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Reflections on Life and Death

Graduating Artist Uses Candy, Childhood Scenes to Talk about Aging

After studying the recent artwork created by College of Art and Architecture (CAA) student Kim Timmons, one can easily find themselves taken back to a simpler time in life, when riding carnival rides and blowing out candles on a birthday cake meant you had a great day.

That’s exactly what she wants you to remember. But she’s also using her medium, and fond memories of childhood, to talk about a deeper subject.

The senior from Meridian is showcasing her B.F.A. Studio Art and Design capstone project, “Sweeter Things in Life,” at the Ridenbaugh Hall gallery from April 20 until Commencement. Financed by a grant through the Office of Undergraduate Research, Timmons has created artwork using candy as a vehicle to show the delicate balance between life and death.

"It’s about the beauty of fleeting moments. Using bright pastel colors and showing moments that bring up happy memories have historically been great ways to talk about difficult subjects." Kim Timmons, senior art and design student

“Aging is such a nuanced topic – it’s very emotional,” she said. “By using sweets and creating textures and color patterns that evoke happiness, I want to talk about aging and death through a child-like lens.”

For her project, Timmons created several pieces that combine painting and sculpture (ceramics and plaster). By using actual pieces of candy in her art, she not only took an extra step to create a connection with the viewer’s childhood, but she also creates 3D elements that makes her images come to life.

Back view of woman looking at her art display
Kim Timmons and her Sweeter Things art display.

She also chose sugar-laden images for the duality it represents in her project.

“Sugar is really a double-edged sword,” she said. “Kids love it, but it’s not very good for you. In a way, it represents the aging process.”

Her research touched on all aspects of the project – from the philosophy of talking about dying through art, to using food in art, to some of the ways she created a specific piece itself.

For one painting, Timmons wanted to create a border around her piece that looked like fondant edging around a cake. This required many stops and starts, as well as learning how to work in different ways than she had done previously.

“It was a process with acrylic paint and oil and it was challenging to figure out how to make it work to get the exact consistency and look I wanted,” she said. “I had to take different approaches and use different strategies to make it work.”

Timmons also briefly jumped out of the art world and into ancient philosophy textbooks to come up with examples of how concepts like death and aging have been discussed historically. She studied writings from the 1800s and found that talking about beauty in life has historically been a common way to deal with concepts that are hard to talk about.

“It’s about the beauty of fleeting moments,” she said. “Using bright pastel colors and showing moments that bring up happy memories have historically been great ways to talk about difficult subjects.”

For one of her more striking pieces, entitled “How Did You Love?,” Timmons used fiberboard and acrylics to create a brightly decorated and immaculately detailed coffin filled with conversation heart candy usually seen around Valentine’s Day. Death filled with sweetness.

Woman standing in front of one piece of art.
“How Did You Love?”

Timmons’s senior faculty advisor, CAA Assistant Professor Aaron Johnson, said that the research Timmons did for this project accentuated her storytelling skills.

“Kim has worked hard at fine tuning her conceptual vision – what she is trying to say,” he said. “She has developed her technical and artistic skills so that people who view her art really understand her message.”

After graduation, Timmons plans to remain in the world of art. Whether she freelances or looks for a more structured position, like designing theme parks, being creative is essential for her, which is another parallel of her project – life, like food, is meant to be enjoyed.

Woman looking away from camera at details of a painting.
Bright colors and detailed textures dominate the display.

“Food is essential – we all need it to survive,” she said. “I think art is just as important.”

Article by David Jackson, University Communications and Marketing.

Photos provided by University of Idaho Visual Productions.

Published in May 2023.

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