Surface/Function art exhibit opens to the public

The Visual Arts Center’s Surface/Function exhibit features artwork from several MSU alumnae.

Mississippi State University is now hosting Surface/Function, a public exhibit at the Visual Arts Center, courtesy of MSU alumnae. The exhibit, free of charge, opened on Sept. 13 and will be open Monday- Friday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Visual Arts Center is divided into two areas for each portion of the exhibit, Surface on the left and Function on the right.

Surface is organized by MSU alumnae and couple, Sarah Hanna Qarqish and Morgan Berry Welch of the HannaBerry Workshop. Qarqish and Welch created their design workshop, HannaBerry, in 2014. Qarqish and Welch concentrated in graphic design and drawing, and sculpture, respectively.

Qarqish’s focus in the exhibit relies on her mixed media pieces, all a part of her “Fallen” series where she explores feelings of picking yourself up after failure or depression. 

“The bright colors are there to mask the sadness of feeling like you've fallen in life,” Qarqish said.

While Qarqish focuses on her abstract artwork, Welch designs unique tables of different shapes and sizes for the exhibit. These tables range from small and colorful, to larger and more detailed works.

“I've been making furniture since starting my sculpture degree in college (2011-2013), but have been making commissioned furniture full time for the last six years alongside my wife,” Welch said.

The name Surface comes from the theme of the exhibit: surfaces. The tables and the artwork lining the walls are both flat surfaces while also being abstract works of art.

Qarqish and Welch graduated from MSU in 2013 and formed HannaBerry one year later. With HannaBerry, the two create different types of furniture in Ocean Springs, Mississippi for various clients including C-Spire and the Mississippi Children’s Museum. The HannaBerry workshop has received widespread acclaim across Mississippi for its innovative approach to furniture. 

The Function portion of the exhibit is overseen by artist and MSU alumna Charlotte Smith. Smith graduated in 2012 with a bachelor of fine arts degree with a concentration in sculpture. Smith opened her own studio, Charlotte Smith Studios, in December 2014. The studio is based out of Atlanta, Georgia because Smith said it was the closest big city, and she felt like there was more opportunity there. Smith also says the galleries and growing art community swayed her towards Atlanta. 

One standout from the Function side of the exhibit was the display of “spice sets” lining the wall. These objects look strange from a normal perspective, but it all ties into the function aesthetic of the exhibit. Smith designed these sculptures to be a spice set, or something to keep your salt, pepper, etc. in. The spice sets are functional whilst being something completely new and creative. 

“It’s really cool to see something that can exist on your table in your home also being displayed on a white wall,” Smith said.

The idea for the Function exhibit came from Smith’s profession in Atlanta, where she makes functional ceramics for her clients. Her personal work mostly consists of creating ceramic cups that she sells online. The exhibit serves as an extension of the work she’s doing in Atlanta and gives a sample of the different types of sculpture she creates.

Savannah Alley, a senior art major at MSU and gallery assistant at the Visual Arts Center said it was interesting to see everyday objects be used as artwork. 

“I really like it because it’s [the exhibit] Function and Structure and everyday objects that we get to use but it’s cool to see it as artwork.”

The idea for the Surface/Function exhibit came from these three artists branching off and creating their own successful businesses out of college. Qarqish and Smith met in sixth grade. Welch and Smith met in the sculpture department at MSU, and the three have all made a name for themselves in their respective fields.

“It’s possible. You can get out of school and you can start your own business and be successful with an art degree because I think most people assume that maybe that’s something not so viable,” Smith said.

The Surface/Function exhibit is available to the public until Oct. 6.

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