Freeman is the only student artist in residence
The Santa Clara
February 1, 2018
Trashy is the new classy, according to senior Ciaran Freeman.
As a student artist, Freeman spent the last five months working at the Artist in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco, a company dedicated to landfill diversion and sustainability.
He was the only student artist of the residency, which concluded with a solo exhibition last weekend and this Tuesday based on his creations primarily made with items found in the dump.
“I find (art) more fulfilling (than other subjects) because that was all me, that was my creation,” Freeman said.
Freeman’s fascination with art was encouraged by his teachers in high school. For Freeman, art is challenging and personally satisfying.
“I like art because there’s no answer that you can look up in a book,” Freeman said. “I feel with a lot of other subjects if you just do the reading, then you can pass the test.” said Freeman. “With art you have to make the answers yourself. The answers are there, you just have to find them.”
Freeman recognizes people’s tendency to idealize art as an activity for leisure.
The process of art-making, according to Freeman, is time-consuming and arduous.
“Try sitting behind that easel for six hours straight with the paint fumes and it’s still not working and tell me how relaxed you are,” Freeman chuckled. “I think it can be stressful.”
Freeman explained that not only does the piece need to be exceptional, presentation of the work matters.
This includes photographing pieces, creating a portfolio and explaining your piece to others.
Inspired by his experience working with his father’s small construction company, Freeman’s exhibit, “Lineal,” focuses on his identity as the son of an Irish-American immigrant. His pieces explore Irish diaspora, class, labor, masculinity and gender through sculptures, collages and paintings.
Aligned with his focus on manual labor, Freeman integrated blueprint paper, steel and other construction materials from the dump to craft his pieces.
Though conscious of environmental sustainability, Freeman explains that the residency offered him access to materials for a subject matter he was already invested in.
“I wasn’t necessarily looking at making art that’s environmentally focused or political. I’m not making art about trash. I’m making art that I would’ve been making earlier. The residency) offers me materials that related to my subject matter,” Freeman said.
Last winter break, Freeman led an immersion trip to Guayaquil, Ecuador, through the Ignatian Center.
There he listened to the stories of marginalized persons, an experience he found to be transformative.
During the trip, Freeman crafted minimalist collages as a daily reflective practice.
Through this routine, Freeman said he felt in tune with his spirituality.
His minimalist collages inspired Freeman to integrate abstraction and lines into his body of work.
Freeman explains that Irish diaspora relates to the cyclical rather than a linear way of thinking.
His art career is impressive thus far.
He is a former Jean Donovan fellow to the Commonwealth Magazine, a contributing artist to the Children’s Discovery in San Jose and the founder and president of Santa Clara’s Student Art League.
Despite his successes, Freeman has faced criticism as a student artist. He shares that some people dismiss his passion as impractical or self-indulging.
“There’s so many times where people ask why (I) study art. There’s no job in that, it’s a foolish thing or even some sort of self-guilt. Are you even helping the world? Are you doing something that’s important?” Freeman said.
Freeman shares that he pursues art because it is integral to his identity. He admits that he appreciates affirmation of his work.
“It’s not a choice, it’s what (I) have to do. That’s really what I want to be told, to keep doing this because this is who (I) am and what (I) have to be doing, ” Freeman said.
After graduation, Freeman plans to further his art career at the graduate level.
His plans for the upcoming year are unclear but Freeman remains optimistic. He plans to use the body of work from “Lineal” to apply to graduate school.
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