2023 Senior Art Exhibit Features Talented Clinton Student Among Trio of College Artists

April 16, 2023

Presbyterian College’s Senior Art Exhibition at Harper Gallery features the works of seniors Taylor Cunningham, Cydni Miller, and Matthew Duncan.

The exhibition is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday through April 22.

Inspired by black portraiture artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Cunningham’s exhibition section reflects her goals.

“My paintings combine expressive and realistic art forms to analyze the relationship between the human condition and expression, and evoke an emotional reaction from the viewer,” Cunningham wrote in her artist statement. “Like that of many other contemporary African American portrait artists, I seek to represent the history of issues like race, gender, and politics in a modern context and highlight how the evolution of these themes has impacted conventional ways of thinking related to the cultural identity of the black community today.”

Cunningham, an art major from Columbia with minors in art history and business administration, described her portraits.

“My current work is a series of portraits that highlight the obstacles that black people face in relation to their hair and how it is generally perceived by society,” she stated. “Black people are often told that their hair is unprofessional, unappealing, and unfit for popular media. It was my goal to bring attention to these notions in my work and provoke people to consider the role that they play in this conversation.”

After taking her first studio art class in high school, Cunningham became interested in art. Her passion for art led her to consider PC’s art program and a future career in graphic design.

“In the four years that I have been a part of the art department, I can easily say that I have grown in my confidence as an artist and as an individual,” Cunningham said. “My professors have given me the resources and opportunities to explore my interests, and have constantly uplifted and guided me towards my goals.”

For Miller, an art major and English minor from Houston, Tex., art helps her connect with others.

“I am an artist that enjoys painting the human figure in an expressive/impressionistic way,” Miller said in her artist statement. “I know, more or less, what this means to me, how the pictures make me feel, but I am curious as to what they provoke and evoke in others.”

Her artwork on display is inspired by feelings and emotions that she has experienced herself.

“All of them are stories about probably the most vulnerable sides of myself, whether it be the happiest parts of my existence to the most depressing sides,” Miller said. “When you walk into my gallery for this exhibit, on one half of the wall, it’s the more happier or lighthearted side of things or the happier aspects of life and emotions that people tend to feel, while the other half is the more depressing and dark side of things that I have experienced.

“I do this in hopes to connect with the viewer on a deeper level than a conversation would. I make my work not just to express myself, but to open the doors to the feelings that tend to make someone feel different, misunderstood, etc. are actually shared amongst one another more than we think.”

Miller has always been interested in art, inspired early on by anime, video games, and television. Upon transferring to PC, her advisor, Dr. Lynn Simpson, encouraged her to take her required general education art class.

“I literally was committed to the art program within three weeks of being in that class because I was like, you know what, this is something that I need to be doing,” Miller said. “There’s nothing else I can possibly be doing here besides this, and I have a feeling that I can make something out of this.”

Despite being from a major U.S. city, Miller feels comfortable in PC’s small campus environment. Her three years at PC have had a substantial impact on her life.

“PC’s art program added tools to my tool belt,” Miller said. “PC has changed me as a person entirely.”

In contrast to Cunningham and Miller, Duncan, a studio art major from Clinton, is primarily interested in digital media.

“Right now, I’m able to focus in on photo manipulation art or digital media,” he said. “I take stock images and ‘free for use’ images and compile them to make different scenarios. The type is usually surrealism. My inspiration really comes from seeing stuff on YouTube. I’ve watched people do their own sorts of photo composition. What they do kind of helps me figure out what to do.”

However, his work in the exhibition covers various art forms, from paintings and sculptures to digital art.

“My aim when creating these works is to give each a sense of mystery and wonder, while still having an element of symbolism or some sort of association or meaning. I want the viewer, when they’re looking at my pieces, to feel curious about what’s going on,” Duncan said in his artist statement. “After they take it all in, they can wonder about what it means, either finding deep conceptual messages or other metaphorical aspects depending on the work presented.”

Duncan began creating pixel art in 2016. But when he came to PC, he planned to major in chemistry, not art.

“I was actually not even going to be an art major to begin with. I came in as a chemistry major, but things happened during covid, and also, I just didn’t even get really interested in it, so I moved to the art program,” Duncan said. “The people there, Mark Anderson and Ralph Paquin, definitely helped me along on the path that I’m taking with digital media.”

Matthew Duncan of Clinton