Known Unknown: BFA Thesis Exhibition Review

By Chad Troyer

Known Unknown is an installation by senior Sculpture student Kennedy Deen. The installation has one main sculpture that you can enter, called Glow Within. It also has two wall hangings, Dart in the Rain and Sea Nettle. Deen’s work really showcases her unique handling of materials, something that invites the viewer to investigate further. 

Deen’s work is based in abstraction, specifically to the abstraction of natural environments. She states that abstraction allows her to focus on the presence of the piece, without the distraction of symbolic meaning, meaning that might come from realism. I would argue this approach has well served her, focusing on using different materials artfully, she does not argue that felt could be moss, but only that it is reminiscent of the texture of moss. It allows the viewer to not get entangled in a debate on how it was done, but rather what it is doing in the piece. 

In Dart in the Rain, the felted panel “of moss” acts as the foil to the brilliant and glossy panels. The felt also has this beautiful painterly quality to it, due to Deen’s carding, blending, and dyeing of the wool. In the same wall hanging, Deen has treated a panel with resin, creating a dewey, raindrop appearance on the panel, enforcing more than just the idea of raindrops, but creating a movement in the piece. They create these tiny moments of reflection and refraction that a viewer can’t stop and investigate. 

Dart in the Rain

Felt, Resin, Acrylic on Wood Panel

Sea Nettle

Felt, Liquid Latex on Silk Organza,
Acrylic on Wood Panel

Sea Nettle hangs on the opposite wall, it is an ode to the Pacific’s Sea Nettle Jellyfish. The standout material for this piece is the silk organza that was painted with liquid latex, to create this drapey and skin like material. It really has this body about it, created mostly by the kind of reflection the surface gives off, highlighting every fold in the material. Sea Nettle also employs these seamlessly smooth gradients that drag the viewer’s eyes up from the skin-like-tentacles to the top of the composition where there is a felted panel. This felted panel is absolutely stunningly textural, having these almost bubbles in the felt. This felted panel is nearly the perfect compliment to its “sister” wall hanging with the resin droplets and the inclusion of the felt panel. 

The last piece in the exhibit is Glow Within, a large enter-able “cave.”  It stands in the center of the room and is a stark contrast to the white walls, being a matte black. The exterior has this unique kind of ribbed texture collumning to the top. The inside is white, but has a luminous blue tint. When you stand inside it, you really become immersed in the blue, and the LED light has a rather graphic kind of swirl. The interior is much smoother, and has these soft foam puffs that you are able to play with and squeeze. The overwhelming blue does really let you get lost into the sensation of being surrounded by blue. It doesn’t come off as claustrophobic, but it also doesn’t not come off as claustrophobic. 

Glow Within

Plaster, Wood, Canvas, Acrylic,
Liquid Polyurethane Flex Foam,
Polycarbonate Sheet, and LED Light

Glow Within is, I think, the weaker of the three pieces materially. In Sea Nettle and Dart in the Rain, Deen has a wonderful play and mastery over material, however in Glow Within, that play is gone. I really enjoy the way that Deen plays with materials, and makes them stand out on their own, but also with the other materials. I wonder how Glow Within could be improved with this toying that Deen has with materials. She has such a wonderful portfolio of them, like silk organza, liquid latex, felt, wood, resin, plaster, foam, paint, that it feels like a betrayal to not include all of them in Glow Within

Overall, I love the way that materiality is played with in Deen’s work. All the work is interactive, in a way that is not only touching of the materials, but plays with how the viewer views the work. I look forward to seeing where Deen’s work (and play) goes in the future. 

Leave a Reply