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Graduating art students depict Firsthand experiences

While most students occupy the library in preparation for finals week, a few gather in the Oliver Gallery of the Fine Arts Building to hang up pieces of themselves.

Kevin Tsoi-A-Sue unravels a patchwork quilt that features a red and blue parrot on its center.

“The quilt is supposed to be representative of my past,” he said. “I grew up next door to parrots in Trinidad and Tobago. It’s supposed to be about confiding in the past – you use the past as a form of security for yourself because it’s familiar to you, like a blanket.”

Tsoi-A-Sue is one of 11 seniors majoring in art working to display their final pieces as USF students. Their show, “Firsthand Matters,” opens Thursday and will display the student’s thesis projects.

Ranging from pocket-sized pencil drawings to 10-foot-tall paper machete sculptures, each piece represents a semester of work, four years of practice and a lifetime of experiences.

“But it’s also about not trying to confide too much in the past,” he said. “That’s why I wanted this freaked out parrot in the middle of it, so that it’s sort of being engulfed in this comfort.”

In the corner, Brittany Boucher stares at her colored pencil drawings hanging next to Tsoi-A-Sue’s “security blanket.”

Boucher said she worked for more than 80 hours drawing and shading meaningful objects in her life. One drawing depicts a close up of her childhood doll, detailing its intricate creases and folds.

“These are everyday objects, but I want people to see them in a new way,” she said. “The view is so close up that you can’t tell what they are. It’s supposed to show how everything is made up of these small details.”

Behind her, Samantha Rausch suspends custom-cut pieces of insulation from strings. The high ceilings in the former music room did not cater well to her piece, so she created her own half room made of black wood and metal bars for a lower ceiling. The painted white shapes hanging from the bars create a floating, three-dimensional sculpture.

“It’s all about how the objects interact with the space,” she said. “I tried to make the shapes look as organic as possible.”

The “shapes” she refers to are made up of white, puzzle-piece-shaped slices of insulation cemented together to resemble an abstract snowflake. Rausch has only hung about half of these and plans to revolve the shapes around the center of the ceiling in outward layers.

On the adjacent wall hangs three circular sculptures that look like colorful shields. Mark Martinez takes a break from helping Tsoi-A-Sue to explain his work.

His piece, “Battle Cry,” consists of fanned strips of colored paper that meet in the middle to form a circle. Martinez said the process he used to achieve symmetry between the strips was meticulous.

“I start with vertical paintings of lines or bars of colors and then cut horizontally into strips, and then I’ll just go ahead and adhere them back on to another piece of paper,” he said. “It took two to three weeks just to adhere the strips on to it, so that’s not even factoring in the painting.”

Aside from “Battle Cry” Martinez hasn’t named his works and Rausch hadn’t named her sculpture either. Martinez said every artist has their own way of naming their work.

“Like my buddy Pete (Cotroneo), he actually comes up with the titles first and then paints accordingly,” he said, pointing at colorful paintings of wrestlers further down the wall. “I come up with mine at the last second.”

After a Dec. 8 reception, the students will take down their pieces and say goodbye to USF. Most will apply to graduate school. Others will pursue teaching. All will remember friends made and lessons learned.

“Firsthand Matters” will be on display in the USF Oliver Gallery, Fine Arts Building Room 102, from Thursday to Dec. 9. A reception will be held Dec. 8 from 7 to 11 p.m.