Adrianna “Shay” Reynolds

Class of 2020

“I exist as I am, that is enough, / If no other in the world be aware I sit content, / And if each and all be aware I sit content.” – Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”
In a generation full of defining labels, it can be difficult to find the truth behind who you are. Many Americans are made to believe that people are unique in our own ways, an individual. Yet if someone “chooses” the wrong identity, shunning or disowning are the most passive responses. Therefore, some people hide our truth, as I do.

I create collages with acrylic paint and graphite on canvas with various materials ranging from vellum paper to glass or twine. These collages explore what the meanings of the words identity, human, hidden, acceptance, and reflection mean to me. As I struggle to find my identity, I consistently write in quotes, lyrics, poetry, or significant words to create art based on these streams of consciousness. These words written with graphite or pen represent deeply ingrained anxieties about my journey to acceptance and self-love. The underlying abstract imagery plays with the psychological meaning, or suggestion of specific feelings, of colors while the descriptive imagery shows my visual manifestation of these feelings and traits. These layers of abstraction and description represent my experiences, feelings, and meditations that build onto one another to create myself.

Becoming comfortable with this idea of revealing my identity is something I have spent close to all of my life attempting to accomplish. Assumptions based on whom I was born as versus whom I have chosen to become has confronted me with a daunting question, “Do I have the right to be who I am?” These judgments and labels cause relentless anxieties of rejection, so I bury much of my evolving identity below the surface, only seen by those I trust intimately. I conceal my true self in front of disapproving eyes, but in safety, I am a completely different person. Truthfully, I am an androgynous, asexual person who prefers comfortability and personality as opposed to beauty and physicality.

My work focuses on the process of seeking rather than the product. They are the archives of my journey. It is a long process, but a necessary one to feel comfortable deviating away from permanence towards my honest identity.


Adrianna “Shay” Reynolds is an androgynous two-dimensional mixed-media artist from a small town in East Tennessee called Lenoir City. Shay attended Farragut High School where they met many talented artists who inspired them to continue with their creative pursuits. After high school, they were unclear on what to study as they had several extreme passions, including pediatrics, psychology, French, education, and art. This led them to switch majors several times before determining to move forward with a Bachelor’s degree in Art Teacher Prep from Emory & Henry College.

In March 2018, Shay was lucky enough to work alongside the curator, gallery attendants, and visiting artist Joe Page to volunteer in installing Flow Chart in the McGlothlin Center for the Arts Gallery, where they found a love of museum studies. The following semester, they applied to be gallery attendant where this love further flourished, and they began gaining more experience in installations, data maintenance, and art interpretation. Shay has assisted in twelve different exhibitions including shows by Hui Chi Lee, Jennifer Davey, and Amanda Burnham whose artworks heavily inspired Shay’s collages. During their time at college, they were involved in many organizations such as the Student Art Association, Frostiana Poetry Society, Pi Sigma Kappa Social Sorority, Greek Council Judicial Board, and Pi Delta Phi National French Honors Society.

Shay has been creating since the summer of 2014, though they have been encouraged by their family to be an artist since they were born. During these years of artistry, Shay began struggling with difficult emotions such as depression and anxiety and has since put these topics into their work. Shay creates mixed media collages with acrylic paint on canvas with different materials layered within the paint. These collages often display many of their written works including fictional short stories and poetry, but these are frequently illegible to add a sense of mystery. They choose to work in variety as to allow their work to be unrestricted to a specific medium, size, or color scheme. Instead, they work in whatever the particular piece calls for or feels right. Currently, Shay bases their work off their developing identity and continues to learn daily about what it means to be human.

  • Shay Reynolds, Pixie Dust 4, April 2020, 12” x 9”, acrylic, graphite, pen, and thread on canvas

I create collages with acrylic paint and graphite on canvas with various materials ranging from vellum paper to glass or twine. These collages explore what the meanings of the words identity, human, hidden, acceptance, and reflection mean to me.

—Adrianna “Shay” Reynolds