Kelly Xi ’17 explores violence and sexuality in today’s society in 4-D visual art thesis

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Students passing by on Thursday nights around 8 p.m. may notice a creative art projection on the side of the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts building. Kelly Xi ’17 is a Union College senior who sits outside the building once a week to exhibit a sample of her thesis.

Xi is a biology and visual arts interdepartmental major. She is doing her thesis on projection mapping. This gives her the opportunity to design and project cinema 4-D laser cut objects, which are sculpturally built, in real life as projection surfaces of visuals she created. The theme for her thesis is the sexuality behind gun violence. When asked why she chose this theme she responded by describing how the Orlando shooting played a major role in her choice because the event was an intersection of many important and relevant issues. Such issues include domestic violence, sexual assault, race relations and homophobia. Xi states, “Art is a necessary medium that allows us to express our voice … I have an obligation to bring attention to these social issues through my art.”

However, Xi’s interests did not always lie in visual arts – she started off in the LIM program. She hoped to study biology for a while but ended up exploring Union’s artistic course offerings, where she discovered her passion for visual arts. This discovery started when she decided to take an art class her junior year. She explains, “I never thought I would aspire to be an artist. I took my first digital arts class with Prof. Fernando last year and that caused me to finally declare as an art major in my senior year.”

This year Kelly took her first life drawing class and was asked to do a hand and feet study for a homework assignment. That same weekend, Donald Trump’s voice transcript came out, in which he openly spoke about groping and sexually assaulting women. Many dismissed this misogynistic talk claiming it was just locker room banter. However, Xi became very frustrated with this and decided to dedicate this particular project to bring attention to this issue. She expressed, “I thought it was really significant for me because there is so little art being made that encourages women to take ownership of their own sexuality so that they don’t look at themselves as just objects of male desire.” This drawing class has allowed Xi to channel her emotions about issues that are important to her into her art.

Additionally, she encourages students to try to put themselves out there and take advantage of Union’s curriculum. When talking about this, Xi has some advice for students. She states, “Try to channel your emotional energy into something creative. I think that for a lot of people, you either create or perish. You have to keep moving forward. Whatever happens in your life just try to channel it towards something positive or creative.” In the future, Xi wants to continue making pieces of art that emotionally resonate with others even though she wants to make a transition towards being a DJ. She already earned her first gig in Manhattan’s Lower East Side where she will start her journey after Union. Hopefully, Xi can use her experience with creative projection from the visual arts department here at Union to be successful in the music industry where she can make visual mixes as a combination of her two passions: art and music.

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