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When Bailey Hopkins found out all three of her art pieces were accepted into a prestigious exhibit, she immediately ran to her art history professor’s office to share the news.

The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph, Missouri, was made to showcase art student’s work from across the country. Students were allowed to enter up to three pieces for a chance to show. There were 125 entries and 40 were chosen.

Of the 40 entries this year, art education major Bailey Hopkins had all three of her sculptures chosen. Hopkins made her pieces in her sculpting class, each having their own challenges. She said she was surprised that all three of her sculptures made it.

“I had never applied to an art show before,” Hopkins said, “So I was kind of like, telling myself I wasn’t going to get in so that I wouldn’t get my hopes up.”

Hopkins said that morning she checked her email right after she got out of class. She stopped in her tracks after she read all three of her pieces made it into the art show. She read it over and over again making sure it was right. That’s when she ran to Karen Britt’s office, assistant professor of art history.

“I was really delighted for her,” Britt said, “Her work is really strong.”

Britt said the fact that the jurors chose all three of her pieces to show in the exhibit shows how strong of an artist she is.

The exhibit scheduled its third annual Undergraduate Juried Exhibition in early June, but it has since been moved online due to COVID-19 regulations. The three sculptures that Hopkins entered are called Sinus Science, Vital and Light as a Feather.

Sinus Science was the first project she ever made in her sculpture class. The assignment was to make an everyday object out of plaster and incorporate a welded base of some kind. 

Hopkins said the base of this piece represents the nasal spray that she has had to use since she was in third grade. It depicts the image of the spray on a molecular level looking from a bird’s eye view. She then sculpted her nose and the spray bottle out of plaster. All together, the finished sculpture depicts a plaster nasal spray and nose sitting on top of a molecule that makes up the nasal spray.

“It was a fun way for me to take this thing that really has just been embarrassing and kind of a crutch almost in my life and turn it into something peculiar and interesting to look at,” Hopkins explained.

Hopkins said she was debating not entering Sinus Science because it was her first sculpture and it was an experimental piece to learn the basics; however, she changed her mind because she found out that she could enter up to three pieces and said she thought this would better her chances of getting at least one piece in.

The next piece that Hopkins entered was Vital. Vital depicts a skeleton torso with a heart hanging down the middle. The assignment for this entry was to create a piece based on two words. Hopkins' words were “real” and “important.”

“I chose to do a heart … and because one of my words was real, I’m like, ‘OK, let’s make this an anatomically correct heart,” Hopkins said as she explained her thought process. “The heart is also one of the most important organs in the body.”

Hopkins said this sculpture was difficult to do and required a big learning curve. She had limited welding experience and had to figure out how to make something that would support pure aluminum.

“I went from three octagon shapes to all of a sudden I wanted to make a free standing rib cage,” Hopkins said with a laugh, “It’s quite a jump when you’re not an experienced welder.”

Hopkins said this piece wasn’t completely done until nearly a month after the due date because she was trying to add a pelvis.

Once it was done, she gave this piece to her dad since he’s a chiropractor, and it now sits in his office in her Iowa home.

Hopkins’ final piece, Light as a Feather, resulted in the most creative difficulty for Hopkins. The assignment was to use light as the source.

Hopkins said her classmates asked her if she was going to create another body part for this final project, which she decided against to do something different. She explained that she was in three studio art classes at the time and she was completely drained of ideas until one night when her sister picked her up from the Olivia DeLuce Fine Arts Building.

“It was a really dark night; it was late,” Hopkins said, “And a flock of birds flew over the building and the way that the light hit them made them look like they were dark white against the black sky.”

At that moment, Hopkins said she started freaking out and rushed home in order to sketch this idea in her sketchbook.

This inspiration gave way to the final sculpture, a giant lantern that projects birds on the ceiling. It incorporates mosaic methods that she learned in Britt’s art history class and jewelry making methods that she learned in her jewelry and metals class.

“All of these influences just kind of struck me all at the right time,” Hopkins said. “I really can’t even explain how lucky I got that all of these ideas just kind of slowly started forming.”

Hopkins said throughout her time at Northwest, she has always tried to push herself to do something that nobody else has done. She enjoys challenging herself to try new techniques and combine everything that she’s learned.

Britt said this is a good skill for an art student to have.

“She sees connections between the material that she learns in her art history classes and the project that she’s working on in her studio classes,” Britt said, “She models a research based studio practice that I’m convinced is really important for students to have.”

Britt said that since hearing about Hopkins’ success, more students have come to her interested in entering their pieces in exhibits.

Britt shared some advice for art students interested in participating in an art competition like this one. 

“Spend as much time as you can … honing your practice and supplement that with engaged research,” Britt said.

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