Original post from Southern Miss Now. Courtesy of David Tisdale.
From a young girl doodling on her notepad to shaping steel as an art student at The University of Southern Mississippi, Kelsey Wishik has engaged in creative action as long as she can remember.
That creative action earned Wishik, a multimedia artist from Ocean Springs, Miss. a prominent place in the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) fifth installment of its exhibition series, titled “Heavy Metal – Women to Watch 2018” after being chosen by a national jury to be the state’s representative for the event.
According to a news release from the NMWA, “Heavy Metal – Women to Watch 2018,” set for June 28 – Sept. 16, will feature “contemporary artists working in metal to investigate the physical properties and expressive possibilities of metalwork through a wide variety of objects, including sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms.” The exhibit also “engages with the fluidity between ‘fine’ art, design, and craft categories, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.”
“Women to Watch” is presented every three years in a collaboration between the museum and its national and international outreach committees.
“I feel honored and humbled to be a part of this incredible showing,” said Wishik, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from USM in 2014. “It has added a lot of heat to a fire of inspiration already burning to keep creating, learning, and mastering my craft and skills, and reminds me that we are all ambassadors of culture, in a way.”
The exhibition provides Wishik the opportunity to show several of her pieces, alongside a published statement of her work. She will attend the opening reception to connect with other contributors and facilitators, and speak to an international forum the next day about her work and artistic vision.
“It’s a unique opportunity to share not only my academic studies and technical skills, but my insights, inspirations, passions, and hopes for future projects and potential collaborations,” Wishik said.
Reflecting on her still young career as an artist, Wishik looks back at her childhood doodling and the stories and songs she wrote that for her gave life a narrative quality, as the genesis for her success.
“Even as a kid, just walking around, I saw so many things speaking through life, through other people, and through nature,” Wishik said. “Some of these fascinations became content for early work, but it was when I discovered abstract art and surrealism around the age of 13 that I became deeply enamored with creating art, and experimenting with what I was capable of through poetry, art, and music.
“Creating art is how I process and revere my experience. Sometimes I apply it for the sake of sheer curiosity, because studying something brings you closer to understanding it. Other times, creation comes with the sense of purging, that I am letting something go, or even inviting something in.”
Wishik loves all the materials she works with in her art for different reasons, but is most enamored with the steel medium. “Something that seems so rigid, hard, and cold can actually yield to being shaped, changed, and warmed quite easily,” she said. “Working with steel is my humble study of this concept on a small scale. I enjoy being able to apply considerable force to something, and shape it with my intention as well. I get that out of the steel fabrication process.”
Wishik points to American sculptor and printmaker Lee Bontecou as a role model. “Her work is fantastic and otherworldly,” she said. “It shows great contemplative power and evidence of many years of immersion into her fascinations and self-education of those forms.”
After attending Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Wishik transferred to Southern Miss, where she received several scholarships that included the Fred A. Waits Scholarship; the Trustmark Bank Arts Scholarship; the Thelma Johnson Arts Scholarship; and the William Clark Art Scholarship.
Wishik said USM’s “incredible facilities, which offer a breadth of possibilities in many mediums” and proximity to home influenced her decision to choose the university.
“I’m proud of the work I did at USM in steel, because I really took the opportunity to immerse in the studio environment, and take advantage of the resources of both studio and creative community,” she said. “I was able to explore creative work processes in clay, metals, wood, fabric, foam, plaster, and many other materials. It helped me grow my skills quite quickly.”
Jennifer Torres, professor of art at USM and a mentor for Wilshik, said her former student is “exemplary, full of talent and intelligence.”
“What makes her exceptional is the way she attacks life as a whole, and explores the world without regard for boundaries or limitations that others might impose,” Torres said. “She is such a shining light and great example of what we wish for all our students to be, as well as a great ambassador for our program and the University as a whole.”
For Wishik, art isn’t contained on a canvas or in a studio – it’s everywhere. “The world is art. The world is in constant flux — a constant act of transformation and reflection of forces at work,” she said. “The word ‘art’ aside, we are creating at every moment. We can’t help it. We interact with our environment and impress upon it through our thoughts, actions, and speech.
“I think when the art process becomes true magic is when we invite it in intentionally. The process of creating can cultivate concentration, develop our emotions and empathy, and encourage abstract thought.”
Wishik’s advice to current and aspiring artists is to avoid artificial restrictions that suffocate creativity. “Focus your mind and intention where there is vastness, space to roam and imagine – do not waste your mind’s capacity on that which is decided for you without exploration or work, including unexplored limitations, doubts, or self-defeating mindsets,” she said. “These are some key truths I’ve found, and applicable in any setting.”
Learn more about and view Wishik’s work at www.worksbywish.com. For more information about the National Museum of Women in the Arts, visit https://nmwa.org.
For information about the USM Department of Art and Design, visit https://www.usm.edu/visual-arts.