Frost Museum Exhibit Showcases Student Art Exploring Gender Norms and Environmentalism

Sophia Medina / Staff Writer

The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art museum closes the fall semester with a new exhibit showcasing the incredible work of two of FIU’s very own students. Visitors can emerge themselves in art while exploring themes such as the disruption of gender norms through skateboarding and environmentalism.

The museum has been hosting the Master’s of Art Education exhibition for the last twelve years. During this time, the annual Frost museum exhibit has shown the work of graduating students defending their thesis within the winter semester.

This year’s event showcases the phenomenal work of Grace Cox and Julie Orsini Shakner. The two artists bring their creative skills to the table while expressing themselves through different artistic mediums and themes. Cox shares her personal experience and her passion for skateboarding through oil paintings while Shakner demonstrates her love for nature through a forest fantasy.

For those who enjoy works that support women’s empowerment and freedom of expression, Grace Cox’s work does just the thing. Focusing on her experience as a women skateboarder, she emphasizes that the male-dominated sport has a female presence too.

Cox’s series is based on a real community of women skaters based in New York City that the artist knows personally. She shares how they inspired her to create this series.

“These particular women are part of a skateboarding community in New York City and they are all my friends” she said. “One of them is a mother and all of them have somewhat corporate jobs. They are risking a lot in participating in skateboarding. I find that to be very inspirational.”

When viewing her paintings, visitors can see many women nailing skating tricks while riding on the streets of New York. In one painting, titled “The Crew,” you can see multiple women doing all kinds of moves, showcasing the diversity within the community. 

Skateboarding has impacted the life of Cox in many ways, making it a major part of her identity. Cox shares why the sport inspired her to create these paintings.

“Skateboarding changed my life,” she said. “It helped me to find myself and it changed how I thought of myself. It helped me to determine what I was scared of and what I was willing to risk.”’

Julie Orsini Shakner, on the other hand, uses her work to focus on the beauty of nature while sharing its importance in the world. Throughout the series, she adds a huge emphasis on plant and animal life.    

“I wanted to show how nature is like the crucible of existence at this time,” Shakner said. “I wanted to somehow show the viewer how we can live together in peace and harmony. It is a romantic scene. It gives you a sense of love and beauty.”

Despite the serene sense of tranquility which her work imparts, Shakner also uses her work to hint at the world’s current climate crisis.

In one painting, viewers can see a figure entangled at the knee by a net. At the same time, viewers can see animals roaming around freely. 

This is to symbolize humans and their part in the diminishing of the environment today.

“I thought it would be a twist to show how humans have been caught up in this net instead of the animals because that is what is going on with nature today.” 

Shakner’s work is unlike any of the art that the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum has showcased before. This is because she uses silverpoint to create her paintings, a rare and dying art that has never been placed on public display previously at FIU.

Silverpoint consists of artists using real silver to create their work. This means that it can be extremely difficult as the craft prevents creators from fixing their mistakes, which is one reason the technique has fallen out of favor and is rarely used.

The Master’s of Art Education exhibition will remain open to the public until Sunday, Jan. 10.  Guests are encouraged to attend the in-person exhibit as seeing the art in real-life can create a one-of-a-kind experience. However, art enthusiasts and students can also view the exhibit online.

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