Despite drastic changes due to COVID-19, the HSU art department continues to thrive, and senior art education major Jade Ross’ senior showcase is a prime example. Consisting of 10 minimalistic portraits created using alcohol markers and pastels, “Creating Me” is displayed in a virtual art gallery designed by Ross.
“What better to do than celebrate the people who got me to where I’m at,” Ross said. “Good, bad or otherwise.”
The portraits included in Ross’ showcase depict individuals who have helped shape her into the person she is today. Though most people depicted impacted her life in a positive way, Ross felt it important to include people who negatively affected her as they also took part in “creating” her.
“Throughout your life, you have people who either build you up, or you learn how to build yourself up from that interaction,” Ross said.
The title of each artwork includes a lesson that Ross learned from the person pictured. The piece “It’s okay to be different.” depicts Ross’ little brother Skylar. When she was ten, Ross’ family adopted Skylar as an infant, and he was later diagnosed with autism. Skylar has been made fun of for his differences, yet remains joyful despite his struggles.
“I learned to never be put down by what makes you different,” Ross said.
“Holding everything in just delays the reaction, not the pain.” is of a family friend who is like an aunt to Ross. She was there during many difficult parts of Ross’ life. Having experienced assault, this person taught Ross that healing does not occur until you talk about what happened and actively deal with the emotions involved.
“It is helpful to talk about what is going on, to let the pain out,” Ross said.
Ross’ grandma Kay is shown in the artpiece “Find the magic in everything.” As someone who believes in fairies, Ross’ grandma inspires her to appreciate whimsy and fun. Her grandma has brought joy to the most dire situations and lives her life like everyday’s a celebration.
“It inspires me that she believes that there is magic to be found in everyday life,” Ross said.
Ross’ grandmother figure, lovingly referred to as “Nana Violet,” is depicted in the work “Real family isn’t just blood.” Having no money and without a place to live, Nana Violet took Ross and her mother in during a time they were most in need.
“Family can be anybody who takes care of you and loves you,” Ross said. “They don’t have to be related.”
Ross’ favorite drawing in the show is “It doesn’t matter how you get there.” which is titled after the last words her grandmotha Emma said before she passed away. Talking with Ross’ mother, grandma Emma was discussing how the path one takes often looks different, but it is where they end up that matters. Ross believes this may be the most important lesson of her life.
“She would say ‘Some people use toothpaste and some people use baking soda,’” Ross said. “‘It doesn’t matter which one you use as long as your teeth are clean.’”
“Talent means nothing if you don’t use it.” is a drawing of Ross’ uncle Trinity who she often is compared to. Having received scholarship offers to ivy league schools such as Harvard and Yale for his outstanding artwork, Trinity lacked confidence in his abilities and decided not to pursue what he loved. Now a PetCo employee in Texas, Trinity no longer holds the art abilities he once had, having withheld practice for a long time. Ross learns from how his decisions have affected his life and desires to hone the creative talents she possesses.
“You can have all the potential and the talent in the world,” Ross said. “but if you don’t do something with it, you’ll get nowhere.”
Senior show is a requirement for all art majors as a chance for them to hone their skills on a major project and to display their work to potential employers. Ross plans to use her education to become an art teacher and encourage others to find joy in creating. She is inspired by her middle school art teacher who taught her that anyone can do art if they learn the correct skills.
Ross’ art professor at her former higher education institution National Park College Dr. Richard Brown showed her that creating art can be even more fun with the correct techniques. He pushed her to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Henderson, as NPC is almost exclusively a two-year college.
“He really showed me how to combine fun and your own interests with formal qualities,” Ross said.
The young artist notes that her experience at HSU has pushed her to a skill-level she never thought she would achieve. While the program is far more rigorous than anything she has experienced, every professor she has encountered is easy to talk to and really care about their students.
“Everyone in the art department is really nice and cool,” Ross said. “They do not take second best.”
Senior art students typically display their senior showcase on campus, whether it be in the Huie Library or the Russell Fine Arts building, but COVID guidelines have restricted student gathering at such a display.
The virtual gallery designed by Ross using a website called ArtSteps.com is inspired by the design of Crystal Bridges Museum of American art in Bentonville, Ark. She appreciates how the design of the museum incorporates the landscape and tried to replicate the same idea with a vast ocean on the outside of a virtual gallery building.
The artwork “Not everyone will hurt you.” contains Ross’ uncle Chuck who rescued her and her mom from the abuse of her biological father. He drove from Louisiana to California to pick them up.
“For the longest time, he was the only male member of my family I felt I could trust,” Ross said.
“You can do anything, if you work for it,” is a drawing of Ross’ half sister Rachel. Anything that Rachel wants to do, she works hard to make it happen; this work ethic is inspiring to Ross. Rachel originally wanted to become a model, so she worked hard to look the best she could and get in the model scene, and she succeeded. She grew tired of modeling, then sought out to become a musician, so she gathered a group of people together and published an album. Now, Rachel is working on becoming a physical therapist. All of these goals have been achieved while raising five kids.
“Everything she wanted to do or be, she achieved it,” Ross said.
The drawing “Sorry doesn’t fix things.” is of Ross’ biological father Bobby, who has been quite abusive to her and her mother. Two years ago, he came to Ross attempting to convince her that the rest of her family was lying about the atrocities he committed, and that he was sorry about what she had gone through.
“Sorry is not going to fix things if the actions don’t change,” Ross said.
“Life is too short not to be silly.” depicts Ross’ little cousin Journey. In 2016, five-year-old Journey was murdered by Ross’ step-grandmother. The last day Ross saw her was the day before in the incident, and she recalls Journey being silly and dancing around. Ross’ grandfather scolded Journey for doing this and told her to sit down. Ross finds it terrible that Journey was told not to have fun on her last day of life, and uses this instance as a reminder to find goofiness in the mundane.
“She didn’t suffer, she went quickly,” Ross said. “You can only learn from the things that happen and go on from there.”
Ross’ inspirations for these works of art are Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, particularly their impressionist use of line and the way in which they layer colors. Ross found that she could create more vibrancy by layering alcohol markers with pastels, instead of strictly using pastels. Ross hopes that these works and their lessons will inspire others.
“It’s good, it’s bad, it’s fun, it’s ugly,” Ross said. “It’s life.”