Two painters share supportive peer community, and new work

Published: April 2, 2022 Author: Daniel King

Seniors Mallory Stowe and Abigail Pennington have spent a lot of time on the fifth floor of Siegfred Hall, where their painting studios became creative harbors for their art and their friendship. 

Now the two Ohio University seniors are putting the finishing touches on their senior thesis projects and getting ready to show new oil paintings at the Student Expo on April 7. 

Stowe and Pennington, both Painting + Drawing students in the School of Art + Design’s Studio Art program, are recipients of the Provost Undergraduate Research Fund award, helping offset the costs of materials like paints, canvas, brushes. The two are finalizing their individual thesis projects, which will culminate in capstone exhibitions this spring.

In addition to sharing nearby studio space, Stowe and Pennington also shared the experience of the foundation year studio art program, an interdisciplinary journey meant to be as freeing as it is challenging. Next came two years of intense coursework across multiple artistic mediums and a growing dialogue about thesis projects within their artist community. 

This year, working closely with program faculty artists John Sabraw and David LaPalombara, the two have honed their artistic research and practice as they approached their final semester.

“The nice thing is that they are both very supportive, and they both make themselves available to us, no matter whose class you’re in,” said Pennington. 

The thesis project is a multi-year journey for studio art majors. By the time they find themselves working on their capstone project, they are building on their early years of study. What starts as informal conversation, listening to others talk about their work in classes, and having late night conversation in the studio leads to the development of their own body of work. 

“I think it’s been building for a while,” Stowe said. “Thesis is something we talked about since our sophomore year, more loosely to begin with. Then as seniors we begin getting more concrete. This develops slowly through taking classes where we're writing and talking about our work, together.” 

By senior year, students are investigating a single idea through multiple pieces. Being able to continue the development of an idea through various iterations is the goal, and “in this final year we’re demonstrating that we can create a body of work that is consistent and that conveys an important idea,” she said.

 

Mallory Stowe  is shown working on her painting
Mallory Stowe

Community means others have a stake in your work

Both artists describe a community of peer artists that is supportive and welcoming and the importance of mentorship from graduate students in the School of Art + Design, who offer expertise and model professional practices in the classroom, studio and gallery. 

“As an undergrad it can be hard to picture how we’re going to make this [professional artist] life work. To see people in their mid 20s demonstrate how it can unfold, including the pursuit of further education as an option, is helpful.” Said Stowe.

 

A painting by Mallory Stowe
A painting by Mallory Stowe

Mallory Stowe creates around concept of sitting still

In high school, Stowe’s senior art class was a very collaborative community. “I knew that was something I wanted to find in college. When I toured this school, I saw the studio spaces and the other students working together, this is what made me decide to come here.” 

At OHIO,  Stowe worked closely with faculty mentor Sabraw and as a studio assistant with the pollution to pigment project.

Her current works are large-sized canvas paintings of people, rendered in oil paint, the costs of which can add up, and are made feasible in part by her Provost Undergraduate Research Fund award. 

“As a result of this project, I will have a better understanding of fully conceptualizing and executing a visual idea. This process of creating will prepare me for graduate studies, and eventually a career in painting,” Stowe said.

“These newest paintings revolve around my identity and my grandmother, who was diagnosed with ALS, and recently passed.”  

Stowe describes how making the paintings allowed her to channel associated strong emotions into an organized research project, making impactful work stemming from her experience. 

“I’m taking away the expectation for women to be or sit still, while also recognizing that I’ve learned a lot from intentionally sitting still, by choosing to sit and spend time with someone.”

Stowe’s thesis work titled "Sit Still," will be a part of the B.F.A. group exhibition titled "Detour," on view April 12 – April 16, with a reception planned April 14, 5-7 p.m., in the Ohio University Art Gallery. 

 

A painting by Abigail Pennington
A painting by Abigail Pennington

Abigail Pennington explores how color, emotion entwine

Although initially uncertain about her direction in college, Pennington knew she would land someplace that made sense. She was searching for something, a degree direction, that felt right.  In the end an “instinctual pull toward art” won out. “My mother is an artist, and I grew up around it,” she said.  

At OHIO, Pennington took advantage of the strength of a shared foundations program to explore a wide range of different mediums and art-making practices.

“They really let you have a lot of freedom to explore. Although it can be overwhelming, I think that helps. It gives you options,” she said.

In her senior year, Pennington has been making artwork almost exclusively in paint. Focusing on one medium has helped her to identify strengths and weaknesses. She also cites the discussions and feedback she gets and gives within her peer artist community as a key factor in her development.

“In my work I think my initial approach is to do a little bit of everything and then take a step back, take a look at it, and find the connections, even if I didn't feel like there were any at first. You know what feels right. I began to hone the work, to find the link between all of these pieces.”

Pennington’s current portrait series “Not Just the Blues” is created using oil paint on small to mid-sized wood panels and employs raw and intense combinations of color to push an investigation into how our emotions intersect with our identities.

“I’ve been dabbling in portraiture for a little while now, and I realize that color is what ties the work together. And so, I've been researching and thinking about the impact of color and how it ties to our emotions, and even ties to individual people, specifically.”

Pennington’s thesis project will be on view April 19-23 at the Ohio University Art Gallery in Seigfred Hall, with a reception planned April 21 6-8 p.m..

View Mallory Stowe’s work on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mallorystowe.art/

View Abigail Pennington’s work at https://www.instagram.com/abbypennington.art/