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Art & Art History
University of Mississippi

Q&A with BFA Ceramics student Rosa Salas

Introduce yourself. Where are you from?
My name is Rosa Salas and I’m from Venezuela born and raised. I’m a Ceramics BFA student here at Ole Miss and I’ll be graduating in May of this year (2020).

What attracted you to the University of Mississippi?
The art department is a small and close community where you get to build relationships with professional artists who are also teachers. You get to know other art students who are developing in the same or different art mediums, and there are many visiting artists who come to UM, and you get to know them, too. There are also opportunities to show your work. The Department of Art and Art History has a Holiday Art Gala and a Student Summer Exhibition, you can submit work to the Mississippi Collegiate Art Competition, and there are various art exhibitions and a couple art festivals in the Oxford Area throughout the year.

Why did you decide to major in art?
I always loved art but I never had a chance to have a proper art education until I came to college. I decided to major in art because I went to a science high school, and I was never able to use that visually creative side of me in an academic setting. I’m studying for a BFA and specializing in ceramics.

What made you pick the area of concentration you’re currently studying?
Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about doing anything else, other than graduating with my BA. I realized I enjoyed ceramics and it took the advanced class a couple times before I applied to the BFA program.

What type of artist do you consider yourself?
I think I’m more of an abstract, expressionistic, and eccentric type of artist.

Have you done any internships or other activities related to art?
I was an Education Intern at the University Museum and taught after-school art lessons for 4 years. I participated in many wood kilns with my classmates and professors, went to multiple galleries, and conventions.

I also traveled with my classmates to cities where we would attend different art receptions and meet awesome artists. My favorite trip was when we went to Pittsburgh for the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) Conference and we met professional artists, ate amazing food, and went to different art galleries and demonstrations.

Have you attended any conferences with your student organization?
I’ve been to two NCECA conferences. The first one I attended was in Pittsburgh, PA in 2018 and the second one was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota last year. I really like the atmosphere of the ceramics community and everyone is very encouraging. That was also a deciding factor to apply for the BFA.

What artists or type of art inspires you?
I would say everyone in this studio, past and present, has influenced me greatly. I enjoy looking at history: I love Japanese prints, Mayan ceramics, Ancient Hindu architecture. I look up to artists in different mediums such as Elizabeth Murray. There are so many ceramic artists I can’t even begin to name them all. Chandra DeDuse, Betty Woodman and Cheyenne Rudolph are really awesome. I look up to a lot of female artists.

Which professors mentored/inspired you the most?
Matt Long is my area head and he is constantly giving me feedback. Outside of ceramics it would have to be Philip Jackson and Kris Belden-Adams. I really enjoyed painting with Jackson. I learned a lot about color and he introduced me to painters like Elizabeth Murray. She has really influenced my work lately.

What was your favorite class(s)?
I really liked Plein Air with Jackson over the summer and Art Now with Kris Belden-Adams.

What is your process for creating a piece in ceramics?
It’s changed a lot over the years. For my thesis, I’ve been sketching the pieces I want to make days before I start building. My thought process is picking a certain food or drink and focusing on creating a specific set for it. My last set was a cocoa set for hot chocolate. What do you need when you are going to make hot chocolate? You need your cocoa powder, marshmallows, cups, and a pouring vessel. Then I think about the presentation, composition, and how the way in which each piece looks and feels could enhance the experience of sharing a meal and drink with others.

How many sets are you making for your thesis?
Right now, I have three that are almost done. They need to be glazed and fired. I’m in the process of making a sushi set and I’m currently sketching out a sake set. So right now, I’m looking at five sets. Depending on the size of each set and how they look next to each other, I might include smaller sets on the show.

Could you describe any good experiences here in the department?
There are so many! I can’t choose one! I really like our receptions. It’s nice to be with your friends and see classmates who have recently graduated. We all gather around, look at art, and eat good food! Our reception for Plein Air was really fun, they had wine and cheese! It’s the little moments with all the other people in the building that make Meek Hall a special place to me.

What does the Department of Art & Art History mean to you?
I came here when I was nineteen and now I’m twenty-three, it’s been all of my young adult life. I’ve definitely grown a lot and I’ve learned everything I know about art from this department. I came in with no background in art other than the appreciation for it.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will be a Spanish Teacher in Meridian, MS while completing a Masters in the Art of Teaching. I will have a home studio and keep working on my craft to build up my portfolio. I’d like to go to graduate school after teaching for a few years and get my MFA in Ceramics.

Is there any advice you would like to give to incoming art students?
I wouldn’t put unnecessary pressure into creating perfect artwork. I think it’s easy for artists to expect too much of ourselves at times that our skills are not on par with what we expect our work to be. I think art making is a journey with ups and downs: even for the best artists there is struggle and doubt. There are times when we make really ugly stuff, but we must learn from experience and reflection. Make sure to put time in all your other classes and don’t take them for granted. You’ll make great friends in your classes and learn other design elements that will help you in your area of emphasis.

Can we find you/your work on social media?
I post pictures of my work on my Instagram @rosasalasg

What are you listening to right now?
Rihanna. She’s my number one, forever.

Are you binge watching anything at the moment?
I just finished BoJack Horseman, but before I was watching Atlanta.

What is your favorite Oxford spot to hang out?
The Blind Pig is one of my favorite ones. Especially when they have Trivia Night and french fries.

What’s your go-to restaurant in Oxford?
Taco Shop, always.

What is your favorite time of year in Oxford?
Summer, because I love the weather and there is nobody in town. I feel like it’s my city. There are no lines for food and you can go to the pool when it’s not crowded.

Are you going to be participating in Double Decker this year?
Yes, of course! See you at Double Decker!

Interviewer: Frank Estrada | Photographer: Olivia Whittington