MSU seniors present ‘Contact F18: BFA Photography Thesis Exhibition’

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

“Auto,” an archival inkjet print by Mississippi State art major Chaka Watkins, is part of a photography series that documents the working lives of owners and employees of small businesses in Mississippi. Watkins is one of six graduating seniors whose work is featured Nov. 15-29 in the university’s “Contact F18: BFA Photography Thesis Exhibition.” (Photo submitted/by Chaka Watkins)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Six Mississippi State students completing four years of intense study in the Magnolia State’s largest undergraduate studio art program are showcasing their photography portfolios in a special exhibition this month.

On display Nov. 15-29 at the MSU Welcome Center, the “Contact F18: BFA Photography Thesis Exhibition” features works by Department of Art students Jeffery B. Daniel II of Olive Branch; Robert Lewis of Hattiesburg; Latrice Scott of Pearl; Darby Taylor of Brandon; Chaka Watkins of Leland; and Sanessa Wright of Verona.

Along with viewing the exhibition 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday, members of the campus and local communities are invited to two free events made possible by MSU’s Department of Art and the Center for Student Activities.

On Nov. 15 at 3:30 p.m. in Giles Hall’s Harrison Auditorium, photography student Jeffery B. Daniel II is premiering a film he created. Parents and guardians are being advised that the film contains strong language and may not be suitable for younger audiences.

Following the film viewing, a reception in the student exhibitors’ honor takes place from 4:30-6 p.m. at the Cullis Wade Depot located in the MSU Welcome Center at 75 B.S. Hood Drive near Davis Wade Stadium. Refreshments will be available.

“Contact F18” reflects the students’ successful conclusion of departmental research, writing and presentation requirements, as well as four years of foundational coursework, survey, art history, and academic and emphasis classes. Students have been instructed and mentored by MSU Professors Marita Gootee and Dominic Lippillo. Both teach in the art department, where Gootee also serves as area coordinator of the photography concentration.

Through his body of work, Daniel uses videography to translate and evoke emotion in telling the story of Quintarus Robinson, also known as SQ Lac, an up-and-coming rapper from Itta Bena. A song of SQ Lac’s has more than half a million streams on digital mixtape platforms, more than 350,000 views on YouTube, and has earned multiple hip-hop awards in Mississippi.

“The contrast between the good times and tough times within the documentary helps reinforce the idea that though there may be rough patches, life gets better,” Daniel said. “SQ Lac’s career didn’t start out perfect, but with consistency and hard work, he has produced phenomenal results.”

Lewis said his body of work, “Mark the Man,” is a study of humans’ use of land and other valuable resources. He used modern devices to show landscape from an aerial perspective and attempted to achieve a traditional compositional aesthetic.

“I am interested in how we use our land and what man can achieve and destroy in the same stroke,” Lewis said. “As someone who has an interest in nature and wildlife, I think man’s impact can significantly change the landscape and the patterns and behaviors of the inhabitants.”

Scott’s body of work, “Colorism,” focuses on how different variations of skin tones create division among members of the African American community.

“I captured the essence of each model’s natural beauty, confidence and their self-love to show embracement for being their skin tone,” Scott said. “I collected pixels from their photographs to show that everyone is made up of multiple skin shades and that society should accept people for who and what color they are because beauty comes from within.”

The body of work “A Stitch in Time” represents Taylor’s study of memory and its relationship to location. By stitching together found imagery, Taylor highlighted a sentimental aspect with the location and the person in the original image. She combined the person’s memory with the location to signify the importance that each location has to the individual.

“People are proven to tie their memories to the locations in which they occurred,” Taylor said. “I chose to develop this concept for my thesis project because I have always been intrigued by people and memory. I saw this as a way to merge the two things that interest me most about photography into one body of work.”

Watkins was inspired to create a series of photographs showcasing the dedication and hard work of owners and employees of small businesses in Mississippi. The result is her body of work, “Along the Way.”

“I want the audience to feel a sense of connection to the community, the businesses, and the people in the photographs,” Watkins said.

In creating her photography series “The Seeds You Sow,” Wright seeks to portray the unseen trauma many people carry with them every day as a result of negative interactions, including toxic relationships.

“I am using this series to highlight the universal qualities of toxicity that may be overlooked because the behavior is coming from a place of power or loved ones,” Wright said. “Altering the subject in the photograph to illustrate the effects of mental trauma, I repurpose the old image into a new image that tells a different story than before.”

For more information on “Contact F18,” visit or contact Lori Neuenfeldt, MSU art instructor and gallery director, at 662-325-2970 or

Part of MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design, the Department of Art is online at, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @CAADatMSU.

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Friday, November 9, 2018 - 2:12 pm