On Purpose: Portrait of Art

To commemorate our 150th anniversary in 2018, the College of Liberal Arts commissioned 60 photographs taken by Xavier Tavera. Departments and programs partnered with Tavera to envision their images and to write the narratives that accompany each photograph. View On Purpose: Portrait of the Liberal Arts.

A student stands in the foundry.

My name is Prerna. I live in Minneapolis, and I’m from Mumbai, India. I am a senior in my final year of the BFA program in art.

The art department is a place where I can explore and learn so many fascinating things. I’ve taken a wide range of classes, from photography to metal casting, printmaking to super 8. The exposure to different mediums helps me approach my practice interdisciplinarily. The fluidity between media is really important. 

I use drywall as a material in a lot of my work, printing and projecting onto it, and that started off in a photo class. There was a moment in that class when I realized that it doesn’t have to be about the photo, it can not be a photo and that’s okay.

Being new in this country pushed me to find a community and learn where I would fit in. Foundry and working in the Katherine E. Nash Gallery gave me just that. I signed up for a foundry class without knowing much about what that meant. I had no idea I’d be pouring molten metal into sand molds or how much learning and selflessness that involves. Anytime someone is making a mold, everybody asks “Do you need help mixing sand?” It’s not a one-person job; it’s a communal process. Someone turns the ladle, someone supports the live end, and someone skims the slag out while you carefully and precisely pour the metal into a mold, which becomes the piece. It’s really fun because it takes a village to make it work. We constantly rotate the pour team and then there are people that just focus on taking care of the furnace. Constantly preparing the furnace, shoveling fresh dirt and moving finished pieces out of the way—it involves a lot of organizing, but there’s always help navigating the process.

As I look back on my time at the U, I want to say thank you to the many professors, staff members, and fellow students who have helped me find myself as an artist, pushed me to grow, and also made me feel comfortable in being myself and learning what is meant for me. Nothing is more liberating than knowing that you can do what you want. And if you set your mind to it you’re going to be able to do it. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned here—to have faith in myself and let other people have faith in me.

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