Thesis shows ‘reflective’ of students’ artwork, design

Art students display the work they’ve done throughout college at thesis shows.

Audiences engaged with art at “Engage & Play,” is a collaborative thesis exhibition, that was shown in Tyler Contemporary from April 26-29. KYLE THOMAS FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Krissy Beck wants her artwork to introduce people to potentially unfamiliar subjects.

“I wanted to just create these moments that let you closer engage with things you might not necessarily be able to connect with regularly,” said Beck, a second-year graphic and interactive design master’s student who incorporates a diverse array of topics, like mental health and niche communities, into her design work.

From April 26-29, Beck showcased her work in “Engage & Play,” a collaborative thesis exhibition, with second-year graphic and interactive design student Ryan Hewlett. Their show, which was held in Temple Contemporary, concluded a two-month series of exhibitions by 28 master’s of fine arts students. The bachelor’s of fine arts senior also had thesis exhibits.

In “Engage & Play,” Hewlett and Beck presented two years’ worth of their designs, with newly finished projects mounted alongside work from their very first months as students.

The projects in Beck’s show are diverse — from a board game about operating electrical grids to a poetry book about hot peppers and their “pepperhead” fans.

Hewlett said they generated their projects from open-ended prompts posed by their professors. These prompts either specified some themes of the project, like authenticity, or the medium, like a book.

By devising projects through prompts rather than a set of instructions, Kelly Holohan, the head of the graphic and interactive design program, said students have more artistic freedom and can better narrow in on their interests.

“We don’t promote a style,” Holohan said. “The style of the work is reflective of the research, whatever is appropriate for that idea, for that audience that they’re addressing.”

Beck concluded her exhibit with a personalized project: a short video titled “Sustain: Reflections of a Tired Grad Student.” The video consists of five chapters — Anticipation, Optimistic Denial, The Grind, Exhaustion and Breakthrough — which Beck said outline her approach to formulating new designs. Even as she neared the completion of her degree, she said each new project offered as many challenges as the previous one.

Chris Jorden, a senior photography major, said his senior thesis also related to personal experiences. From April 24-29, Jorden presented his thesis exhibition, “FIN.” in the Tyler School of Art. Jorden, a former movie theater employee, decided to take long-exposure photographs of rows of empty seats at several movie theaters. In his exhibition, he presented four of these large photographs, featuring places like Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and Prince Theater on Chestnut Street near Broad.

During his years as a movie theater employee, Jorden said he saw some very intimate acts and occasionally even outbreaks of violence. He said he realized chain movie theaters have their own kind of history that rivals the architectural significance of places like Keswick Theatre, which was designed by Horace Trumbauer, the architect of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“It almost seems like they probably won’t have history, but a lot of stuff goes on in theaters,” Jorden said. “The project was probably always in my head, it just didn’t come into fruition until recently.”

After graduation, Jorden plans to send his photos to additional theaters in hopes of securing new places to shoot. Once he gathers enough photos, he said he wants to compile them into a book.

“I’m going to a bunch of different theaters,” he said. “Senior year, I [didn’t] have the time to do it, but now I do.”

Although Beck is completing her master’s degree, she said the process of making art is still challenging.

“You figure it out just in time for it to be over,” she said. “Seriously, I don’t know if I fully figured it out until maybe three weeks ago.”

Ian Walker can be reached at or on Twitter @ian_walker12.

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