the girl for: BFA Thesis Exhibition Review
By Michael Turle
the girl for is a stunning collection of work that represents the BFA Thesis of Kent State Senior Zakiya Erby. Made up of five separate pieces of intricate multi-media art, the collection deals with themes of gender, sex, identity, body image, and much, much more.
Utilizing a wide range of colors from soft blues and purples to striking pinks and yellows, Erby creates works of art that deal in both the abstract and the all-too-real. Her work dwells in an interesting realm that invokes both the nostalgia we have for adolescence and the pain and discomfort that growing up actually entails — the acne, the body dysmorphia, the struggles we have with identity; all of these themes and more feature prominently in Erby’s showcase.
The human form also plays a major role in her art, with more than half the works using the body as their subject while the other parts of the collection incorporate humanness in subtler ways— an outstretched hand in the sky, the sleeping form of a girl on the breeze, etc.
Erby herself states that femininity and the ways women and their bodies are treated in society has been a major source of inspiration for her and her work: “The growth of any woman in our world is stunted by the inert pressure of enacting a performance. When other disenfranchisements are added, such as being black and queer, the restriction becomes tighter.”
Erby intends for her portfolio to serve as a testament of her experience of the world and a vote of confidence for all those who struggle similarly never to give up or give in.
Another interesting creative decision Erby makes in her showcase is the repeated use of glitter throughout many of her pieces. She criticizes the ways that glitter is most often used in media, and intends for her usage of it to serve “as an enigmatic moment in time. I wanted to subvert the typical usage of glitter as a kitsch, catch-your-attention gimmick for girly consumerist products.” In this way, Erby’s work explores the ways femininity is commodified, as well the ways that consumerism informs (and corrupts) expressions of feminine identity. This gels very nicely with her use of the human form, creating a sharp and striking contrast between society’s ideas of women and the ways women actually exist.
Her work also utilizes natural scenes and forms — branches of trees, distant mountains, bends along bolts of lightning — juxtaposed or in complement with these perspectives on humanness. This creates a sense of coexistence with the world around us, or, depending on the piece and one’s own imagination, an intensely poignant disconnect between the world and our place in it — perhaps questioning even our ability to belong in the first place.
If you should find yourself feeling, like many of us often do, depressed, dejected, or unseen (or even seen in ways that you’re not sure you want to be), or, if you should find yourself strolling by the Center for Visual Arts, we here at Luna Negra highly recommend having a look at the girl for by artist Zakiya Erby. Its obvious skill and cleverness could carry the exhibit themselves, but when combined with the powerful themes that underscore the work, Zakiya Erby’s the girl for is a showcase worth admiring.