Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


My recent work directly responds to my current state of being. The past three years have °been the peak of the exploration within myself, learning the capacity of my mind. I’ve spent my time in the heat of trauma, filled with anger and resentment. I’ve spent time in a steady state of confusion, wondering who exactly I am and who I want to be. I am in a constant state of change, thinking deeply about my actions and how I can improve on processing the correlating emotions. Creating a body of work during times when listening to conversations within the self can feel so vulnerable, but also alleviating. I have learned to share my world with the people who surround me in hopes that we can connect and feel less alone in our troubles. Clay has been meditative through this stretch of time as it teaches through the process as well as the final product. Starting with semi-coarse clay, I can feel what its made up of and the integrity it will bring to my sculpture. The fast manipulation of the material allows me to flesh out thoughts and ideas with ease. When creating, I make work in “the heat of the moment”, shaping thoughts that weigh heavy on my mind at that current moment. I enjoy leaving the maker's mark on the piece for aesthetics and for the humanity of straying away from perfection, especially in the task of healing. The pieces are surfaced with washes of underglazes and stains, layered on in a meditative fashion; taking the time to see where each color lands and how it emphasizes the tenderness and fragility of the human body. Firing to cone 6 (2232°F) burns the chemical colorants in the underglaze, creating a somber color palette. The end result shows a figure who embodies these thoughts, experiences and lessons learned; becoming a physical representation of change, adaptation, and difficult conversations. When formulating ideas, I am inspired by artists such as Andrea Keys Connell, Nancy Kubale and painter Julie Speed, through their use of fluid methods and engaging compositions. I use the figure and supporting objects to tell a story deeper than the eye can see. I put great importance on creating ambiguous figures and compositions so that the viewer can connect with the artwork and draw out their own meaning and healing. ‘Til Death Do Us Part alludes to the experiences one may go through and how it alters their course of life. We become bonded to our trauma as it sets the tone for future interactions. As we get to know this damage, we learn to either become one with the hurt, or to heal and grow. We will always change, but the deep mental wound will never leave us. As an artist, I will be on a continual quest to explore the connection between our lived experience and how it impacts our course of life for the future. How can we differ in our trauma yet support each other and empathize with one another. We lose touch of our innermost selves when we can not identify the grim in ourselves and others, and act on being progressive in making the steps towards a more understanding and connective life.


Linda Ganstrom

Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type



© 2023 Olivia Shayle Stinson


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