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MUM BFA graduate Alexandra “Alex” Gabriel has come full circle in a journey she shares with me at Revelations, one of her favorite meeting places in Fairfield.

Alex tells me she began her BFA at another university but “couldn’t get into the flow at art school. I was just going through the motions.” During a 2012 Visitors’ Weekend at MUM, something clicked. Alex enrolled in MUM’s Sustainable Living program, changing tracks to explore her interest in environmental science.

alexgabrielLater the same year, a class with Art Department professor Gyan Shrosbree shifted her trajectory again. “I realized I did want to do art,” she said, “Gyan was the first professor where I experienced more to the student teacher dynamic. She really personally cares, there’s more connection. Gyan nurtures and challenges me, which is an amazing thing to have in a professor. It means I’m taking risks in a safe environment.”

Alex goes on to explain how this is expressed in class. “It’s not just techniques,” she says, “but questioning what you’re doing and why are you doing it this way, looking at habits and trying something new. It’s about finding my own voice. Self-definition is important to me. Art interacts with its own history, so how do I connect with artists, how am I joining the conversation?”

I ask Alex about the textile elements in her work, and she surprises me when she says that at one point, someone once warned her to avoid being labeled a textile artist.

“I have an aversion to being pigeonholed” Alex says, “but not to being called a textile artist. Fine art is about the artist’s experience and making something with it. It’s a hard distinction with me. For example, my mother didn’t finish an art degree, but is gifted working in crafts. My aunt has a MFA. I find a difference there that’s inexpressible.”

Alex complete her BFA last spring, then added a fall 2015 semester of Graduate School Prep. ‘Prep’ is a new track offered to BFA students in order to continue studio work while preparing grad school applications with the support of MUM Art Department faculty.

‘Prep’ includes guidance in choosing a school, help in interview techniques, and photos of an applicants’ work, creating an even closer mentor relationship with Art Department professors. “It’s terrifying to apply to grad school,” says Alex. “Gyan and Jim (Shrosbree) walked me through it.” The Graduate School Prep semester has really paid off for Alex – she recently received an offer of a full tuition scholarship from an East Coast grad school.

Alex’s describes her current large-scale work as ‘constructions’ that consider paintings as objects or entities in and of themselves with a history that can be unfolded. Alex explains that her newer works are “pieces worked individually, then collaged together and reworked as a whole where repetition, layering, moving parts, and raw edges are important. For example, my large-scale constructions are related to my “Dreamscape” diptychs that show a more grounded or traditional view of the world.”

What’s next for Alex? “Grad school and another two years of not having to worry about the outside world,” she says, “It’s my chance to build a network of artists and contacts in a setting where everyone around me is serious and focused on art. It’s a gift of time to bring my work to the next level.”

Alex’s Gabriel’s latest work is on display in the lobby of the MUM Art Center through March 2016.

Mo Ellis is inspired by art, issues, and progressive ideas. Mo Ellis’ online and print contributions as a writer, editor, website & mobile app project manager, PR and online media director 
have appeared at: "O" magazine, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Des Moines Register, Surface Design Journal, The Iowa Source, KRUU-FM, Iowa Public Radio, Dr. Mercola and Dr. Oz.


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