We at the Smile Politely arts section love to take a deep dive into the mind of artists and makers. We love to know what inspires them, what they hope their work communicates, and how they've chosen to create their work, and why.  These investigations are even more exciting when they explore the work of BFA candidates, whose art and minds are filled with possibilities. This week we had the chance to get to know Natalie Bready and Pascale Grant. We hope their stories will inspire you to see their in person at Krannert Art Museum. 


Smile Politely: Tell us a little about yourself and your art.

Natalie Bready: My name is Natalie Bready and I'm from Bloomington, Illinois. This spring I am completing my BFA in Painting, and next fall I will be graduating after completing student teaching for my BFA in Art Education. My art has gone all different directions over the past few years, course to course. Coming into the program, I anticipated my work to be exclusively in painting, but as I've experimented with different media and been influenced by professors and peers, I've found my senior year to be focused on discovering fiber arts. I like that I can make highly detailed work the way that I might create in a painting, but using a material that allows me to engage with it both visually and tactilely. This has been impactful for me in my concept development, too, centered this past year around a theme of comfort/comforting.

Pascale Grant: As the daughter and granddaughter of two female artists, I grew up with oil painted portraits and still lifes throughout the house. I am drawn to the power of the portrait and the meaning behind every item in a still life. I use these traditional art practices and mediums to illustrate my own life experiences.

Painting of circle of women with arms entwined.  Ciclos by Pascale Grant. 2021. Photo by Pascale Grant.
Pascale Grant, Ciclos, 2021, oil, ©Pascale Grant. Photo by Pascale Grant.

SP: What work did you select to include in this show and why?

Bready: I submitted my work QUOTEQUILT along with its sister project, The Paper Quilt Project (TPQP). QUOTEQUILT is the first quilt I have made, and TPQP came out of Wednesday morning art classes I led with the third grade of a local elementary school this past semester. It was about halfway through my quilt when I realized the two projects needed to be displayed together at the exhibition because of how much they influenced one other. I'm very proud of the results of both projects, and I'm thankful that I had the realization along the way that as both an artist and art educator, I can bring my different practices together. Both projects speak for me for what I believe is important in the world, and I am grateful that I can represent myself in this way at our exhibition this year.

Close up of corner of
Nicole Bready, QuoteQuilt, 2021, mixed media, ©Natakie Bready. Photo by Nicole Bready.

Grant: The work that I chose to include in the show was part of my project “El Punto De Partida.” The project meditates on my own identity as a second-generation immigrant and how my family and I share intergenerational knowledge. Through the medium of paint, I use portraits and figuration to explore femininity, family, body politics, and race. This project is something I hope to continue this year.

SP: What materials did you use and how do you think it lends itself to the overall impact on the viewer regarding message, emotional appeal, or conceptual impact?

Bready: For QUOTEQUILT, I used fabrics from different places: from the store, thrifted, and fabrics given to me by others. With a sewing machine and some thread, all the pieces somehow came together. TPQP student quilts are made from construction paper, glue, and coloring supplies like markers, colored pencils, and crayons, because these were the materials available to us in the classroom. With QUOTEQUILT, I hope my audience will feel its potential as an object of comfort, one that is soft, warming, and can wrap around a body like a hug. The collage of fabrics that made up the quilt look different from each other and come from all different places but still belong right here together in this work, which would be incomplete without each of them. TPQP might give my audience a sense of nostalgia from their elementary school art days, and I hope it also leads them to wonder the following: if these beautiful student artist works can come out of these simple materials, what else can our simple materials make? What is the potential for something good in the things we already have, and the people around us?

Quilt with letters spelling out words in different directions. QUOTEQUILT by Natalie Bready. Photo by Natalie Bready.
Nicole Bready, QuoteQuilt, 2021, mixed media, ©Natakie Bready. Photo by Nicole Bready.

Grant: I used traditional materials like oil, canvas, and paper. Though they are traditional, they add to the idea of nostalgia in the work. The series “El Punto De Partida” thinks through my family’s story, my personal identity, and how we find connection through artifacts and nostalgia.

Painting of three young women in long sweaters and exposed legs eating empanadas. Empandas by Pascale Grant. Photo by Pascale Grant.
Pascale Grant, Empanadas, 2021, oil, ©Pascale Grant. Photo by Pascale Grant.

SP: What do you want your audience to know about you?

Bready: Lately I've been working on listening. QUOTEQUILT includes the quote by Ram Dass, "The quieter you become, the more you can hear" - and that applies not only to ourselves with those around us, or ourselves with our environment, but ourselves with ourselves. It's good in the fast-paced and sometimes scary or uncertain world to slow down, open up our eyes and ears, hearts and minds, and take a moment to really understand words and actions and feelings without bias or expectation. It's an important thing for me to remember as I enter my career, but I think everyone can benefit from incorporating more of this kind of learning about ourselves and others into their lives.

Grant: I’d like the audience to know how much my family inspires me in both my life and my work.

SP: Congratulations on completing your program. Can you share two or three words of wisdom for next year’s seniors?

Bready: Next year's seniors can benefit from considering early-on the installation potential of their work, as this exhibition will be displayed both on the show's website and in-person at the Krannert Art Museum. I suggest these artists spend time not only making the work, but being with their work and feeling its presence. For me, having my in-progress quilt in my apartment with me gave me a kind of relationship with this object; because of that, sometimes I just let the piece speak for itself. Finally, I think it's very important to check in with yourself often. For me, this was through journaling and going on walks, and I think that really helped me put things into perspective and clarify my intentions in all stages of the making.

Grant: Work for yourself.

SP: What is your artistic plan for the near future?

Bready: I'm ready to become an art educator! I hope to teach in a school, museum, or community organization and nurture my passion for art education. I am sure I will continue to explore new art forms for myself and with my students, and I'm excited to see how I can creatively treat the medium of an actual living art classroom in crafting my pedagogy.

Grant: My artistic plan for the future is to graduate and get a freelance contract at a graphic design studio. I hope to move to Chicago and pursue a career as an artist and designer.

Illinois School of Art + Design BFA Student Exhibition
Krannert Art Museum
500 E Peabody Drive, Champaign
May 8th through 15th
Reserve your visit time here.

Top photo from the Krannert Art Museum website.