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Alexandra Edwards, a Mount St. Mary's University fine arts student, works on an art project

Lives of Significance

Alexandra Edwards, C’19

“I have learned, through art, that things will explode, break and fall apart—but it’s the way you take all the broken pieces and put them together to make something even better than you had before. Trust the process and your art will shine,” says Alexandra Edwards, C’19, a fine arts major. While the rest of the ceramics class was just learning how to manipulate clay, she was allowed to bypass the syllabus and create freely.

Her most recent work was inspired by the beach and an article she’d read about coral bleaching—a devastating result of climate change. Environmental stress caused by overheated sea water causes coral to separate from zooxanthella, the symbiotic, plantlike organisms that live inside coral. They are what give coral their bright colors, provide oxygen, waste filtration and are responsible for nearly 90 percent of coral’s energy. Without them, coral lose their color and ability to host an entire food chain. With less time for recovery in between global bleaching events, coral die. Their ghostly skeletal remains spread across the seafloor area powerful visual.

Alexandra Edwards works on an art project at Mount St. Mary's UniversityEdwards worked the clay and created a shell. Beautiful but meaningless, she pushed on. She created a skull. Again it was fragile but empty. “I wanted to make something meaningful and powerful,” she says. She created coral. “After firing, they were the perfect matted white so I kept creating more and more. But they needed something else.”

That’s when she picked up the skull and started gluing the coral around it. The effect instantly changed her project into something bigger. The piece conveyed a stunning destruction.

“Ceramics is my favorite medium. I can bend, twist and mold the clay any way I like,” she says. Her construction of these delicate, stony structures includes another layer of depth and meaning because coral skeletons are made of calcium carbonate—a common ingredient in clay.

“You are your biggest critic and not everyone is going to love your work,” she says. “My professors have truly made me grow alongside my art. I am not just making art I think looks pretty or cool; it has concepts and issues behind the art.” It wasn’t until her sophomore year that she discovered her true passion for art. After graduation, she plans to continue studying ceramics in graduate school.

When asked to share advice with new students about pursuing a fine arts degree, she says, “Trust your gut and go for it. Everyone can create art—but not everyone can make art that matters.”