Oil damage and coal mining stand as commonplace newspaper headline fodder, but now both are depicted in one USF student’s new artwork.
The Marshall Student Center (MSC) Centre Gallery will host the exhibition “Redefining Landscape: Processes of Intrusion and Destruction,” which showcases the work of student Katia Setti and ends Friday.
Setti, who has earned a degree in studio art and is currently working on an international studies degree, said she applied her artistic studies to address environmental issues – a third passion of hers.
“I was taught to develop a respect for other living beings and an understanding of our dependency on them for survival,” Setti said.
The exhibition includes two series composed of abstract paintings suggesting ocean and land terrain both damaged by manmade disaster.
In Setti’s most recent series “Chemical Intrusion,” her inspiration comes straight from the headlines. On thin pieces of newsprint paper, random black patches of oil paint stain Setti’s original mixture of sea salt, wax and aqua paint.
“Oil paintings are usually romantic landscapes, but I wanted to use oil because it was the perfect contrast to the reality of landscapes today – which have been destroyed by man’s dependency on natural chemicals,” Setti said.
Setti said that some pieces might use the same printing material as newspaper articles, but it offers a different perspective from the news media on the current Gulf of
Mexico oil spill.
Not only has the BP oil crisis angered her, but from the reactions and facial expressions of guests, her work provoked other students’ emotions as well.
Emily Cogley, a senior majoring in international studies, said that she tried determining each individual message from the oil spill pieces Setti had depicted.
“I think ‘Mangrove Roots’ is my favorite,” Cogley said. “People think of the tragedy in the Gulf, but it’s going to affect much more than sea life. When I read what the artist used to produce these pieces, I fell in love with the irony.”
“Chemical Intrusion” will only deepen its connections to the spill within the upcoming days. While speaking with audience members, Setti said that the materials she used to create the paintings will begin to react with one another.
In time, the look of her paintings will corrode and change color – like the tar-touched water of the Gulf.
Setti’s other series – named “Redefining Landscape” like the exhibition – examines the possible effects of coal dependency. Guests are introduced to Setti’s work by three large canvasses in the gallery’s entrance.
Though the images on each canvas represent the alteration of Earth’s original landscapes by mining, Setti’s splashes of color also offer glimpses of nature.
For example, “Raleigh County, WV” is dominated by somber brown hues, but brushstrokes of earthy green rouse energy in the scene of two detonating coalmines.
Setti ends this series of mining illustrations with two fiery eruptions in the pieces “Explosion 168” and “Explosion 257,” as scorching variations of orange, yellow and red are splattered and spilled across each creation.
Inspired by the crisis in the Gulf, Setti said she found herself painting another explosion – a recurring theme throughout her work. “4/20” is named for the day the oil spill occurred and depicts a mesh of red, blue and brown oil paint.
Centre Gallery’s director of operations Lauren Branzei said she became interested in Setti’s paintings not just for the environmental issues she addressed, but also for
techniques like matching oil paint to illustrations of oil’s potential damage.
“I really liked the theme and concepts behind Setti’s work because she has put significant thought into how she personalizes her work,” Branzei said. “Her choice of materials adds significance and a clever meaning to her work.”
The last artist to be featured at the Centre Gallery this summer will be Nicole Abbett, whose work goes on display from July 26 to Aug. 6.
Centre Gallery is located in MSC 2700 and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information on the gallery and the summer’s last exhibitions, go to ctr.usf.edu/gallery.