Senior art majors’ shows opened this week. Hana Bern­hardson | Courtesy

Just a dozen pieces of artwork. That’s all — give or take a few — that the senior art majors select from their port­folios of almost four years to display in their senior art show.

Two to four seniors share the shows, which typ­i­cally begin with a reception and last a week. The first show, “Overly Caf­feinated,” fea­turing the work of Katherine Frank and Sara Pezzella, began Monday, and the other three shows will follow in upcoming weeks. Though seniors con­sider their show a cap­stone project, it only conveys a glimpse into the long hours art majors spend in the Sage Center for the Arts.

“I think that as a human being you gain an appre­ci­ation for the daily beauty around you, but I also think you gain an appre­ci­ation for effort,” senior art major Hana Bern­hardson said. “Once you’ve sat in a studio class for three hours and have come out shaking your head in frus­tration because the creativity’s not working or something’s not going right, you under­stand it. You under­stand the hard work that goes into it.”

A double major in exercise science and art, Bern­hardson said she and many other art majors have had to balance time spent in the studio with time spent on other parts of campus. Bern­hardson will be sharing a show with two like-minded seniors — Erin Holsinger and Eileen Thoma — beginning March 26. But others, such as senior art major Tori Swanson, pri­or­itize art.

“I’ve really had to push myself to find the time outside the class,” Swanson said. “It’s really hard because we’re at Hillsdale and it’s the liberal arts so we have English classes and pol­itics classes and stuff like that at the same time as art classes. You just gotta force yourself to do it and not wait for the inspi­ration or the moti­vation.”

Swanson’s show, beginning April 9, will be shared with three other seniors.

The best pieces, Swanson said, are those that are emo­tionally inspired. For Swanson, her best pieces are tied to home: a nos­talgic painting of her grand­parents’ house and farm where she used to spend part of the summer, and a vibrant land­scape of the sunset from freshman year inspired by a home­sickness that she remembers when she sees it.

Bern­hardson said her favorite work  — a 2‑foot sculpture depicting a weary boxer after a fight — dis­plays the fusion of her two majors.

“It shows that I under­stand the muscles and the under­pinning of a human body, but also an artistic inter­pre­tation of this fully-ripped guy. He’s so overcome with fatigue that he’s just sitting on this bench. It also ties into my ath­letic training; I see football players, vol­leyball players, anybody after a victory or a loss and you see those moments where you have these pow­erful figures at moment of weakness. That’s what I try to capture in the figure,” Bern­hardson said.

Bern­hardson will display pri­marily drawings and sculp­tures to show her growth as an artist. Holsinger, a student athlete herself, will show many more oil paintings, and Thoma, who’s worked in theater, may show off some of her costume designs.

In Swanson’s art show two weeks later, she’ll display many oil paintings and land­scapes. A native Nebraskan, Swanson said she wants to convert others to loving Nebraska’s beauty through her paintings.

“I try to take that beauty I see and paint it … and show the beauty of places people might not typ­i­cally think as beau­tiful,” Swanson said.

Seniors Grace DeSandro, Mikel Eatough, and Cecily Parell will share the show with Swanson. Together, the group iden­tifies a pos­sible theme and title as well as a branding strategy. Indi­vid­ually, they determine the order of their works, write the labels, frame the pic­tures, prepare food for the reception, and write an artist statement about why they do what they do.

Those who attend the shows in Sage catch a sample of the talent in Hillsdale’s art department and “get to feel like they’re cul­tured,” Swanson said. But for the senior art majors, this show rep­re­sents their growth as artists and people through the art department.

In com­parison to other majors in which stu­dents are already somewhat edu­cated, many art majors have to start as beginners, according to Pro­fessor of Art Barbara Bushey.

“It’s intim­i­dating because you haven’t been in that position of being a beginner for a long time. It’s frus­trating because you think, ‘I should know how to do this,’ but you have to learn. And it is at once per­sonal and imper­sonal, because you are actually making these marks or whatever, but you want to get to a point where you’ve created this object of beauty that others will enjoy,” Bushey said.

The quiet halls of Sage may sep­arate art majors from the hus­tling busyness closer to Lane and Kendall Halls, but these art shows enable the rest of campus to briefly view and under­stand the cre­ative process of visual arts.

“I feel like the act of cre­ating some­thing is in our human nature,” Swanson said. “People want to create and to make things, so it’s good for people to make things.”