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    Artwork by Kylie Mericle. Audio collaboration with Sinead McDevitt. Lantern Kylie Mericle Intaglio print 7 inches x 8 inches 2019

    Artwork by Taylor Bowers. Audio collaboration with Charlotte Pearse. Longing series Taylor Bowers Linoleum cut 12 inches x 9 inches unframed (each) 2020

    Things That Scare Me Colleen Mars Water-based paint 4 inches x 4 inches each 2020 - 2021

    Strange Landscape series Max Rayshich Acrylic on foam insulation and wood Site specific installation 2021

    Blya Ange Ernestine Krouba (she/her)  Biography  Blya Krouba is currently a Senior at the University of Pittsburgh. She was born and raised in Cote D’Ivoire and lived there until the age of eight. Since then, she moved to the United States of America and lived in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. By the age of three, she was interested in becoming a doctor, but has also been into art for as long as she can remember. Growing up though, it was easy to push aside the artist within because of the starving artist stereotype. Eventually, she realized that she could be an artist who also pursues a medical career.  Her work is based on the personal journey she took to love herself, her culture, and her skin tone -- concepts that flowed naturally until moving to America. Along with being a photographer and painter, she designs and sews when time permits. Blya will be attending University of Houston KGMCA School of Art on a full scholarship. She is excited for what the future holds and hopes to continue being comfortable with being uncomfortable as she grows into a person who continues to educate and impact the world.

    Artist Statement  The theme of this project is identity. I have been researching colorism for a few years and started this project the same way. My initial goal was to continue to explore colorism and its effect on dark skinned individuals in the black community, but along the way, I turned the lens inward. I started to explore colorism with an introspective lens which I have never done before. Although my catalyst for researching colorism has been my past experiences; I never got this personal in previous projects. I have always photographed my friends and other individuals because I felt that I was narrating a story greater than mine -- one of the black community. Because of Covid and the different times that we are in today, I started this project with self-portraits and my thoughts and feelings surrounding colorism. Eventually shot after shot, I broaden the lens from colorism to identity -- my identity. My journey from being born in Cote D'ivoire (living there until I was eight) and then moving to America, where I experienced my teenage years, continues to influence my life, morals and sense of belonging. It’s like I do not fit fully in either culture. Throughout it all, I am still black. This project started with me painting myself with black paint and then photographing it.  This developed into photographing still lifes and inserting my body into the composition. I started this project with Africa and the body of an African woman: the labor of a mother. Every morning at 5a.m. she has to get up and go to the market to earn money so that she can provide for her family. If there is one thing she must do, it is to feed her child and to keep them alive. This is a pressure that not only weighs on mothers mentally but physically.   You see the women carrying children on their backs as I have seen my mother do so many times. During this shot I was carrying cassava and plantain on my head.  At one point, I could feel the weight of the 1.5 lb. cassava becoming painful. I felt like my neck was being crushed which made the experience so real. The transition from Africa to America is the African cloth. The cloth is used to make clothing in Africa and also used to tie the baby to their backs as seen in the photographs. This cloth has been modernized to a chic skirt or dress. The American section of the book highlights cornrows and Durag; a look in African-American culture that has been labeled ghetto by white America along with long nails, hoop earrings and colored hair. Throughout the book there is a hidden pain that is transferred. As an African woman it is the pain and weight of carrying everything on your head. The African woman is meant to cook, clean and care for the family. She is to submit to her husband in a way that some may compare to a slave submitting to their master and that same slave spirit is carried through ancestry in the blood of African-Americans who were enslaved by white America. In Africa it was the colonization from European countries that taught African men to assert power over their wives. I hope that my audience learns more about me through this journey, and in a broader sense, learns about the two cultures exhibited. I hope they feel the matter-of-fact approach to the work.  These photographs do not express any extreme emotion like happiness or anger because it's just how it is. I am telling this story not for pity but simply because it exists. I am grateful for all of my experiences and I hope that the audience can transfer this feeling of acceptance that I have of my life to theirs.

    Artist Statement  My motivation comes from a lot of places. A lot of the time, I think it comes from a place of very raw emotion, where I want things to come out as saturated and evocative as possible. At other times, I want to make something that I like to look at or listen to. I always listen to music when I work. Always. Music for me is one of the most intimate and expressive modes of self-expression, and as a musician myself, I can’t help but gravitate towards the need for inspiring noise to underscore my every waking moment. This brings me to \o/Sleep’s Absolute Sanctum\o/ -- a massive, ever-growing music playlist that's over 1400 songs long, adding up to over 90 hours of music. I play it on shuffle, and work for hours. Often, I'll play newly added songs on repeat or in a newer, condensed playlist, and then slowly migrate back to the big one. You'll have the Beatles, deafening EDM, bits of experimental hip-hop, deep cuts from Gorillaz' discography, chunks of movie and game soundtracks, and the freshest bits of Australian neo-psychedelic rock all playing back to back to back. It's a surreal musical cocktail that has become my inspirational fuel for artmaking, and I embrace the chaos in the same way. I like improvisation. I don't build a plan at the outset because if I did, I’d agonize over how everything "should" look, and I wouldn’t ever start the darn thing. I'd rather just get my hands on some materials, start working, and see where it goes from there. Then, once I feel like I'm on to something, I can walk it back, refine details, and start to make sense of everything.  Clown Car on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7yghlXQigZ8Nla7cVlsL3w Big Boy Throwdown: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/bbt-big-boy-throwdown Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/themaximumart

    Artist Statement   Much of my work focuses on the fantastical. I make work that conveys a certain mood or emotion, such as the feeling of turning through the pages of an ancient book filled with secrets. I enjoy making visually pleasing work that echoes the feeling of an illustration in a book of fairy tales, especially the work of the Brothers Grimm. I’m also inspired by science fiction illustration, and the kind of storytelling often present in that kind of work. My work often includes a bit of an edge, or darkness to it. To me, fantasy needs to include a bit of darkness to hold a viewer’s attention. I enjoy working narratively as well, which lends itself to my illustrative story-book style. My work is also deeply intertwined with the natural world all around us. My piece Cicada is a testament to the constant cycle of transformation present in all forms of nature. My work is always carefully and delicately detailed. Creating these fine details gives me an opportunity to let my mind wander while working. There’s nothing better than coming out of this meditative state and looking at the work that I have done to reach my goal of a finished piece.  Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dryaddraws/

    Kylie Mericle (she/her) Biography  Kylie Mericle was born outside of Washington, D.C. to an elementary school teacher and a physical therapist. She has lived in Pittsburgh for most of her life and has always been inspired by its wet temperate woods and the life within. Since she was a child, she has loved fantasy and the escape it provides. Her work is heavily influenced by both of these interests.  Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dryaddraws/

    Taylor Bowers (she/hers)  Biography  Taylor Bowers is a native-Pittsburgher. She has grown up both north and south of the iconic city and its unique community. It’s no surprise that she ended up at the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently a senior, double majoring in Studio Arts and Psychology, to graduate in May 2021. Before settling on her majors, Taylor explored several different career opportunities, such as elementary education and occupational therapy. Although each avenue sparked her interest, art was always missing, so she finally started to pursue it during her sophomore year. And this pursuit shows no signs of stopping. A lover of animals, children, and yellow raincoats, Taylor draws inspiration from the world around her. Her practice mainly focuses on painting and drawing, but she recently delved into the world of block printing. Currently, her work has focused on merging fashion and interior design.

    Artist Statement  I see the world through color—hundreds of shades and hues coming together. As an oil painter, I strive to recreate everyday, mundane events and animate them through color. My focus is on stylization and reinterpreting the world around me and is inspired by photography. Throughout my life, I've experienced the highs, lows, and everything in between. Emotion is what connects us to others and nature and makes us human. There's a beauty in the deepest pain and the utmost joy that words too often fail to describe. My hope for any audience when experiencing my work is that they feel an emotion before they settle on meaning, that they see beauty in the mundane, and that any moment can be magical, serene, or awe-inspiring.

    Artist Statement  During the pandemic, I had a lot of trouble creating artwork. In such a complex, isolating time, I had no inspiration or motivation to make anything for nearly seven months. As a senior studio art major, this virtual year was not an ideal time for me to create new bodies of work. Eventually, I began to fear the blankness of a canvas. I knew I needed to take the leap and begin making things again. So, I bought a new set of paint markers and just started to draw. I set no rules for myself, and the outcome didn’t matter. I used small, 4”x4” canvas panels to make the act of “arting” less intimidating. These efforts resulted in this series of tiny worlds filled with colorful characters: my project, Things That Scare Me. Some of these drawings are humorous, but they draw directly from some of my greatest anxieties. Once I found my creative voice again, I realized a need to make art that explored playful spontaneity and surreal encounters, exposing the nuances of human emotion. Although I am particularly drawn to bright colors and bold designs in my work, I may also use softer tones depending on the context. My resulting efforts address joy and loss, rage and anxiety, and the fragile boundaries between these emotions.  TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@ctmars?lang=en

    Colleen Mars (she/her) Biography  Colleen Mars is an ever-evolving visual artist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Working in various media, she is most commonly drawn to photography, painting, and drawing. Recently, she has been compelled to create sculptural and installation works that exaggerate the nuances of everyday situations. Colleen is inspired by psychedelic/pop art, feminism, fashion, existentialism, and dark romanticism. Although many of her works contain humorous elements, Colleen also creates more serious artwork. A more somber side of the emotional spectrum is explored in her work A Light That Never Goes Out. This photobook is a reflection on grief after an unexpected loss. Colleen follows her artistic instincts to process life events and create alternate universes for herself to live in. Sometimes she would rather exist in one of her paintings or photographs than in reality. She finds joy in the process of making and often creates surreal environments in her work.  TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@ctmars?lang=en

    Photography by Blya Krouba. Audio collaboration with Vivian Wong. Here, Take It Blya Krouba Archival inkjet photo 18 inches x 24 inches 2021 Maman est Là Blya Krouba Archival inkjet photo 18 inches x 24 inches 2021 Nylon Blya Krouba Archival inkjet photo 18 inches x 24 inches 2021

    Max Rayshich (he/they) Biography  Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Max Rayshich (pronounced ray-shick) is a prolific multimedia artist working in digital media, painting, sculpture, film, and music. His current projects include the comical and surreal card game Big Boy Throwdown, an animated spinoff of the game titled “Tales from the Between-Zone,” and the online cryptid-hunting video series Hill Horrors - all under ClownCar, an indie production company he runs with a few close friends. Max is a rabid creator of things, as well as a lover of music, D&D, video games, cats, and works of fantastical horror. Clown Car on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7yghlXQigZ8Nla7cVlsL3w Big Boy Throwdown: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/bbt-big-boy-throwdown Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/themaximumart