MFA Candidate Spotlight: Jennifer Niswonger

Available on the Georgia Museum of Art blog.

The annual Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art opens on April 13 (with an opening reception the night before from 6 to 8 p.m. that is free and open to the public). The exhibition will display the creative works of eight students slated to graduate from the Lamar Dodd School of the Art in May. We will spotlight some of these candidates, continuing with drawing and painting student Jennifer Niswonger.

Niswonger is from Tell City, Indiana, a small town of 7,000. She received a bachelor of science degree in studio art from the University of Southern Indiana, which at the time had no fine arts program. This turned out to be an obstacle for Niswonger as she pursued higher education, given that many programs would not even look her way without a bachelor of arts or of fine arts. She eventually found her place at the University of Georgia and has since been developing a body of work for this show.

Her art focuses on the grays of society and things left unsaid. She is often inspired by everyday news stories. Her paintings develop from debates about morality, the odder moments of life and little narratives she happens to find intriguing.

“I think I get so interested in these stories because I realize people are arguing about stuff and debating about things, but they’re actually not sure what they’re arguing for, even though they know what they’re saying,” she said. “Because we all come from different backgrounds and have different values and have different experiences.”

These stories result in out-of-the-box visualizations often bursting with color. To translate them into visual art, Niswonger transforms them from staged photographs to large paintings. They encapsulate the story or topic without giving preference to any side of a particular debate. Niswonger is more interested in the oddity of the story or discussion than in promoting a particular opinion about it.

“I’m really interested in just human behavior, human nature and how biology and social elements kind of shape that behavior,” she continued. “There’s usually a lot of debate surrounding certain kinds of events or phenomenon. Some very specific ones become kind of like a cultural debate of what’s right, what’s wrong. So a lot of my work has to do with morality, too, but not that I’m trying to say one thing’s right or one thing’s wrong.”

To see Niswonger’s work, along with that of all the other MFA candidates, you can visit the exit show on view April 13 – May 19, 2019.

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