By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Ally Carpenter has some advice for anyone thinking about pursuing art as a career.
“Don’t be afraid to go for it if it’s something you’re really passionate about.”
That’s what she did.
Carpenter graduates Friday with a bachelor’s degree in studio art from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, but her diploma almost read differently.
Originally, the Kearney High School alumna was studying wildlife biology, then she asked herself that important question: Why am I not doing something I’m passionate about?
Sure, she loves animals, but Carpenter has always been happiest when she’s creating art.
After touring the UNK Department of Art and Design, she switched majors at the beginning of her sophomore year and began taking ceramics and painting classes. That solidified her decision.
“This is where I’m supposed to be,” Carpenter said.
Art has long been a hobby for Carpenter, but it took on greater meaning as she got older.
“I think art has an incredible power to communicate with people in a unique way,” she said. “It has a lot of power to evoke emotion and connection. I’ve always loved that.”
The creative process is a form of self-reflection for Carpenter, who uses her pieces, primarily paintings and ceramic sculptures, to express her emotions, thoughts and ideas.
“I find it very cathartic to just let those emotions out,” she said.
Carpenter also finds inspiration in the natural world, especially when she can get away from the city and escape modern civilization.
Most of her landscape paintings – a colorful Utah sunset, serene Nebraska snowfall, mesmerizing desert canyon and others – depict places she’s visited. She often mixes in elements of symbolism, as well.
Her goal is to show people how she views the world, without being limited by a specific style.
“I think exploring is a very important process for me,” Carpenter said. “That’s just kind of who I am as a person. I’m very eclectic, so I like being able to try different styles when I want to.”
Carpenter’s thesis exhibition, “Reflections on Nature & Self,” is on display through Thursday at the Walker Art Gallery inside UNK’s Fine Arts Building. It features pieces from throughout her time at UNK, as well as a dramatic installation that transformed an entire wall into a forest scene. Walker Art Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
In the UNK Department of Art and Design, students are free to be “who they really are,” according to Carpenter.
That was one of her favorite parts of the program.
“The art department has been really wonderful,” she said. “Everybody here is super encouraging and they push you to be better. It’s a really inviting place to be.”
With a degree in hand, Carpenter will move to Arizona later this month to start her art career. Eventually, she wants to open a gallery space where she can create shows for other artists and display her own work.
That decision isn’t without risk, but Carpenter has never been one to turn down an adventure.
“I’m a big believer that if you have a passion for something and you try hard and you’re a good person, life will take care of you,” she said. “Even if I end up just making art for myself and I don’t end up being the next Picasso, that’s OK with me.”