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Students share their stories through zines, language and art in new exhibit

The "Turning the Page: Artists Books, Zines, Language and Art" exhibit hosted by ASU's A Buncha Book Artists club showcased work tackling an array of themes

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ASU students' zines, prints and artist books sit on display at the "Turning The Page" exhibit in the Arts and Design Library in Tempe on Thursday, March 24. 2022.

The "Turning the Page: Artists Books, Zines, Language and Art" exhibit hosted by ASU's A Buncha Book Artists (ABBA) club features students' works using a variety of artistic means — primarily zines — to share their stories, experiences and ideas.

The works, displayed in the ASU Design and the Arts Library, showcase an array of themes from, social justice to abstract interpretations of love, loss and growth.

Daniella Napolitano, a graduate student and instructor of ART 394, said she noticed a resurgence in student artistic expression through zines during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Zines are a form of book-like art displaying any variety of emotions, events or ideas through prints, texts and images.

"(The exhibit) was curated basically from a bunch of different zines they made throughout the semester," Napolitano said. "ABBA’s had this policy from the very beginning that we don’t want to turn anybody away from our shows because everyone has a starting place like artists books, we want them to be for everybody."

Autumn Byars displays her work, “[No] Hard Feelings,” at ASU's Design North Library on the Tempe campus on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Napolitano emphasized the importance of getting a wide variety of students involved in artistic showcases. She said ABBA's reach and ART 394, which tackles fundamental skills using drawing media, has allowed curious non-art-focused students to express themselves through artistic means.

Wilson Burghardt, a graduate student studying illustration, called her displayed piece "Instructions on How to be Boy Crazy." She said her piece was inspired largely by her experience with the male sex and her love, infatuation and affection toward them.

"Rather than doing another piece that’s supposed to separate myself as an independent woman, or make another feminist manifesto about how I do not need that physical attraction to feel whole, I wanted to celebrate my independence as somebody who embraces my sexuality," Burghardt said. "I find that more powerful rather than dismissing who I am."

Burghardt studied art at a community college and Edinboro University before coming to ASU. She transferred to ASU to advance her studies and artistic endeavors where she said she's found a lot of freedom to work with different mediums.

READ MORE: 'Voices of ASU' zine chronicles students' stories of ASU Counseling Services

"In that freedom I've gone from just a struggling art student who is still trying to learn the basics like anatomy and color to somebody who can throw everything at the wall and see exactly what sticks and I finally figured out ... my thoughts are more important rather than anything technical," Burghardt said.

Similarly celebratory and expressive, Autumn Byars, a junior studying art, shared her piece called "[No] Hard Feelings." The piece showcased an amalgamation of Taylor Swift lyrics, excerpts from her favorite poems and two self-portraits to capture the emotional turmoil of the aftermath of a particularly harrowing breakup.

"I was going through a really gross breakup at the time and I was thinking about how it was an experience that really subverted itself," Byars said. "Sometimes you’re on top of the world and you're rediscovering parts of yourself and it's beautiful and other times you are absolutely crushed and it's awful."

Byars used a multi-fold design to represent the multiple layers of a breakup and express a variety of emotional connections and experiences that "encapsulates how complicated and how big an experience like that feels."

Byars also shared similar experiences to Burghardt when it came to the relationship between artistic freedom and expression and ASU's art programs. Byars said the artistic freedom the program provides aided in her journey as an artist.

"I think ASU has a really nice environment to just let you explore," Byars said. "I felt really respected as an artist by a lot of my professors which is really nice. It makes you feel like your ideas are competent enough to be explored."

Burghardt and Byars' work, and the work of other student artists, will continue to be displayed in the library of the ASU Design and the Arts Library through May 20.

Clarification: This story was updated on March 24, 2022 at 3:52 p.m. to clarify the class Daniella Napolitano teaches.

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