes, the running theme has changed. It has hopefully transformed into a more approachable environment where the viewer feels a little more at ease while investigating the message I am trying to convey and doesn’t go away feeling worse than they did before coming into the space or want to run screaming out of the room!

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