At the 2017 Annual Student Exhibition, Kristy Munday (Certificate '18) proudly stood in front of a row of fierce, Technicolor poodles.
"I kept referring to myself as Gladys Knight and the pups," Munday said. "I felt like they were my support group and they said, 'You got this, woof.'"
The Annual Student Exhibition (ASE) has been a tradition at PAFA for more than 100 years and is the culminating event in a student's journey at PAFA. Each spring 3rd and 4th year BFA and certificate program students, and MFA students have the opportunity to curate, install and sell their own works in the PAFA museum galleries.
PAFA students create more than 1,000 paintings, sculpture, works on paper and installations. It is one of the most celebrated student group shows in the country. More than 100,000 visitors will attend the ASE, and sales of student's works are expected to be nearly $300,000. Students retain the majority of the purchase price of works sold.
In addition to sales, students compete for dozens of distinguished prizes and awards, including the illustrious Cresson Traveling Fellowship and the Caldwell Purchase Prize, in which a work by a graduating student is selected for purchase by the Museum and inclusion in PAFA's permanent collection.
For Munday, her lithograph poodles titled Boss Bitch at the ASE were the culmination of more than a semester's worth of work and multiple mediums coming together.
She knew she wanted to make brightly colored, large-scale lithographs that felt like an ancient relief. But she initially struggled with the work.
"I talked to my animal drawing teacher, Blair Baskin, and he suggested I sculpt it, saying 'If you want it to look like a sculpture then you have to sculpt it first and then draw it.' So I made a sculpture and was off to the races," she said.
Munday is drawn to poodles because she believes there are many parallels between how poodles are treated and the experience of many women.
She says poodles are one of the most competent dog breeds but are often prized for their appearance.
"They are so smart and so capable but because of how they look people just want them to be on a little sofa doing nothing. Doing nothing of consequence," Munday said. "That completely underestimates them and they're not to be underestimated."
Munday's poodles are strong.
She worked on the drawings for the first half of the spring semester, and then spent 12 hours printing 15 poodles. Each poodle is made up of two halves glued together. Gluing the prints together and then painting them took 72 hours. At the end of the process Munday was exhausted but her poodles were powerful.
"I have this folder full of poodles and lions because they have the feet of a lion, I wanted them to have terrifying claws and look like an Assyrian sculpture," she said. "They make people uncomfortable. A lot of my critics have said they can't wait till I take them down because they kind of look back at you and people don't want to turn their back on them."
Two of the poodles were sold at the 2017 ASE Preview Party; the gala serves as the kick off to the Annual Student Exhibition. The event hosted by the PAFA Women's Board supports student scholarship and gives art enthusiasts an early opportunity to purchase student work.
The rest of the poodle pack hangs in Munday's studio while she works toward the 2018 ASE. She again plans on making multiple prints but her focus this year is on gumball machines.
She views the candy dispenser as a way to discuss probability, fate, and opportunity.
"You put the quarter in and you get whatever color it is and you have to accept it," Munday said. "You can try for more but you still have that and you have to figure out what you want to do with that."
She plans to add gold, silver, and copper leaf to the six-foot tall prints to harken back to a byzantine mosaic. It's important to Munday to reference art history in the work she creates today.
"That's a huge reason why I'm at PAFA. I think PAFA really values art history and the way traditional things are done," she said. "Knowing the so-called right way to do something so you can intentionally make a decision to break that rule so it better communicates what you're trying to do is important."
—LeAnne Matlach (LMatlach@pafa.org)