“Split Infinitive”: a graduate student in art presents a thesis exhibition

For Ryan Akers, a second-year master’s student studying studio art with a concentration in painting, capital is important, but his primary goal with his current work is to create community and experience for others and for himself.

“It’s just the fate of the artist. Do you create works that appeal to you or do you create works for other people that you think they might buy? Akers said. “I just try to create work that interests me or that I think other people might like, not necessarily something they want to hang on their walls.”

That goal is something Akers kept in mind when creating his Master of Arts thesis exhibition, “Split Infinitive,” which opened Wednesday, February 16 at the Sella-Art Gallery. Granata at Woods Hall. Reception open is Thursday, February 17 from 5-8 p.m.

The exhibit features 10-12 pieces of various 3D shapes and sizes made from durable materials “that you can find at a hardware store or salvage” such as scrap wood, moving blankets laminated with wood glue, and more, all pasted along the floor and wall of the gallery.

Akers said he wants to make his work as environmentally friendly as possible, and he’s not interested in things that will last forever.

“Split Infinitive” focuses on the tension many people feel as they juggle different aspects of their lives.

“We live shared lives between worlds – analog and digital, work and home, waking and sleeping,” Akers said in his artist’s statement. “Through material, form, scale and color I create objects that feel both new and familiar to reflect the tension of constantly being pulled in different directions.”

Akers said he always felt this, whether at home or in the art studio, but it became evident especially after the pandemic.

“You’re always a bit divided or there’s never completeness, and there’s always going to be this tension because of that,” he said.

Akers said much of his work was “disturbing” in this way. When creating his collection, he was inspired by the Internet culture of the 90s and early 2000s that he interacted with in his youth, such as albums and skateboard magazines.

“I don’t think it’s super obvious to everyone, but I think some people can see certain things in certain shapes,” Akers said. “Colors are particularly influenced by many record covers.”

The show‘s color palette spans a variety of high-saturation, neon red, white and orange shades with matte black for added contrast. It is influenced by early Internet culture and animals with warning colorations, such as black widow spiders, coral snakes, and sea snakes.

He hopes people will connect with his work and respond to it in some way, even if they can’t verbalize it.

To deepen this connection to the artistic and emotional environment, on the evening of the reception on Thursday, February 17, there will also be a reading by Acie Clark, an MFA student studying creative writing.

Akers said poetry, music, and the visual arts go well together, and words can heighten people’s emotional responses to the work.

“I feel like I’m not just interested in the artwork on the wall, but what’s going on around it and the context, because it’s all in the context, whether you like it or not, as the white cube is not a neutral space,” Akers said. “I just like to create these little different types of contexts that kind of change your type of day-to-day experience.”

Questions? Email the Culture Office at [email protected].

Kayleen C. Rice