Spotlight on U of R’s Innovative Senior Art Majors

Do you appreciate art? If so, have you followed @uofr_art on instagram yet? That is the University’s art department’s instagram page, dedicated to placing a spotlight on Redlands’ hard working art majors and their capstone projects.


The page is run by Thomas Cone (he/him), a senior from a very small town with a population of 600 in Tennessee. Moving to Redlands was a pretty large shift, as Cone mentioned that while growing up he had dial up internet in his home until he was in middle school, and had to drive up to forty five minutes per day to get to his school. When asked about his experience there versus the experience he has made at Redlands, Cone replied, “I miss the landscape, I miss the sound of nature, but I do not miss the people” (family aside, obviously).


Of moving to California, Cone shared that he came here (specifically the L.A. area), “purposely,” because of the film industry here, however once he got invested in the Redlands art and theater departments, he became enamored with the process of communicating through artistic expression. Cone enjoys pushing his own limits through digital photography and editing, and in his words, “defying intellectualism,” in the art world.


He strongly believes in art that evokes a conversation between the viewer and the art, and mentioned that he wants the viewer to be able to engage with the piece. He wants this to happen regardless of background or education, especially someone’s background in art as he comes from a place without artistic education that was accessible.


Cone describes his artistic process as using his imagination to change mundane, ordinary things into something meaningful and emotional, able to tell a story and usually abstracted from the original image so that it is unrecognizable as to where it came from. Cone proudly emphasized that art is, “very superficial unless there’s a conversation about your identity in your art.”


His grandma taught him how to take photos, and the digital process he developed is very special to him because of his upbringing. Cone said that he likes to “listen” to the photo by spending time observing it and messing with different procedures over the course of two to three weeks, frequently leaving and returning to his work to make adjustments and see how the work is newly communicating differences to him over time.


As a retired U of R art professor once told Cone, “a project is never really done, but you must know your limits,” and this has stuck with him ever since. 

Another Senior, Caitlin Walsh (she/her) is also dedicated to the conversation a viewer has with an artist’s vision, however she does this in a way that comments on the environmental impact humans have.


Walsh says she has always been able to find beauty in the things that most people tend to overlook. Walsh explains that her gift of awareness is what inspired her to put a spotlight on something as mundane as trash around a city.


Walsh hopes to inspire in her audience the ability to view the supreme beauty that surrounds the trash, unobstructed by such an eyesore. It is easy to then hope that it isn’t there in real life and in response inspire people to gain the awareness Walsh already possesses for the natural beauty that exists in the grass on the side of the road, which many often neglect. 


Walsh was inspired to take photos by her father, Chaplain John Walsh, whom she has a wonderful reverence for because of his creative work. She grew up on the east coast and moved to California when she was 6 years old, so she was really not affected much by the move.


In high school, Walsh stepped into a new realm in life where her preferred method of photography was shooting on her first iPhone, and this was when she realized that photography was a passion of hers that she could not, and did not want to leave behind.


At first, Walsh pursued marine biology at Crafton college, but quickly discovered that her love for photos outweighed any passion she had for studies of aquatic life. To Walsh, the beauty of a photo is that it has a raw quality that allows the audience to perceive a situation for themselves, without the need for a fancy explanation.


Walsh’s philosophy is, “you can ignore it, but it will always be there,” when explaining her reason behind choosing trash as her subject. When editing the photos, she purposely enhances the colors in the photo to make the trash stand out so that people learn to recognize how unnatural and important this phenomena really is to fix.


As for the future, Walsh plans on taking photos whenever and wherever she can, once she leaves the University of Redlands in the Spring. Her photos will be displayed on her instagram, @shutter_tone, if you are interested in viewing the commentary evoked by her work showing how trash has become another element of our natural landscape.

Moving out of the realm of photographic and digital art, a senior studio art major who goes by Kaycee (he/him) puts his artistic abilities in motion through his use of paint on shoes to personalize them.


Why shoes? Because in pop culture and social circles Kaycee has been in, “shoes are a status symbol,” and represent some level of exclusivity especially when they are unique or one-of-a-kind.


Drawing from his love of video games and the ability to customize an in-game avatar, Kaycee sees his body as a real-life opportunity for acting out his love for customization through the use of fashion. Since video games were a large part of his childhood and family life, this is something that influenced him greatly.


Kaycee has an Instagram account for his self-made shoe personalization business (@kaycee.custom) where he plans on running his business full time after he graduates from the University in the Spring. Besides his aspirations for the company, Kaycee would also like to inspire young artists by becoming an educator in the arts.


Kaycee professes, “I wanna help people find their voice through art, the way I found mine,” recalling his first art class in second grade where he claims he had a breakthrough with his creative expression. As Kaycee colored in a red circle, playing with the value and saturation of the red as it moved towards the center, he realized how art enhances his perspective of the world. “That red circle changed my life,” Kaycee boldly stated,and something that fuels his current interest in art education.


Coming from a military family, Kaycee explained his father expected utter obedience, which is to be expected from someone whose stability relies on it. Kaycee however saw the “only speak when spoken to” rule as confining, and turned to “marking on clothes as a way to be loud,” while successfully standing out among his 4 older siblings.


As the youngest, Kaycee received plenty of hand-me-down clothing items. Coupled with the lack of self expression in his homelife, this bred a natural desire for Kaycee to use what he was given as a way to show who he was and set himself apart from his siblings first, and then the rest of the world.


Kaycee’s hope for his art is that his audience and consumers “see the future” in his art, connect with it personally but also see how it is uniquely his expression, and that he can eventually “leave his fingerprint” on the art or fashion world by inspiring all people to pursue artistic endeavors of any kind.

[hr gap=””]Photographs from @uofr_art on Instagram, by permission.