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College junior Christine Perakis checks out an untitled work by Lisette Soini amongst senior Fine Arts theses projects in Charles Addams Hall. [Todd Savitz/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

After one, long, hard year of pouring themselves into their art both physically and emotionally, this year's senior Fine Arts majors proudly showcased the fruits of their labors Tuesday night.

The 2003 Fine Arts Undergraduate Thesis Exhibit runs in two parts -- dividing the 31 artists into two different shows, both including photography, film, painting, installation and graphic design.

The breakdown of artists into each show was "based on their needs," said Laurie Churchman, a Fine Arts professor and senior thesis adviser.

But before the art was hung, doubt loomed large -- both art students and Fine Arts professors alike worried about the impending deadline.

Now with everything complete, the reaction of professors is best described as "a slight shiver and a surprise that they really pulled it off," explained Undergraduate Fine Arts Department Director Julie Saecker Schneider.

Although artist Fred Plaza never doubted himself, stating that "I knew what I wanted to do for a couple months," he did face the challenge of having to assemble his installation over spring break.

Outside Plaza's piece "Homeless Comfort," viewers are presented with flashlights to inspect his construction of a scantily furnished dwelling adorned with cardboard walls and a trash-bag ceiling.

Like many of the artists exhibited, Plaza confessed that his work was fueled by "three major things" that happened to him -- moving, breaking up with his longtime girlfriend and being held up at gunpoint.

While Plaza's piece is intensely personal, he said he wanted to make his viewer "comfortable with being uncomfortable," as well as with using flashlights to search for the scribbles of writing and small items spread throughout the room.

Also not shy about publicly expressing her past, Kirstin Emershaw dealt with her childhood and the absence of her father in a series of vellum prints.

Emershaw says she found the process to be "very therapeutic."

"I got a lot out of it," she said.

But for many students, this expression of ideas came as a struggle at first.

"They have imagination and then acquire the skills to express them," Undergraduate Fine Arts Chairman John Moore said.

With a year of searching for inspiration and struggling to create behind them, everyone including the artists and their friends, family and professors were impressed with the outcome.

In fact, "marvelous" was the word Graduate School of Fine Arts Dean Gary Hack used to describe the show.

For Merle Schwartz, it was a chance to see another side of her son Cory.

"How did he learn to do that? It's amazing," Schwartz exclaimed, commenting on her son's film, for which he wrote and performed the accompanying music.

Just as family members were impressed by the caliber of work, friends of the artists who had witnessed the process throughout were equally excited.

"These guys are all doing really sweet stuff, I'm impressed," College senior Dave Pacifico said.

Housed in the Charles Addams Gallery, the first part of the exhibit runs through March 28. The second show opens on March 31 and runs through April 11.

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