For the next couple weeks, the Art Program at the University of West Georgia is holding its annual student art exhibition. The exhibition is juried this year by UWG alumni Brittany Watkins. Each year, the exhibition aims to honor the best artwork produced by UWG students throughout the year. They awarded Donavon Thomas with the prize for best work of the show for his Zen Sculpture.
Born in Carrollton, Ga Watkins now lives and works as a full-time artist and adjunct professor in Columbia, Sc.,, where she runs the Goodall Art Gallery at Columbia College. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at UWG in 2012, and then went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts degree at Florida State University in 2016. Her work serves as an analysis of contemporary society through a lens of psychoanalysis and social critique as she moves between a range of different media.
“I would say that I mix a number of artistic styles, and throughout the years I’ve kind of found my own aesthetic,” said Watkins. “A few that have influenced me are looking at the modern art movements such as abstract expressionism, impressionism, but more than impressionism, I would say fauvism, which is not as well known, but I like the way that they began to approach color, symbolism, and postmodern ideas. Because I’m an installation artist, I have always engaged with the question of what art can be and how it can exist in a variety of spaces, and how the viewer interacts and engages with the art beyond just an object.”
In her speech she spoke about the jurying process, and how she judged the show, she had given a quote from Russian writer Leo Tolstoy which read “if we say that the aim of any activity is merely for our pleasure and define it solely by that pleasure, our definition will evidently be a false one. But this is precisely what has occurred in the efforts to define art.”
“What he is saying here is that it’s not purely based on aesthetic beauty and pleasure, but there can be more depth to an artwork other than what is visible on the surface,” explained Watkins. “When I was looking at the student’s work, not only was I looking for good presentation and good craftsmanship, but I was also looking for something that captivated me, emotionally and critically. Was there a perspective that really engages with the world around us right now?
“I was also looking at the persistence of material, so if I could tell that a student had continued to experiment and work with said material,” Watkins continued. “I was also looking to see if there were any attempts to depict something that was not typically seen, so showcasing the unseen in a visual form, abstraction. And ultimately the overall execution of the work. Those are the things I look for when judging.”
Watkins expressed that her hometown of Carrollton has played into effect when it came to her developing an interest in art. She noted how her kindergarten and first grade teachers noticed her attention span for art, which exceeded the other students in her age group. After a brief absence from art as she didn’t have it in school for a couple of years, Watkins was accepted into the art program at UWG, which was the start of her professional journey. Because of her hometown influence, Watkins stated that she will always have an interest in supporting arts and culture in Carrollton.
“Because [Carrollton] is not the biggest city, I feel that it is extremely important that the young people, and really everyone has access to art and culture,” Watkins said. “Many times people will have the desire to run to the larger cities where they think they can find art, but for that exact reason is why it is really important for people to come to places like Carrollton and support art, and support culture.”