Ashley Stuart (2014) created this emotionally powerful collection of oil paintings as part of her senior thesis in ARTS 499 taught by Dan Gunderson. She explains in her artist’s statement:
“In my work, I am using nature as a means to depict the more self-destructive aspects of our personalities that we attempt to hide. I feel that the perfect façade that we feel the need to portray is both unrealistic and unattainable. The need to bury our imperfections and failures is more destructive than the transgressions are themselves. I depict the human figure caught in a conflict between trying to escape these imperfections without being consumed by them.
Within each of my pieces, I isolate a figure caught in a moment of tension that is overwhelming, but, at the same time, tamed. Each of the figures is portrayed in a position that makes them both vulnerable, but, at the same time, in control of their situation.
The parasitic vines represent inner psychological struggles rather than specific imagery. Their dry, cracked appearance evokes an uncomfortable feeling from both a tangible and psychological standpoint. Their relationship to each of the figures is parasitic rather than symbiotic. However, they have found a way to coexist in a way that is not comfortable, but sustainable. I have depicted these vines going through the flesh to show that this affliction stems from both within the body as well as from outside sources. Although the figures appear to be escaping their entanglement, the distant shadow of vines hinders any sense of release.”