Date of Award

Summer 8-2015

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author Department/Program

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Art

Degree Type




The two divergent paths of fine arts and psychological research come together to demonstrate how physical gesture and facial expression communicates significant meaning regarding human emotion and intention. The conceptual framework of these paintings arises from the artist’s engagement with peer-reviewed psychological studies on Affective Science. The paintings balance qualities of both emotional and intellectual thinking, with the goal of calling them forth in equal strength during the viewing experience. The symbolic and representational language of gesture is examined through the painting titled Precarious Extension. Dynamics of compassion and affect theory are analyzed through the painting Transmission of Affect.


English (en)

Program Director

Patricia Olynyk

Program Director's Department

Graduate School of Art

Committee Member

Buzz Spector

Committee Member

Buzz Spector

Committee Member

Tammy English

Committee Member

Monika Weiss

Artist's Statement


My figurative paintings are influenced by my deep interest in the gestural qualities of the body- how gestures communicate and how gestures are connected to language. I am also interested in maintaining an art practice that reflects psychological research, therefore part of my studio practice involves reading peer reviewed articles. The titles are often quirky such as “Angry, Disgusted, or Afraid? Studies on the Malleability of Emotion Perception,” or “Mood-Specific Effects on Appraisal and Emotion Judgements.” The experiments often use photographs of people in different poses to test for various dynamics.

These test images inform how I present figures in my paintings. I arrange variables, adding or subtracting specific elements to develop a unified version of my own visual experiment. For example, I work with multiple figures in a similar pose, I work with a gray scale palette, I show the entire figure un-cropped and I choose people from different age groups and ethnicities. In the new series entitled Precarious Extension I, II, & III, the stabilizing counterbalance that allowed the individual to bend over and reach below their crouched body without falling is not depicted. This void allows the posture of the body to absorb full attention from the viewer without distraction. The gestural quality of the body is distinct allowing a dialog to be formed between language, science and image.


This project stems from my interest in charts and diagrams and how they could symbolize the thought processes of the brain. Typically a chart is filled with words or statistics that help the user understand and visualize complex topics. By removing the words from existing charts, attention is brought to the patterns used to put ideas into order. These patterns could represent thought organization each unique to the individual creating them. The varying sizes of the same chart within an image point to how complex the thinking, of an individual brain, becomes over time.

In a research study by Dr. Renee Thompson and Dr. Matthew Boden entitled, Facets of Emotional Awareness, a chart was created to demonstrate the complex results connecting depression to emotional regulation and emotional awareness. Charts can have an aesthetic quality often overlooked. When the design structure of a chart is combined with materials found in the visual arts, new perspectives on how the brain organizes information can be imagined and appreciated.

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