Student Research Projects

Shadow Play (Existentialism and light in painting)

Student Sara Mullen
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Art
Course ART 450: Studio Art Seminar


As an artist and an individual, I am heavily influenced by existential literature. Many artists through out history have also been influenced by existentialism. Some of these artist’s include: Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Jean Fautrier, Germaine Richier, and many more.
Existentialism is not a style of artwork; all of the artists listed above have styles that are very opposite to each other. Existentialism is a philosophy that focuses on freedom, individuality, and personal responsibility. One of the many themes of Existentialism is humanism. “Existentialism is a person-centered philosophy. Though not anti-science, it’s focus is on the human individual’s pursuit of identity and meaning amidst the social and economic pressures of mass society for superficiality and conformism.” (Flynn)
For my body of work I will be focusing on humanism as defined above. I will also be drawing upon the scientific, philosophical, metaphoric, and symbolic uses of shadow and light. My work will be in the form of Paintings and an installation piece, if the space is available for such a large piece of artwork such as an installation.
Attendance to galleries and museums in Richmond and Washington D.C. will be a very important part of my research, in order to see works by Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, and other artists who have been identified as existentialists, or are influenced by existentialism. The National Gallery in D.C. owns works by Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti. I am also interested in seeing any installation works available in the Richmond and D.C. areas, as installation art will be a completely new experience for me. There is currently an installation titled The Cinema Effect on display at the Smithsonian Hirshorn museum and Sculpture Garden that would provide insight towards constructing an installation.