Faculty Artists Share their Creative Methods

On October 12, 2017, the University of Montana Western Fine Arts Gallery hosted an event featuring faculty artists Joe Hadden, Suzy Kitman and Aja Mujinga Sherrard, who is also the Fine Arts Gallery coordinator. The three artists each presented examples of their work and described their creative process to an audience of art students and community members.

Hadden Artwork

Joe Hadden’s piece “13.1” (detail)

Joe Hadden received his MFA at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a mixed media artist who currently creates abstract geological landscapes by combining alchemical procedures with artistic technique.

“Surprise is a big portion of my work,” Hadden said.

After visiting Yellowstone for the first time, he began one of his most ambitious pieces, recreating scenes from the Yellowstone Geysers with microscopic images.

His work has earned him the Kathleen G. Williams Award of Excellence and a residency at The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts.

Suzy Kitman Artwork

“Just a Boy” (detail) by Suzy Kitman

Suzy Kitman also began her career as an abstract artist but was drawn to realism during her time as a patina artist at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Her work as a photographer is highly influential on her paintings:

“I used to do portrait photography, but I hated being in a dark room,” Kitman said.

When creating a still-life, she attempts to “reanimate” the photograph it is based on.

Currently residing in Portland, Ore., she noticed that “a lot of people are living in campers” due to high rent and income disparity. She recreates these “forms of shelter” to highlight this new reality of life in The City of Roses.

Sherrard Presentation

Fine Arts Gallery Coordinator Aja Mujinga Sherrard presents her conceptual artistic methods to the audience.

Aja Mujinga Sherrard is a conceptual artist, meaning she works outward from ideas.

“Ideas come to me relatively whole, and I find the visual elements to frame it,” Sherrard said.

Much of her work centers around questions about race and racial identity. She considers questions like these a source of “consistent anxiety.”

“I am not internally how I am perceived externally,” Sherrard said.

In her piece “Costuming Kinship,” she confronted the history of blackface in America by imitating her mother, father, and grandmother “through the use of acrylic paint and crude costume elements.” She was then photographed posing next to the emulated relative.

Her performance/installation “,is repair,” was a massive endeavor that utilized 300 handmade tiles designed to represent journal entries.

The tiles were “inscribed by continuous, anonymous writings (the artist and the audience’s) dealing with grief, loss, fear, anxiety, hardship and shame.”

Everyday, Sherrard spent an hour washing the tiles, so that new words could be written on them. Later on she displayed the sponges she used in her piece “The Accumulation of Grief.”

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