Art inspiration can strike anywhere — even on a commute.
Art inspired the spark behind “Transitions,” an art thesis project from Krista Rose Frohling, a graduate student in mass communication and media arts from St. Louis. The art is derived from her drive between St. Louis and SIU while she was pregnant. The show is now on display at the University Museum in Faner Hall.
“My thesis show developed because I commute down from St. Louis three to four times a week, round trip for classes, then in the middle of my program I got pregnant,” Frohling said.
The pregnancy was a surprise to her, but she regarded it as a wonderful experience, she said.
“My husband and I had a little extra battle there, so that’s where my whole show came from,” she said. “And putting on a thesis show has been an uphill climb, though I feel like this last week has been a sprint.”
Frohling said for one week prior to her initial reception for the show on March 21, she spent hours at the museum setting up. Having spent more than $4,000 since the project’s inception, Frohling put photographic pieces together and installed them into place before she would then make her two-hour drive back to St. Louis. She would wake the following morning at 6 a.m. and make the trip back down to Carbondale. Although she’s finishing her degree, she also teaches several photography classes.
“It’s been really difficult and hard on me this week. I’ve been working on this show though for over a year now, taking the photos and working on the concept,” she said.
One of her exhibit pieces is a projection displaying her journey down Illinois Route 3. Outside of the screen are two rocking chairs, placed on either side, littered with milk bags she saved from her child’s nursing in the time she was away.
“That’s kind of symbolic of this ‘absent mother’ with the empty rocking chair and all of these bags,” she said. “They are almost very literal symbols of time that I’ve been away from her so that I could finish my MFA (Masters of Fine Arts).”
Frohling said the journey has been isolating.
“It was stormy and I was exhausted,” she said. “There’s really no better way to represent how I was feeling except for that video.”
Frohling also displays a collage of iPhone photographs, pieces of narration on her art-related thought processes during her pregnancy.
“I didn’t stop to take a single one of those photographs,” she said. “That’s kind of how I felt, it’s supposed to be very impulsive and present landscapes of emotion, so I wanted it to be spontaneous and very quick.”
While iPhones aren’t the most luxurious cameras available, they worked well for the purpose of the Route 3 project, she said.
“All the other photographs are on my DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera), of course, but think of it like a gut response to what you’re seeing,” she said. “You want to capture the emotion of that moment and it takes time to dig your DSLR out and set your exposure.”
Frohling said even though Hello Pics sponsored her artwork to print all of the photographs for her landscape collages, she still had to spend a great deal of money and effort to ensure the project’s success.
“At the end, I was cutting out my prints going, ‘Oh please, don’t screw up little exacto knife,’” she said.
The exhibit’s final piece features self-profile photographs that focuses on the stages of Frohling’s pregnancy. Each shows her belly size and a distinguished facial expression meant to evoke a different emotion in the viewer.
Several students attended the March 21 reception to view Frohling’s work. Rebeca Trindade, a senior from Brazil studying architecture, said it was exciting to see work from an artist she’s actually met.
“(Frohling is) the first photographer I’ve known in person,” Trindade said, “and seeing her photos I think she’s really good, and it’s different and totally new.”
Sara Cole, a senior from Brighton studying linguistics and anthropology, recognized important themes about gender in the work.
“(Frohling) portrays how our culture tries to make you feel about motherhood,” she said. “As if it’s all happy times, when it’s really not, that takes a toll on women in our society. There’s definitely a struggle between being a mother and the modern day, independent, successful woman.”
After graduation, Frohling plans to host her art at venues in the St. Louis area.
“The last thing I want to do is have to go store all of this in my basement,” Frohling said, “I would be pretty upset.”
Frohling’s exhibit finishes Saturday, so the opportunity to see her artwork is limited, but should not be missed.
Jake Saunders can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @saundersfj or by phone at 536-3311 ext. 254.