Arts of Dignity Student Juried Art Exhibit

Engagement with the arts is integral to justice education at the center. It helps us pay close attention to the realities of injustice while holding out hopeful visions of justice.

This exhibit features digital images of the work on display from our 2023 Arts of Dignity exhibit. Art was submitted by undergraduate students at the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, Holy Cross College, and Indiana University South Bend. Selections were made by the jurors, MFA student Geneva Hutchinson, and art professor Fr. Martin Nguyen. We hope you enjoy the rich collection of works in varied media responding to the prompt: “Explore contemporary realities in which dignity is threatened or enhanced.” We hope it informs and inspires our work for a more just world.

Award Winners

Divine Feet

Oil on canvas

By Brian Johny

Bharatanatyam is one of the oldest classical dance traditions of India and focuses on the expression of both dance and emotions. This painting is an examination of a man’s foot, adorned in the traditional attire and ornamentation of a bharatanatyam dancer. Despite the beauty and awe of this dance form, gender stigmas and roles are prevalent. Rooted in history, bharatanatyam was typically performed by females. The intense makeup, jewelry, and costume presented a feminine aspect to the art form. Due to this, males did not partake in the art form simply because it was not allowed, but rather the idea of gender stereotypes and roles averted men from learning. If a male were to partake, their sexuality and various other ideas of masculinity would be challenged. Bharatanatyam, in its beauty, has allowed myself to express both my inner masculinity and femininity. It has shown my audience that culture is an experience which could be spread to all, despite gender.

Ruega Por Nosotros

Linoprint on paper

By Rosario Murillo

This piece specifically explores the concept of immigrant families crossing the border between Mexico and the United States in hopes of a better life and often time being labeled and viewed in a negative light as criminals. I want to shed a positive light on these families in hopes that people understand that they are oftentimes innocent human beings who don’t deserve to be labeled negatively. They simply want what’s best for their children. I have portrayed them as saints in my piece to emphasize the fact that they are human beings who simply are searching for a better life.


Metal, plaster, and wood

By Ian Horvath

The piece is a composite formed from plaster molds of human body elements and material obtained by deconstructing a broken printer, and explores the intersection of humans and technology in an increasingly digital and virtual world. By repurposing an old printer, the piece provides new life for a discarded item. Consumerist culture and the waste it produces are detrimental to the environment and to the well-being of those working in factories under dangerous conditions and for just compensation to produce cheap, disposable products. The mix of human elements and technological equipment imagines a friendlier coexistence between humans and the technology and products we interact with. It imagines a more sustainable and just world in which we consider the products we interact with as an extension of ourselves, the environment, and those who worked to create them, not as disposable items that we can discard without thought.

Joan Betrayed - Recontextualized

Oil on canvas

By Kristyn Kertai

This work was a part of a school project where I had to recontextualize and old master. I chose Joan of Arc by John Everett Millais. I wanted to reframe Joan from a young pious girl who refrained from violence in her battles, to someone who feels betrayed and used by God after taking part in a brutal battle that ultimately would lead to her demise. I wanted to capture rage and betrayal after a bloody battle.

On Display

Color pencil on paper

The realms of what we define as private spaces in our current society are essentially nonexistent with today’s technological advancements and constant stream of media. Feminist theorist Laura Mulvey and artist Cindy Sherman have outlined the ways in which the male gaze implicates the way women internalize their own sense of self. In the age of mass surveillance and social media, there is another, more ominous gaze being inflicted upon us all. This socially constructed audience is inescapable, even in the most private of spaces. Through detailed drawings of the figure devoid of setting, I navigate the psychological alienation of the self derived from constantly being watched and performing for others.

Juror Selections

Gentrification in South Bend

Photograph edited in Adobe Illustrator

By Maddie Niekelski

This piece features gentrification in South Bend’s Harter Heights neighborhood. Notre Dame’s Eddy Street development knocked down hundreds of homes in black and Latino neighborhoods, displacing hundreds of residents. Gentrification is a process where low-income and marginalized neighborhoods undergo significant changes due to the influx of wealthier residents and businesses. As the neighborhood changes, property values rise, displacing long-term residents or renters who are unable to afford the increasing living costs. Gentrification leads to the loss of cultural identity and neighborhood heritage, exacerbates existing inequalities and social divisions, and disproportionately benefits the wealthy at the expense of the marginalized, undermining their dignity and reinforcing social hierarchies.

Rum Punch

Family photograph scan printed on satin twill, madder root powder, embroidery, found textiles

By Geneva Hutchinson

My work navigates the complexities of being raised in Christian purity culture, sexual trauma, and spiritual abuse. Being raised as a pastor’s daughter in the southern United States I grew up with familial expectations to become a pure wife and eventual mother. When I was first sexually assaulted at the age of 17, my entire sense of self was lost, as I was no longer considered “pure” by my family and church. My work is a process of restoring my self and I hope and pray that through the work other survivors may find healing and peace as well.


Graphite and charcoal

By Lynda White

Dignity is a privilege in marginalized communities. Surrounded by microaggressions and misinformation, it takes time and resilience to earn any sense of dignity, an inkling of respect for yourself and an ability to hold your head high and mean it. This piece explores the idea of dignity through a black woman’s eyes as she stares into the soul of the viewer. It is almost a challenge for you to question her worth as she is simply existing in her unique beauty. But existing is often all it takes to experience this dehumanization in the real world, especially with the lack of black representation in artwork contributing to the alienation of black people.


Chalk pencil & pastel on paper

By Stephanie Nuñez

PROVIDENCIA is a contemplation of God’s providence that seeks to portray the experience of immigrants from the southern border in a humanizing way. Immigrants looking to cross the border leave everything behind and are subject to the elements of nature as well as man-made barriers. As a baby depends on its caregivers for survival, immigrants must depend on God to provide for them in their journey. God’s providence over nature is also displayed through the butterflies, a migratory species that seasonally makes the journey North and South of the continent.

Bang, Bang

Oil and acrylic on canvas

By Amelia Mendelsohn

This work explores a memory that reveals destructive family structures hidden within everyday familiarity. I am concerned with familial conflict existing within mundane domestic scenes that threaten individual dignity, especially when social mores and value systems bury traumatic experiences within the home. Efforts to conceal and repress these events imbue everyday scenes with foreboding unease. Patterns of insidious and abusive familial relationships may manifest both physically and mentally. This dynamic causes family conflict to become an inheritance, allowing gender roles and normative values to echo across generations.

Their Food

Digital medium

By Yiru Xia

This artwork speaks against the objectification of females, forced marriages, and arranged marriages and discusses the loss of dignity of people involved in this still-existing system.


Mixed media, photography

By Arienne Calingo

“Iran installs cameras in public places to identify, penalize unveiled women.”

It concerns me that the first news headline I read today demonstrates the continued suppression, subordination, and silencing of women in Iran. I find it empowering that thousands of people, especially Iranian women, are protesting against the compulsory hijab. To rise together, to break boundaries, takes significant strength. Women should have the right to choose what to wear without state coercion or intervention. Their voices deserve to be heard. Their collective efforts show that they truly understand the definition of dignity — that they are worthy of honor and respect.



By Collective

This collective of student works exemplifies how we as humans are more beautiful and stronger together. Each bridge was created by a student in Metal Sculpture I, but the bridges are strongest as a piece together. Human dignity is about lifting each other up, and this class's work deserves to be displayed collectively.

POV: Your Ukraine Campaign is Falling Apart

Digital illustration

By Nik Swift

This work questions the notion that dignity should always be retained. Do Tyrants still deserve dignity, when they choose to maliciously remove the dignity of entire populations through their political action? Vladimir Putin has tirelessly worked to remove the dignity of LGBT people in Russia, and this work seeks to provoke and question this notion of civility in the face of oppression. Audiences are left to make their own decisions about whether it can be necessary to engage in vitriol in order to achieve progress toward universal dignity in society.


Colored pencil

By Beau Martinez

This drawing represents how our internal and somewhat constrained creativity is usually masked by bleak facades of professionalism and order, as what is often requested by societal norms. The flower represents this individual’s creative side blossoming into existence, which is what catches the eye of the viewer first. The black and white appearance of the torso area is intended to show the solemn and depressing outward appearance that usually overpowers and suppresses our internal desires to be unique, innovative, and artistic.

Protect Your Peace

Digital illustration

By Maria Gorecki

Though you can face many hardships, it is important to keep calm and remain confident in yourself. Mental health is an invisible science. It is easy to diagnose when a physical problem is present, but much harder to discover if it is a mental problem. This painting emphasizes the importance of keeping your inner peace safe and guarded while under attack by external threats. Words can penetrate deeper than physical harm, and this was my way of depicting your innermost self guarding itself from invisible harms.

Sentimental Sunrise Shell

Digital photograph

By Mary Kate McGuirk

Beyond fashion, jewelry can be used as a cultural and familial connection. My model, Bona Park, allowed me to photograph her jewelry and document her story. Bona is from Hawai’i and her necklace contains a sunrise shell (decatopecten noduliferum). These shells are native to the islands’ deep waters, only accessible by diving. To Bona, “wearing it all the time makes me feel like even though I am far away from home, my heart and soul are still with the ‘ohana (family) and the ‘āina (land) of Hawai’i, keeping me in the spirit of Aloha.”

Pinnacle of Human Dignity

Metal, moss, wire, plaster, paint

By Rebecca Daly

This work is intended to express human dignity. The worth of each human is meant to be shared equally. This work has fingers pointing towards the human centerpiece. The intention is to highlight the worth of the human figure.

Through my music, dignity is mine

Digital photograph

By Anna Grillo

For me, dignity comes from respecting oneself as an equal. Here music has brought this street musician and passersby together as equals in Lisbon, Portugal, creating a solidarity as they enjoy his music. In this way, music restores both his dignity and theirs as they pause to appreciate his talent. Looking directly into the camera, the street musician plays proudly and confidently, with no apologies for the meager Portuguese coins in the plastic bottle hanging on a string from his accordion. Indeed, the musician seems more intent on sharing his music with the passersby than on collecting coins.


Oil paint on canvas

By Brian Johny

The psychological and emotional trauma endured by a sexual assault survivor is unfathomable. The moments of complete confusion, loss of self and paranoia inflict a survivor following this traumatizing incident. Whether you have underwent the trauma associated with sexual assault or not, the painting provides a glimpse into the account of a survivor. Looking at the eyes of the survivor, you see the frightening and scary reality of living following a sexual assault incident. However, the eyes also denote the feeling of hope. Hope that despite the traumatizing circumstance, there is a pathway to healing. No individual is alone. No individual who underwent sexual assault is at fault. Despite the alienating feeling, hope grounds victims, directing them towards the light which may guide them through their emotional and mental crises.

Which is worth more?

Digital photograph

By Mary Votava

Which is worth more? The golden idols in the church, or the person? So often, churches sweep people under the rug for simply being themselves. It raises the question, which matters more? These idols of vanity? Or the people? The Basilica can be adorned with art and gold, but that will never matter more than the people. The people the church is supposed to serve, not discriminate against.

Collagen Labor


By Maggie Fink

The piece is composed entirely of antique dresses, braided together to demonstrate the creativity of women’s invisible labor in society. These twisted fabrics also depict the structure of collagen, a protein imbedded in every thread of these scraps of clothing. Recreating the braided collagen fibers represents the hidden labor of women who worked to create these textiles and clothing throughout history. Using repurposed and salvaged clothing in this piece calls attention to exploitation of women’s labor today in garment factories globally, continuing the long thread of the creativity and vitality of women being silenced for consumption.


Oil paint on canvas

By Brian Johny

What does it mean to transition? What does it mean to transform in a better version of oneself?

These were the questions I was battling with myself during my freshman year of college. Being far from home has bestowed upon me the ability to truly understand and grasp myself. For years, I have been mentally putting myself down, smashing my dignity and worth to shredded pieces. A facade hindered my true self everywhere back home, from my school, church, to any extracurricular organization I was a part of. I was deeply disgusted at myself, viewing every inch of myself as a sin.

Despite this feeling, I understood that God created me with a purpose. My dignity is not found upon the view I have of myself but rather it is revealed through God’s creation of me. I was created with a purpose, and in spite of my negativity towards my creation, I am ready to transition to accept myself for who I am.

Heading towards the light, my face is lit in this painting. Here is to a future in which I will grow to love myself and appreciate the creativity of God in how he formed me.

I Didn't Provoke You ... So Why Did You Sting Me?

Acrylic paint on canvas

By Maria Gorecki

On the left is the first painting of my diptych about the immorality of sexual assault that abuses the dignity of a person. The assaulter is represented by the wasp, and its victim is represented by the flower. It doesn’t matter what the sex of the insect or plant is because sexual assault could happen to anyone. Ultimately not assigning sexual roles to these two figures helps explain this point.

I used two canvases to depict two different perspectives on the same issue. This painting is significantly smaller than the second part to emphasize focus on the victim.

On the right is the second painting of my diptych about the immorality of sexual assault. This diptych portrays the nature, ability, and limitations of different creatures. The wasp has the freedom to fly around and choose any flower it wants, but the flower is rooted in the ground.

The wasp approached this flower that didn’t want its attention. Because of the nature of the yellowjacket wasp, they can sting repeatedly without provocation. Because of the nature of the flower, it remained stuck in the same place unable to defend itself. It wasn’t the flower’s fault that the wasp abused its freedom.

Fred and Evelyn

Clay, paint, yarn, fabric, polyfill, nose rings, AirPod

By CJ Rodgers

Fred and Evelyn are the first two in a series of six exploring themes of inherent dignity and self expression. By regarding them as subjects instead of art objects, they question academia’s current paradigm of art as only valuable if functioning to convey a conceptual thought. This is to reflect how people are so often treated as valuable only if having some function to offer our late stage capitalist society. Fred and Evelyn also proudly wear piercings to highlight the beauty in this form of self expression which for so long had been condemned by most of corporate America.