‘Fragility & Endurance’ exhibit features graduate students’ work

Blanca Yanneth Davila. "Diez Mil Voces" 2019 - 2022, Installation: Pit-fired ceramic, dirt, and tumbleweeds. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

Fresno State’s Phebe Conley Gallery opened the M.A. in art graduate project exhibition, “Fragility & Endurance,” on Feb. 24, which will be available to visit through March 17.

The exhibit displayed 2D art and ceramics from graduate students Shara Mercado Poole and Blanca Yanneth Davila. Davila and Poole said the creative freedom allowed them to express their subconscious feelings about society and past experiences of growing up undocumented.

“If I feel a compulsion to make something, I make it, and what I start to see as I work is patterns emerge,” Poole said.

She said she hopes to “create a chaotic, claustrophobic and fragmented space that evokes feelings of both the passing and collapsing of time” through layering and color tension.

“Photon Baptism” 2021, Acrylic, oil, and collage on canvas, 67 x 67 in. This piece by Shara Mercado Poole is one of the first seen in the Phebe Conley Art Gallery for the “Fragility & Endurance” exhibition. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

Poole gained inspiration from discussions about aging, anxiety and time, emphasizing it in works like “Photo Baptism.”

“The way the colors are functioning and the way the alternating depth and flatness is functioning, I feel is starting to tell a little bit more of my story,” Poole said.

Shara Mercado Poole. “Preservatives” 2021, mixed media on toned paper. 22 x 30 in. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

She said that being a part of a generation that lived through major events such as 9/11, the housing bubble burst and the economic collapse, as well as her own personal coming of age story, served as inspiration for her art’s narrative. This is what makes Poole’s art relevant and comprehensible specifically to millennials and the disenchanted, the artist said.

Numerous works by Shara Mercado Poole in the Phebe Conley Art Gallery for the “Fragility & Endurance” exhibition. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

Davila’s art consisted of multiple pieces, including 10,000 ceramic pinch pots to commemorate the lives lost attempting to cross the Mexican border. 

Davila said she decided to use her work to honor those who lost their lives trying to give their families the American dream because of the efforts her parents made to bring her to America when she was a child.

“I created [this piece] to honor [the lives lost]. Just to make them a part of everybody’s life. Like you walk in there and you realize it’s 10,000 people that could have been here,” Davila said.

The ritual of making the pinch pots out of clay, using only her hands as tools, allowed Davila to deepen her connection with each individual person who passed, according to her artist statement. 

The process of making the pots brought her “back to her roots,” Davila said. It included waking up each morning to start the fire for the pots and continue to layer it with wood for five to six hours after to be able to start a process she described as “physical and intense.”

Davila said her motivation for waking up each morning and reaching her goal of 10,000 pinch pots came from her desire to honor those who died crossing the border.

“They also had dreams and desires and aspirations, and they just couldn’t fulfill them…Their journey ended there while they were trying to cross, so it was like, I’m here to make the most of it,” Davila said.

Students, staff and community members can visit Poole and Davila’s art through March 17 in the Phebe Conley Gallery on campus. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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