Mizzou in Review: Four of the year’s most notable student artworks

This school year, the MU art community brought us artistic expression in a whole new way, from Sherlock-themed operas to rubber ducks.


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The MU art community provided Columbia with varied student works over the 2018-2019 school year. Some of these works took years to fine tune and others won awards. Here are some of the most notable student artworks from the year:

“A Certain Madness”

MU senior Hans Bridger Heruth presented the premiere of his opera “A Certain Madness” on Nov. 9. The one-act opera puts a new spin on the classic Sherlock Holmes tales, forcing the man of logic and reason to come face-to-face with the supernatural.

Heruth spent two years composing the opera and, according to a November interview, enjoyed using his work to introduce spiritualism into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters.

“In this opera, you'll sort of see the dichotomy between Sherlock's somewhat intellectualized methods and the medium’s sort of organic spiritualism in contacting the spirits,” Heruth said. “In the beginning, they clash. [But] at the end, I think they coincide a little more than Sherlock might have been willing to expect.”

”Duck Your Modernism”

MU graduate student Niko Schroeder presented this unique composition at the School of Music’s Student Composers recital on Nov. 26, 2018.

“Duck Your Modernism” is a performative piece involving two people trying to make the other laugh using rubber ducks, all whilst being judged by a man in a top hat, sequined vest, cheetah print capris and black heels.

After the piece was completed, Schroeder tried to clarify what had happened.

“Art just happened,” Schroeder said to the audience at the recital. “I’ve had people tell me that I don’t take art seriously enough. So, I responded with rubber ducks.”

Schroeder received the Sinquefield Composition Prize in October, the top award for a composition student at MU. He had another one of his works recorded and performed by the University Philharmonic Orchestra at the April Chancellor’s Art Showcase.

”Puppy Calendar”

MU senior Zhuo Cao drew from illustration, graphic design and his own Chinese culture to create this piece. He presented this project at the 2019 Undergraduate Visual Arts and Design Showcase. His design shows a cartoon dog enjoying various Chinese snacks. Cao designed this piece with the hopes of showcasing his culture in a way that would be accessible to a younger audience.

“I hope that children will experience the unique cultural charm of China from an early age,” Cao said in a February interview.

Cao received an Award of Merit for Applied Design for “Puppy Calendar.”

”Omnilvx Method”

MU graduate student Taylor Sklenar presented this play as part of the Mizzou New Play Series on April 5. The series held the play as stage reading, with actors reading their lines on music stands while a narrator read the stage directions.

“The Omnilvx Method” is the story of Jeanine, a young woman with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome who falls into a new-age religion that promises her a way to find true happiness. As Jeanine becomes a more faithful follower of this religion, she pushes her family away. Tensions rise between the followers and their leader and Jeanine must decide between life as she knows it and the uncertain promises of her religion.

Sklenar found inspiration for “The Omnilvx Method” in the story of NXIVM, a multi-level marketing company whose founder was indicted on forced labor and sex trafficking charges.

“I became really interested, not just in the negative things that these sorts of groups produce, but also the ways in which people find fulfillment in that sort of thing,” Sklenar said in an April interview with MOVE.

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival recognized “The Omnilvx Method” at the Region 5 National Playwriting Program Awards in January.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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