Art reveals secrets

Brianna O’Neal creates a project to help others expose parts of their past

Liberty graphic design student Brianna O’Neal stood outside the Jerry Falwell Library Thursday, Nov. 12, where mass crowds of students and bystanders gathered around her and her art project — a giant board of text with a sign in front declaring “Art Reveals the Secrets of Society.”

Design — Brianna O’Neal studies in the Masters of Fine Arts graduate program. Photo provided

Design — Brianna O’Neal studies in the Masters of Fine Arts graduate program. Photo provided

On the board, secrets from 195 different people were promptly displayed and shared with those who took the time to read them. The subjects of secrets confessed ranged from “I kissed my dog” to “I have been a mistress for over two years.” The secrets were without name, anonymously given.

O’Neal, a graduate student at Liberty who is on track to receive a Masters of Fine Arts in graphic design, created the board as a project for her typography class. With it, she strove to spread awareness to a problem that she said students may not know they have.

“Especially at Liberty, I think students feel as though they have to put up a front, this cover to make them seem like the perfect Christian,” O’Neal said. “But really we all have our problems, and I wanted students to realize that others have been through similar things.”

The idea for the project came after O’Neal decided to display her artwork on a larger scale. She was driven by a desire to impact society in a way she had not done before, and the idea eventually spawned from O’Neal’s personal research of interacting with the people around her.

Through conversing with students around campus, O’Neil said she felt as though many did not think they could expose their past out of fear of being judged. She created the Secrets of Society board to give students an avenue to confront a vulnerable part of their past and to encourage others to do the same.

In order to collect the secrets, O’Neal carried with her a lockbox and asked students, professors and co-workers to write down a secret of theirs on paper and put it in the box. For the purpose of anonymity, she promised those who participated the key to the box was not with her, and that she would only open it once she started the project.

“You could tell a lot of people felt uncomfortable when I asked them to write down a secret of theirs,” O’Neal said. “It was really awkward for me at first trying to ask different people.”

Reactions to the public display of the project were mixed, which was expected, according to O’Neal. She said she received warm compliments from professors and fellow arts students especially, but there were also those who looked at the board with an uncomfortable expression and walked away quickly.

O’Neal does not plan on reproducing her project in the spring semester, though the artist said she hopes to combine her idea for the Secrets of Society board with another Liberty art student who is experimenting with projecting whole images onto walls as temporary murals.

O’Neal said she enjoys applying studio art into her digital work. Though she focuses on graphic design and labels herself as a graphic designer, at heart she said she prefers working hands-on with her artwork in the beginning stages.

“I’ve always liked to start with studio art ever since I first got into design,” O’Neal said. “I tend to draw or craft by hand, and then scan it in to use for graphic design.”

Currently, O’Neal is focusing on the design practicum she is enrolled in. After graduation, she hopes to work in environmental design, which would give her control of a company’s entire layout and appearance. She plans on applying to multiple top-rated graphic design firms to do so.

“The firms that I don’t think I have a chance to get into, those are the ones I’m going to apply to,” O’Neal said. “I always like to push myself in that way, to see how much I can do, and to see how
far I can get.”

Young is a feature reporter.

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