‘Split Infinitive’: Graduate art student showcases thesis exhibition

Jeffrey Kelly | @jeffkellyjr, Culture Editor

For Ryan Akers, a second-year master’s student studying studio art with a concentration in painting, capital is important, but his main goal with his current work is to create community and an experience for others and himself. 

“It’s just the plight of the artist. Do you create work that you’re into, or do you create work for other people that you think they might buy?” Akers said. “I just try to make work that I’m into or think other people might like, not necessarily something they want to hang on their walls.” 

This goal is something Akers kept in mind while creating his Master of Arts thesis exhibition, “Split Infinitive,” which opened Wednesday, Feb. 16, in the Sella-Granata Art Gallery in Woods Hall. The open reception is on Thursday, Feb. 17, from 5 to 8 p.m.

The exhibit features 10 to 12 pieces of varying 3D shapes and sizes made from sustainable materials “you can either find at a hardware store or scavenge,” like offcuts of wood, moving blankets laminated together with wood glue, and more, all collaged along the gallery’s floor and wall.

Akers said he is interested in making his work as environmentally conscious as possible, and he’s not interested in things that will last forever.  

“Split Infinitive” focuses on the tension many people feel while juggling different aspects of their lives. 

“We live lives split between worlds — analog and digital, work and home, wake and sleep,” Akers said in his artist’s statement. “Through material, shape, scale and color, I create objects that seem at once novel and familiar to reflect the tension of constantly being pulled in different directions.” 

Akers said he has always felt this way, whether at home or the art studio, but it became apparent especially after the pandemic. 

“You’re always kind of split or there’s never any wholeness, and there’s always going to be this tension from that,” he said. 

Akers said a lot of his work is “unsettling” in that way. When creating his collection, he drew inspiration from the ’90s and early 2000s internet culture he interacted with in his youth, like albums and skateboard magazines. 

“I don’t think it’s super obvious to everyone, but I think certain people can see certain things in some of the shapes,” Akers said. “The colors are especially influenced by a lot of record covers.”

The show’s color palette spans a variety of high chroma and neon shades of red, white and orange with matte black for added contrast. It is influenced by early internet culture and animals with warning colorations, like black widows, coral snakes and sea snakes.

He hopes people connect to his work and respond to it in some way, even if they can’t verbalize it.  

To further that connection with the artistic and emotional environment, on the night of the reception on Thursday, Feb. 17, there will also be a reading from Acie Clark, a Master of Fine Arts student studying creative writing.

Akers said poetry, music and visual art go well together, and words can heighten people’s emotional responses to the work. 

“I feel like I’m really into not just the artwork hanging on the wall, but what happens around it and the context, because everything is in context whether you want it to be or not, like the white cube is not a neutral space,” Akers said. “I just like to create these little different kinds of contexts that kind of alter your everyday kind of experience.”

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