“Harmony + Tension”: The FHSU Art Department’s first public photography exhibition

BY KIERNAN McCARTY

The Fort Hays Photography Program presented the opening of the “Harmony + Tension” at the gallery of the Hays Public Library last week. The exhibition features over 60 works made by 20 FHSU photography students. The opening reception was held Friday, Dec. 3 as a perfect ending to the busy work week, coupled with the Hays Winter Art Gallery Walk on the following Saturday. 

Assistant Professor of Photography, Nick Simko, reveled in the fact that the entire show was organized and curated by Fort Hays Digital 4 photography students, Alex Juarez, Kinlie Hennes, Maddy Otter, Tyler Dallis, and Kyle Carter. They not only put the entire show together by personally selecting quality undergraduate student works to feature in the show, but also made the rest of the work in the show as well. 

“They’ve been working on it since March of this year,” Simko said, “and so the work that is here is work that was made in the past year. It’s really [really] dynamic work that investigates how photography functions in our contemporary world. It is a ubiquitous language that we all use to communicate and these students have communicated all different kinds of messages that can certainly be contained within the umbrella of harmony and tension.” 

When asked what the show was all about, Tyler Dallis said it is a way of showing the Hays community the complexities of photography.

“I’ve been seeing it as a way to show the Hays community what photography can be, what photography is, and letting them come to see and experience that for themselves and maybe come and do some classes at the university,” Dallis said.

 The show has been about nine months in the making, with all Digital 4 Photography students working together to make it happen. Each artist was incredibly proud of the teamwork aspect of the group when putting the show together. 

Dallis in particular was honored by many for their hard work and dedication to making the photo exhibition a reality. Simko noted that it was Tyler’s idea to reach out to the folks at the Hays Public library to get the ball rolling, which eventually turned into a large group effort, “not only of advanced photo students,” said Simko, “but then also to folks who are in introductory levels, so we actually have a full gamut of different artists here.” 

Of the rest of the artists featured in the show, advanced and intermediate photo students included special guests; Haleigh Raber, PJ Stauffer, Olivia Stinson, and Caitlyn Fraizier. Featured introductory level photographers included Kailin Nielsen, Annalise Albrecht, Chelsey Augustine, Parker Cryier, Adreinne Danner, Sienna Hockersmith, Tessa Kriss, Konnor Splichal, Michael Stueve, Amanda Weber, and Claire Wegele.

Photography from introductory level courses is featured in the case over on the wall closest to the entrance of the gallery while advanced and intermediate student work is featured lining the walls of the gallery. Each graduate photography student also has one of their best works featured on the wall outside the gallery in the middle of the main library floor. 

“When we were curating the show we kind of wanted there to be a cohesion when it came to the narrative on all of the walls, so thinking about abstraction, color, portraiture, or introspection, those were all really important parts of the consideration for the work as well as just selecting the most high-quality work being made,” Simko said. 

The talent and passion displayed by each artist at the exhibition is an embodiment of the heart of the artistic community of Hays, evident not only in the works themselves but in the way they each talked about their photographs and the thought and physical processes behind them. The visual representation of each perspective is a very special thing that only art can convey, there’s truly nothing like it. 

The Hays Public Library will be displaying “Harmony + Tension” for the next month until January 3, 2022. 

Multiple artists from the opening reception had some incredible and interesting content to share about the deeper meaning of the works and the mental and physical processes behind them. 

For further readings of interviews with the artists on their photography and the exhibition can be found below:

Alex Juarez

Haleigh Raber

Kailin Nielsen

Kinlie Hennes

Kyle Carter

Maddy Otter

Olivia Stinson

PJ Stauffer

Tyler Dallis

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