COMMENCE: Sculpture Projects 2017

Student Art on Display for Commencement Weekend
May 17, 2017
Kellie Gillespie next to her sculpture, connected, in front of the green music center

Metal angel wings and abstract, red welded nails make up just two of the five student sculptures on display as part of Sonoma State University's COMMENCE: Sculpture Projects 2017, on display May 10-May 21. The central theme of the exhibitions this year is the power of connection and unity.

"Family, friends and the art community come to see these sculptures, and watching this be the springboard to their next phase in a student's life is one of the most rewarding things about this for me," says Sonoma State University Sculpture Professor Jann Nunn.

This year's pieces include a wide variety of sculptural approaches, materials and techniques including redwood, steel, nails, process and community-engaged interactions.

Kellie Gillespie, a junior BFA sculpture major, put countless hours of work into her site-specific piece. Her 12-foot-tall, 750-pound sculpture, Connected, is made from 10,000 large nails that all had to be individually welded six to eight times. The brilliant red tower stands in front of Weill Hall at the Green Music Center and will be one of the first things guests see at Commencement on May 20-21.

"I actually had to be harnessed in while I was working on top of a ladder welding each nail one by one," says Gillespie. "The last month before its installation I spent a minimum of 15-17 hours a day just purely welding nail after nail."

The meaning behind the piece was meant to specifically parallel the upcoming Commencement ceremonies. "The ideology behind this piece advocates for society to embrace the connections we all inevitably have as humans, and to then recognize not only the worth of one another, but also the substantial impact we each can make," says Gillespie. "These similar characteristics of unity are also noticeable within the impact of both the Green Music Center and as Sonoma State as a whole."

The biennial class taught by Nunn does not come without its challenges. Students have to come up with a proposal, which must then be approved before construction begins. Students must also participate in a feedback session with local artists before working for the next five months on their pieces.

Gillespie is proud of her nail sculpture and the 50 to 80-hour work weeks that went into it. "I hope viewers will do a double take with awe at the realization that it is in-fact thousands of nails standing before them," says Gillespie. "I want individuals to look at such a simple and common object in a way they never would have ever before imagined, hopefully communicating the beauty that can be found within that which is deemed worthless and unattractive."


COMMENCE sculptures


Kellie Gillespie, BFA Sculpture, 2018
Location: In front of Weill Hall, Green Music Center
Connected explores the power in even the smallest of influences and their potential to unite into something much greater than their individual voices. Fabricated out of thousands of welded nails, this sculpture embraces our connections and recognizes the worth of each individual, as well as our collective impact.

Emily Velva Kuehn,BA Studio Art- Sculpture, 2019
Amalgamation Mine
Bronze, Redwood
Location: Olive Grove, south of Schroeder Hall entrance.
Amalgamation Mine is a cluster of body parts transformed into bronze. As each shape evolved through materials, the previous shells were destroyed ending with the final material, bronze.

Ashton Ward, BA Studio Art,2017
Peace after Despair
Location: Large Lake Island, east of Commencement Lawn
Two immense steel wings stand strong atop an island depicting Divine Grace freeing the bondage and darkness of those struggling with mental illness and into eternity.

Sierra Mayer, BA Psychology & Studio Art Minor, 2017 
Just Love: A Cry for Peace Amid a Period of Hatred and War
Steel, Rivets, Paint
Location: Grassy Area near Library entrance, west of Darwin Hall
Sierra Mayer witnessed an outpouring of messages of hope written in chalk in public places following the terrorist attack in Brussels last year. Some of those messages are reproduced here on a bomb-shaped form to suggest alternative methods of resolving global conflict.

Michael Marcus Walton, BA Studio Art- Sculpture 2017 
Wood, Metal, Grass, Solar Power System
Location: President's Lawn, north of Stevenson Hall
With a love of nature and nurture, Michael Walton seeks a common connection between earth and humanity by developing warm, embracing spaces. Finding the light together can be incredibly easier. So, find two other soul searchers and have a seat.

Media Contact

Nicolas Grizzle