AUGUSTA — Noella Clements’ life changed when she realized she was pregnant two years ago, right at the end of her third year at the University of Maine at Augusta.

“I was so scared that I wasn’t going to graduate,” she said.

Clements persevered with the help of her family and fiance, earning her degree in art on Saturday. Her daughter, Monroe, is 16 months old.

After the commencement exercises, Clements and a dozen other art program graduates opened a show of their thesis projects at the Danforth Gallery in Jewett Hall. Their work will be on display until May 30.

The title of the show is “Inevitable Evolution,” and all the students’ work deals with change: in themselves as students, artists and people during their time at UMA; in nature and people’s lives; in perspectives on an issue.

Clements, 22, of Augusta, relived and processed her personal evolution by chronicling the pregnancies and early motherhood of three women. She said she hoped her photographs would capture the realities of pregnancy not often seen in the media and thereby encourage viewers to look at it in a new way.

“I think that they will see that pregnancy is not easy,” she said. “It’s not the fluffy clouds and this idea that everything is so easy. Before the child is even born, your life is changing.”

She said she saw more beauty in the process than she did when going through it herself, and she realized that the fear she had felt was shared by other women.

Three large portraits by Wenda Ashton Fisher, 40, of Appleton, also show emotions that are heavy but common: worry, strain, sadness, exhaustion.

A lot has happened in Fisher’s family during the last four years, including a divorce and more than one case of cancer, and it has all affected her three daughters. Fisher said that in her portraits of herself and her daughters, she painted raw moments from life, wanting to lay them bare rather than turn away from them because struggle is necessary for enlightenment.

“As art students, we’re all striving to reach some sort of enlightenment in order to feed our process, to reach a better artist inside of us,” she said.

Fisher won the Outstanding Art Student Award, and UMA purchased her portrait of her middle daughter to hang in the Katz Library.

Adriana Love, of South China, got to study cermaics in Jingdezhen, China, and created a series of porcelain pieces by combining Eastern and Western techniques

Love has a deep concern for environmental conservation, and she took the shape of her pieces from her study of the movement of water, particularly in the ocean. They’re glazed in hues of blue and green.

“I tried to really capture the essence of water and the life that it contains through this body of work,” she said.

Jeffrey Chapman, 41, of Augusta, described his photographs as an evolution from the work he has more typically done in drawing and printmaking media, which involves close attention to line.

Chapman was captivated by the curling, twisting shapes of incense smoke. His final project is an array of square, unframed photographs in which the smoke tendrils flow abstractly from one picture to the next.

“I felt I could really pull out the lines I wanted,” he said. “They started connecting together, and it became this large installation.”

Chapman said the images are playful, and he returns to them sometimes when he’s stuck on a drawing, drawing inspiration from the forms in the smoke.

The Danforth Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Wednesdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645smcmillan@centralmaine.comTwitter: @s_e_mcmillan@s_e_mcmillan