Senior Spotlight: Brokenness and Beauty in Art

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First in a weekly series of BJU senior profiles. Students were recommended by academic deans or department chairs.

Bryn Reagan’s art adventure started by drawing on her mom’s walls as a child. Thanks to high school classes and art camps, she decided to pursue an education in studio art at BJU.

Knowledge gained through classes and the courage she slowly learned allowed Reagan to see and portray beauty in her own brokenness.

Beautiful Pain

Reagan’s art is influenced by her childhood hardships. She was born with a malrotation of her internal organs. After her diagnosis at the age of 4, she spent many days in and out of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, for multiple tests, ultrasounds and surgeries.

“Out of that painful experience, (I) and my family were shown God’s grace through friends, family and the medical staff that helped save my life,” said Reagan. It wasn’t until her time at BJU that she dealt with lingering emotions. She created a picture book titled Hospital Memories to capture her grief. “Creating the book provided me with a way to heal and face parts of that experience that I had not dealt with before now,” she said.

Creative Decision

Unlike her younger mural-painting self, teenage Reagan took her art seriously. Her high school art teacher showed her the validity of a career in studio art and the many available options. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” she said. The techniques and skills learned from studio art would be the springboard to her future.

While looking for a college, Reagan admired the strong Christian ethics and art program at BJU. The knowledge she gained from BJU’s art EDUcamps convinced her to choose the University. “At the art camps, I was able to interact with the faculty and get acquainted with the art program. If I had not gone and had that wonderful experience as a camper, I probably would not have chosen this school,” she said.

See Also: Art Camp Impacts Student for Eternity

Strong Influences

After arriving at the University, Reagan felt challenged by her major. “I knew coming into the program that it was going to take a lot of hard work and time management, and the program exceeded that expectation,” she said. The hours of work in different mediums and the project deadlines instilled in her the importance of hard work and professionalism. Jay Bopp, chair of the division of Art and Design, said Reagan has a great work ethic. “She works hard when creativity or talent are ebbing, and that is the number one characteristic that propels visual artists to be great,” said Bopp.

Reagan is grateful for the groundwork laid by the studio art foundation courses and directed studies. Each foundation course, from design to color theory, “was the stepping stone to prepare me for the knowledge I would need in all the courses that I would take.” Directed studies, taught during senior year, gave her a space to research and create her own projects under faculty supervision. Reagan still consults textbooks and notes from these past courses to aid her in her current work.

The influence of the arts faculty had an equal impact on Reagan’s work. Michelle Radford pushed her to vulnerability in art. Jonathan Andrews encouraged her to try different techniques, like collage and mixed media, which are prominent in her current work. “The art faculty are hands down the best, and I’m going to miss being one of their students,” she said.

Vulnerable Voices

The lessons of vulnerability and art experimentation Reagan received from her teachers led not only to pieces like Hospital Memories but to the foundation of her senior art exhibition titled Voices.

During a ceramics class, she discovered Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with liquid gold or silver. This art form serves as a metaphor for disruption and regeneration, which resonated with Reagan. “Bryn enjoyed working through the process of creating visual representations of these concepts,” said Andrews, “drawing on personal experience and knowledge to create a body of work that ultimately could encourage those facing similar circumstances.” The mixed-media with which she experimented in the picture book led to worn down pieces stitched back together in the style of Kintsugi.

Reagan wants her pieces to bring reflection on the pain and brokenness that has seeped into the world because of the fall of mankind. “I believe that in this brokenness we can choose to see the healing that will come, how we will grow, and the hope of learning something new about ourselves, others and our God,” she explained. “There is beauty bursting through the cracks of our sorrow and pain.”

After finishing her last semester, Reagan looks forward to a gap year of working and applying to graduate school. As she thinks of the future, she hopes to continue creating the community and discipleship opportunities that she had during college. Thanks to her years at the University, Reagan “learned that I have been called to many different vocations, being an artist is just one.”