April 9, 2014 / 5:00 pm

Grunwald Gallery Presents: MFA Thesis Exhibit, April 8 – April 19

Come to the Grunwald Gallery April 8 through April 19 to see some amazing work done by MFA students Rachel Baxter (printmaker), Donny Gettinger (sculptor), Kristy Hughes (printmaker), Hyejin Kang (digital artist), Mike Reeves (painter), and Nakima Ollin (painter). The opening reception will be on Friday, April 12, 6 p.m – 8 p.m. As a bonus, the artists will be giving a gallery talk about their work both Fridays their work is up. The talks will be held at noon in the gallery.

I met with Rachel Baxter, an accomplished artist already. She has her BFA in printmaking from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, and is working on her MFA in printmaking here at Indiana University. I asked her why she decided to come here for her MFA; she replied that she felt that IU’s program was one with a wonderful reputation for printmaking yet would allow for the freedom she wanted within (and without) the print medium. Baxter explained, “I feel like artists can sometimes put themselves in a box. I never felt the pressure to conform to ‘printmaker.’”

I asked Baxter when she started thinking, I want to be an artist. She replied, “I remember there being two shifts, kind of a realization and then an action. It was always something I did without thinking about it in high school. One of my older brother’s friends applied to art school and got in… then it kind of dawned on me that you could make a life out of art. Seeing someone take that path made me realize that the path was even there.” Once in the midst of college (originally to play volleyball and become an art educator), Baxter realized that she could not bring herself to slow down her studio practice in order to finish the more “academic” part of her art education degree. As a result, she switched to a BFA in printmaking and realized it was the perfect thing for her. “It was really just following my intuition and gut,” she reflected.

So of course I had to ask what drew her to printmaking in the first place. It seems that I asked at the perfect time. Baxter told me that she had recently made the full realization of why she was so drawn to printmaking. “I didn’t even know what it was until my sophomore year of college,” she said. “Something about having multiple materials… being able to put them together and pull them apart, and having them turn into new things… It’s almost like alchemy. I was almost addicted to watching those transformations happen. As of right now I attribute it to where I grew up, my experiences as a child; all of my memories are sensory ones. I grew up right on the shore (in New York). I grew up responding to my environment and watching things change.” As a result, she conjectured, her work has been predominately inspired by change.

We went on to discuss further the focus of her work, which has continued to be directly related to what drew her to the medium in the first place. Baxter’s pieces are all mixed media, and make use of either printmaking processes or processes that are inspired by the print processes. She has made use of materials “with the potential to transform.” This transformation can happen through letting the elements take over in many ways, such as letting woodcuts oxidize outdoors.

“Layering these different materials and processes that come together to make this image that speaks to the transformations that just happened to make these visual outcomes arise.” Baxter also explained that her “motivations behind it are really this idea of handling these forces that are greater than myself. They dictate outcomes past what I could have done myself. What are the possibilities when I let go of that control? I let myself be surprised by the work. I respond to each piece intuitively; some have more print media, others have none at all.”

Taking a look at Baxter’s work, you can see that it has undergone a lot of transformation throughout the process of its inception. Somehow nature—through Baxter’s expert artistic assistance—has managed to create many amazing alchemic works that prove that change can indeed be beautiful.