Barry McNamara  |   Published November 20, 2017

Best of Show

Guillen ’18 wins top honor at Monmouth’s Juried Student Art Exhibition
  • Lily Guillen ’18 pictured in front of her winning work, “Eras Toxico.”
MONMOUTH, Ill. – When Gary Carstens turned a critical eye to the 2017 Juried Student Art Exhibition, the 1977 Monmouth College graduate said he “kept coming back” to one work.

That work, “Eras Toxico” by Lily Guillen ’18 of Round Lake Beach, Ill., was selected Best of Show from the exhibit, which will be on display in Monmouth College’s Everett Gallery in Hewes Library through Dec. 1.

A total of 54 students entered 108 artworks for consideration for the show, which was narrowed down to 23 artists with 35 artworks on display.

In praising Guillen’s winning mixed media piece, Carstens noted its “strong story, beautiful skill, and deep and powerful concept,” adding it was “mature in its technique.”

All that was music to the ears of Guillen, who said she was caught by surprise by the Best of Show honor.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to hear those things and the compliment about the craftsmanship – it almost made me cry.”

The title, which translates to “you were toxic,” comes from a personal place for Guillen, who said she tends to use real-life experiences in her works.

“I use art as a way to cope with things in my life,” she said. “The meaning behind that work is about toxic relationships. Of course, everyone can have their own interpretation.”

Guillen has been involved with art at the College since interviewing for a high-end scholarship as a prospective student. She received the academic award, which requires that she takes at least one art class per year.

Originally drawn to Monmouth by its communication studies department, Guillen said she appreciated the opportunity to get involved with the College’s television and radio stations right away as a freshman, as opposed to waiting until her upperclassman years.

During her junior year, she decided to move art from her academic minor to a major. She said she appreciates the developments she’s made and the role that faculty has played.

“They’ve really challenged me a lot,” she said of Monmouth’s art faculty. “They’ve helped me grow a lot as an artist.”

A successful wedding photographer since she was 16, Gulllen plans to pursue her MFA in photography after she graduates in May. Beyond that, she said, “I have no idea. I just want to take little steps at a time.”

Another winner of note from the juried exhibit was Tessa Barry ’18 of Monmouth, who claimed the awards for both ceramics and mixed media.

Other first-place honors went to: Casey Schute ’18 of Dubuque, Iowa, (graphic design); Rebecca Mills ’18 of Peoria, Ill. (painting); Ashley Carnes ’19 of Gladstone, Ill. (drawing); Eric Ramirez ’18 of Monmouth (photography); and Nick Callaway ’17 of Galesburg, Ill. (sculpture).

Two students received honorable mention: Liv Howey ’20 of Rasmov, Romania (ceramics) and Sharon Kuhlemier ’20 of Erie, Ill. (photography).
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