Student artist designs starscapes and sea creatures

Ink bottles are strewn across shelves. From the ceiling dangles rows and rows of artwork patiently awaiting their completion, delicately hung by clothes pins. The view of the hills just beyond Walsh Hall can be admired from almost any angle through the windows lining the printmaking studio.

To some, the printmaking studio may seem like organized chaos, with large granite table slabs covering most of the area, papers and rollers covering most of the rest. To Devante Owens, this studio has become a familiar home over the past several months as he prepares for his upcoming B.F.A. exhibition on Oct. 2 and reflects on his collection, what inspires him, and how his passion for making art came to be.

“You feel intimidated by making something that’s not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be,” Owens said.

Owns shared how he took an art class over the summer at UAF where he rediscovered his passion for making art. He immediately switched his major and has been doing it since then. He spends most of his time in the art department these days.

Now dominated by giant images of space and ocean creatures, his work space is filling up with images for his upcoming exhibitions. Angler fish creep out from behind planets and a sailboat tears through a star filled seascape in some of his recent work.

“A lot of the imagery is based on the ocean and space; that’s just something that I’ve always been drawn to with art,” said Owens. “There’s something really nice about looking into the unknown and having these endless possibilities that you can look at. Combining that with art and creating these scenes that don’t actually have to make sense, but you can still read them and understand what’s going on.”

Although he is now at home in the studio, he did not start there. Initially, Owens was on a different path at the university—he was an engineering major, which he credits to being good at math in high school.

“I had a good math professor and I did A.P. Calculus and everything, and it just seemed like the best thing to do because back then petroleum was looking really good,” he said. “After two years, it was just not what I wanted to do. It wasn’t making me happy.”

Initially entering the department as an Art major focusing on painting, he later switched to printmaking under the inspiration of one of his advisers. For this project, he has taken on larger scale printmaking work.

“As a whole, I want the gallery to explain a little bit of the processes behind printmaking,” said Owens, regarding the larger theme for his exhibition collection.

His interest in art goes back to childhood and he says his ambition to create only increased as grew older.

“When I was younger I used to draw cartoon characters and kinda just copy stuff that I saw. I wasn’t really interested in creating new stuff, I was just kinda interested in mimicking things,” Owens said. “When I got into high school I had a really awesome art teacher and her art classes were a really nice way for me to release some creative energy and create things that I actually liked doing. I started doing really ambitious projects that I couldn’t get finished.”

One of his self admitted struggles has been time management. Several of his paintings are large in scale, taking a great deal of time to complete.

“I always have an idea that I want to go for,” he said. “It’s a little bit more ambitious and it’s about experimenting and trying to push what I can do with something. That usually gets me in trouble with getting things done on time.”

Owens also discussed some of his opinions on audiences and their connection to art. He believes people can feel disconnected, especially if they are not artists themselves. However, he maintains that art is a process that takes a great deal of work and does not simply appear on the canvas the way it is shown.

“My sketchbooks look like absolute crap,” he said. “Eventually after a lot of hours of tweaking things, and redrawing things it becomes something that I’m okay with posting on the internet. But this show is my challenge to myself to be more okay with putting things out there that are not finished.”

With his B.F.A. being his primary focus, Owens says has taken time off of work to dedicate his time and energy to his art. He shared how he would like to pursue graduate school somewhere in the Lower 48, after taking a bit off time off to work and save money.

Owens’ B.F.A. exhibition will be held on Oct. 2 from 5 – 8 p.m. at the UAF Art gallery in the Fine Arts Complex. The show is open to the public and all are welcome to attend.

Tiffany Lehnerd

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