Master’s students art work showcased at the Surplus Gallery


Corrin Hunt

Jam Lovell, a third-year MFA candidate in sculpture from East Peoria, poses for a portrait among her sculptures, Friday, April 20, 2018, at her studio in the SIU Glove Factory. (Corrin Hunt | @CorrinIHunt)

By Clair Cowley, Staff Writer

After a year and a half of planning and creating, fine arts master’s students Jam Lovell and Daniel Rohr will showcase their master theses art sculpture exhibits at the Surplus Gallery.  

The reception begins at 5 p.m. on April 27.

The couple met at Eastern Illinois University where they later ran Critical Forum, a organization which planned their showcases.


Rohr said as each other worked on their artworks they were rocks of support for one another when self-doubt arose.

“One thing I’ve realized making art over the years is that there’s quite often a lot of self doubt,” Rohr said. “But Jam and I have each other to set back and say no, what you’re doing is great, it’s awesome, I’m proud of you, keep doing it, keep moving forward, and don’t be lazy.”

In one of Lovell’s sculptures, she took a rubber mold of her and Rohr’s hands together than a casted it in bronze to show the strength of their relationship.

“We’ve been pushing each other and challenging each other,” Lovell said. “So I think we’re both excelling because we have each other, so I made this piece where it’s rubber-mold.”

From 2011 to 2014 Lovell studied latex paint, then began her artisan career painting as a art therapist. In 2014 she attended a one year master’s program in Charleston where she learned steel working sculpturing.

Rohr graduated in 2013 from SEMO and EIU in 2015, then became a sculptor, primarily focusing on wood and metal working.

From a young age Rohr was always building things with his family. Before he came to college he had a strong knowledge of wood and metal working.


“Once I realized I can use my skills that I already have in a artistic way, specifically in a sculptural way, it was kind of a perfect storm of taking the knowledge and the skills I had developed growing up and apply them,” he said.

Rohr’s research and sculptures involves ancient devices of execution or torture.

“I look at who made them and why they’re made and then I recreate these objects, but I put a modern twist of them to comment on things that I deal with or I see around us,” Rohr said.

A recurring trend he has seen in society is the amount of time people spend looking at their cell phones and how that takes away from daily life, Rohr said.

He said in order to show this idea of people being locked into their cell phones he built some stocks, a restraining device used as a form of corporal punishment and public humiliation.

“I mounted the selfie-stick up in front of it to show that this is something that we’re very much locked into and it had that technological element as well to bring it into a modern context,” Rohr said.

Although his sculpture is an experience of society, it doesn’t necessarily relate to society as a whole, he said.

“I can only speak to myself and my experiences,” Rohr said.

Rohr said he is putting forth societal experiences that he deals with because these are things he assumes other people deal with as well and can relate to it.

For the past three years Lovell has worked on her final thesis project, Professor Angela Reinoehl said. Reinoehl sits on Lovell’s thesis committee.

When students study for their master’s degree in the fine arts they come with the technical skills, Reinoehl said. She said during the master’s program students learn how to express their idea through artistic concepts.

“During their master’s typically they develop what they actually want to say with their work,” Reinoehl said.

Lovell said that her art work extends from her poetry.

She writes everyday. If she sees a reoccurring theme, she’ll make a sculpture about the poem.

Lovell explained the interpretation of the materials she uses in her art may affect the viewers’ perception of her work.

In one of her sculptures she uses knitting, where a wood table has two panels. One panel has human hair and the other has yarn.

“It was supposed to be about one panel being what it and the other panel trying to be what it isn’t,” she said. “The knitting is suppose to represent comfort, safety and familiarity and a person that I know and love.”

Making sculptures by casting, where a liquid material is poured into a mold, also helps Lovell interpret and depict relationships with others and ideas of people.

Lovell said an example of casting in her show displays a pumpkin-patch which she casted a bunch of pumpkins in iron.

“The cast elements usually represent resilience or permanence or strength in a relationship, so I usually use cast-iron and bronze for that,” she said. “Iron is really strong, it can crack but when it’s solid it’s never going to break down and can’t really be damaged or manipulated – that’s how I depict my family,”

Lovell said she thinks art is impactful on campus because it shows art doesn’t have to belong with the reputation of starving artist.

People can can do something and can go somewhere with art Lovell said.

“Art can be a good career path to, so I think showing on campus allows that opportunity to open up for everyone else,” Lovell said.

Rohr said his experience studying at the university allows him to walk away more confident in his artistic ability because of the students and peers he’s surrounded himself with.

He said that students can learn that there’s always going to be criticism coming from all directions throughout our artistic careers.

“Artists will enjoy themselves much more if they make the work they want to make, not the work they are told to make,” Rohr said.  

Staff writer Clair Cowley can be reached at [email protected].

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