Before this summer, 24-year-old Master of Fine Arts (MFA) student Morgan Arnett had never lived anywhere outside of her hometown of Pensacola, Florida.
With aspirations of completing a MFA degree, Arnett found herself and her fiancée packing up their car and heading to a city polar opposite of the place she’d known for 20 years.
Arnett, whose work was displayed during the Center for the Art’s “Say Hello to our New MFAs” exhibit in August and September and is currently centered in Studio 214B in the CFA, is one of ten new MFAs studying at UB.
Pensacola is a small town at the western-most point of Florida bordering Alabama. Home to beautiful beaches, warm weather and southern charm, a Buffalonian might find it hard to understand why anyone would ever leave.
“I needed a change of scenery, I figured New York would be a huge transition and UB was the perfect school for what I was looking for,” Arnett said.
After suggestions from the most unlikely of people – the man who installed the cable into her new apartment – she subscribed to Buffalo event newsletters and soon found herself delving into the Buffalo art scene.
For Arnett, Buffalo has been a complete 180 from Pensacola.
The variety of art displayed at events such as the Elmwood Arts Festival and the galleries of Hallwalls introduced Arnett to more meaningful art.
Only ever an artist
Coming from a beach town where art often only goes as far as painted surfboards on sale for tourist purchase, Arnett said Buffalo has been refreshing.
With an art kit – a gift from her very supportive grandmother – in tow, she’d watch Disney princesses like Ariel and instead of wanting to dress up like one, she’d draw them.
From Play-Doh, painting, coloring and even collage making, Arnett has always found herself consumed by art. For as long she can remember, creating art seemed to be the only the only thing that made her feel like she had a place in the world. At the same time, it was also what made her feel like a misfit.
“I struggled to find where I belonged in middle school and high school. Growing up I was either drawing or reading, that was life consuming,” Arnett said. “But in high school, I gravitated to the art kids. Being around other artists inspired me to become better.”
While some parents may try to persuade their children to not pursue the arts in college, Arnett’s family has been fully supportive of their daughter.
“My parent’s home doubles as a Morgan Arnett gallery,” she said.
Arnett’s artwork can be described as intricate.
Her pieces reflect her fascination with the biology of the human body – how systems work, the complexities and the anatomy of the body and how our inner beings are constructed.
Her work is meant to exemplify the magnificence of the beauty people carry within themselves.
“People never look at what goes on inside the human body,” she said. “I find beauty in what goes on within the body, the parts of us that are a part of a greater function.”
Her artwork focuses on the overlaps between the rigidity and formality of science, the volatility of human emotion and the beauty inherent to the human body, inside and out. Each component of her artwork is focused through a feminist lens.
While she originally did most of her art through drawing, in high school Arnett began incorporating collage and mixed media into her paintings, which completely changed the way she’d create her art for the rest of her career.
Throughout college, she perfected her craft: an infusion of print making and painting.
The piece she is most proud of is her “In The Flesh Series,” a piece consisting of 440 paintings which concluded her undergraduate career and earned her a bachelor in fine arts from the University of West Florida in 2014.
Arnett’s artistic influences include artists like Cindy Sherman, Faith Wilding and Robert Rauschenberg – artists who embrace photos, painting and the art of the human body.
Her influences extend past artists however, reaching into literature and literary criticism.
She is an avid reader of authors like Shelly Jackson, Margaret Atwood and Mary Shelley, who penned her favorite novel “Frankenstein.” All these authors have shaped the fervid feminist views she has incorporated into her art.
After completing her MFA at UB, Arnett hopes to become an art professor.
“My instructors have had such a crazy positive influence on me and I would love to have that effect on other people, help students reach breakthroughs and hopefully be as inspiring as my instructors were,” Arnett said.
Her professor Adele Henderson spoke about her excitement working with Arnett.
“I think she has great potential and I look forward to working with her,” she said.
With teaching being her ultimate goal, Morgan is working toward leading a painting or printmaking class at UB during the spring semester.
Her humble beginnings in Pensacola to her present adventure in Buffalo have left Arnett eager to travel.
“Surrounding yourself with new people and scenery is so important in order to grow as an artist and diversify your influences,” she said.
Gabriela Ortiz is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.