For her senior thesis show, “Single with Pets,” which was shown at the Stella Elkins Tyler Gallery, Wallace displayed paintings and sculptures of deformed beings, some of which were half-animal, half-human creatures.
While presenting her work, Wallace wore a straight, dusty, rose-colored hairstyle with a Lolita-inspired dress.
“I liked the Lolita dress because it was a non-sequitur,” Wallace said. “The dress connects to the punchline of my work: the let down. Oftentimes, when my audience attempts to interpret the meaning of my pieces, they are let down because the descriptions only share limited information. I like when viewers can create their own meaning, one that is purely unique to them.”
Wallace’s fashionable attire gained the attention of her peers and professors, and her paintings and sculptures piqued the interest of Philadelphia artists.
This summer, Wallace will work as an apprentice for Philadelphia-based pottery artist Roberto Lugo.
Lugo is known for incorporating themes of poverty, social inequality and racial injustice into his pieces.
Similar to Lugo, Wallace uses her artwork as a means to address social change.
Illustrating individuals as large, curvy beings with slightly distorted features, Wallace aims for her portrayal to encourage viewers to see beauty in the imperfect.
“She paints people who aren’t ashamed of being who they are,” said Jackie Rosenzweig, a senior painting and education major. “[Her subjects] do the things they do and act the way they act without worrying about other people’s judgments.”
Rosenzweig and Wallace have been close friends since they met at their freshman orientation four years ago. Since then, the pair has supported each other throughout their artistic endeavors.
In the past, the two shared a sketchbook. By exchanging it, Rosenzweig and Wallace were able to consistently add to each other’s illustrations.
“Although our artwork is really different, it complements each other,” Rosenzweig said.
“Every year I look at her work, and I see how amazing it is…and every year I wonder how it could get better,” Rosenzweig added. “But I know it is going to continue to improve, which is crazy to think about.”
Wallace plans to continue strengthening her painting and ceramics skills while working at Lugo’s studio this coming summer.
“I’m planning on building a body of functional work to sell at different craft venues throughout the city,” Wallace said. “I’m also trying to build my portfolio up, so I can apply to master’s school with a ton of new material.”
In the last four years, Wallace has developed her knowledge of the arts and established community-wide connections by working at Blick Art Materials on Chestnut Street near 13th.
Working at Blick, Wallace said she enjoys some perks, like discounts on art supplies and flexibility with her schedule as a student.
She also said the store helped her build a name for herself as a student artist.
Last summer, Wallace was accepted into the Yale Norfolk Summer School of Art in Connecticut. During this time, Wallace created several art pieces under the supervision of Yale professors.
Most recently, Wallace received a Creative Arts, Research and Scholarship Grant to study at the National Museum of African Art and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Titled “The Origins of Respect[ability],” her research paper focused on themes of queerness and femininity, specifically within the Black community.
Last month, Wallace presented her research to students and faculty at the Temple Undergraduate Research Forum and Creative Works Symposium (TURF-CreWS).
“I want people with vastly differing or stagnating viewpoints to discuss taboo topics by proxy,” Wallace said. “Not a proxy as in a full, metaphorical discussion where the subject is avoided, but a certain proxy that inspires conversations outside of one’s comfort zone.”
Wallace said she has not personally experienced discrimination based on her appearance or sexuality. Still, she feels inspired by those who identify as queer.
“I noticed that in more homogeneous situations, the margin of stigma would be significantly higher somehow,” Wallace said. “I wanted to see how and why these types of criticisms were so present in certain communities and what the reactions should or could be versus what they have been.”
As graduation approaches, Wallace said she is excited for her future art career.
Currently, Wallace is waiting to hear back from multiple artist residencies, including the Ox-Bow School of Art, the Clay Art Center and the Vermont Studio Center. Within the next few years, Wallace plans to start an MFA program.
“I’m excited to see what the future holds,” Wallace said. “Creating art is what I love doing, and I’m going to continue doing it regardless of the criticism that I get. I want it to be my life.”