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Provost’s office features student art

If blooming where you are planted was a literal possibility, Marissa Strickland’s art is the visual interpretation of what that process looks like. As the first Master of Fine Arts student to be featured in a new art gallery in the office of the senior vice president for academic affairs that will highlight the work of students and faculty, Strickland’s exhibit displays her views on the beauty of personal growth. Her paintings, “Moon Flower,” “Perspective,” and “Rebirth” will be showcased through the end of the semester in the provost’s office in the John R. Park building. To get to know her better, Strickland shared some thoughts about her creative process, what inspires her, and why she chose to study art at the U.

What brought you to the MFA program at the U?

I earned my bachelor of fine arts at Central Washington University, and I wanted to get out of my comfort zone by leaving the state, but not going to far. I wanted the inspiration of the landscape of Utah and to push my work further by having professors challenge me and ask me hard, important questions. I am excited to finish the MFA program this spring.

How do you visualize what you want to paint? 

I start out with an emotion, usually. With my work being about growth through discomfort, especially after moving here from Washington and not having anyone here in Salt Lake that I could lean on apart from myself, that was uncomfortable for me but I grew a lot and became self-reliant. I was thinking about internal pain and discomfort and how that is invisible to the outside eye, and I wanted to bring that to fruition on the flesh. I do a lot of research into the symbolism of plants.

Who are your favorite artists?

I have so many I have been looking at. Right now I’m looking at Sarah Lee, she does surreal landscape work, but I’m very interested in the ways she conveys emotion in a sense of atmosphere in her work through color and form. The other artist I always come back to is Frieda Kahlo and her ability through surrealism to share experiences in a direct way, but also in a way for others to relate with their own experiences and emotions to what she is presenting us.

Where is your favorite place to draw inspiration from the Utah landscape?

I spent a ton of time at Red Butte Garden, especially during the summer and spring. I would put my headphones on and sit on a bench and walk in circles in the gardens for hours by myself. I love watching the plants grow and every time I come back, it looks different. I also went down to Zion National Park and I was so blown away by how tiny the world can make us feel.

What is next for you after you graduate?

I’ll be an adjunct instructor here at the U, and I hope to pursue a career in painting and drawing full-time. Watching students learn to trust themselves has been incredible. There are a lot of important things that can be said through art that people might not be able to discuss without that opening that different imagery and subjects can allow in this conversation. Learning to trust ourselves, commenting on things we wouldn’t otherwise talk about, and self-expression are all very important things.