by Michael Cusack
For the recent Kenyon graduate, with spring comes a move away from the Hill in pursuit of the next step. But for Taylor Sweeney ’15, the next step means staying on campus another year.
Each year the studio art department selects one graduating art major from a pool of applicants to be the shop supervisor technician, which entails supervising the sculpture studios while assisting professors, working with students and maintaining equipment. This fall, Sweeney returns to Gambier to fill the position.
The role offers Sweeney the opportunity to serve as both a technical and an advisory resource for students while also pursuing his own projects to build his portfolio. “I’m someone who can talk about their work who isn’t another student,” Sweeney, who works with wood, steel and found objects, said. “I’m there as a resource, not just as a technician who knows how the machines work and how not to injure yourself when you use them.” He also has access to the department’s spaces and resources for his own work.
“During those hours when you’re not directly interacting with students or fixing things or doing a myriad of requested jobs from the professors, you have time to work on your own stuff in a great studio,” Sweeney said. “I have a great department of professors to talk to and work with who have such a wide variety of styles. I get to work closely with someone on the other side and get a little more insight into the pedagogy.”
Sweeney’s new role has allowed him to continue his exploration of other media, a direction he began experimenting with during his last semester as a student.
“I’ve moved a little bit away from pure fabrication from raw materials to incorporation of more objects that have been manufactured outside of my hands,” Sweeney said. “When I’m working in this sort of improvisational sort of way it affords a lot of momentary decision-making that can be quickly reversed or flip-flopped, switched around as an ephemeral way of working with things and not so final or set in stone as with steel or wood.”
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Craig Hill praised Sweeney’s work.
“He’s grounded in a minimal aesthetic, but I think it has a contemporary voice because of the materials he’s choosing to use,” Hill said. “He finds the most interesting components of an object and he’s able to exploit it and I think that’s something that is rare in an artist, to be able to find beauty in the mundane.” Sweeney’s final senior art project used shredded blue tarp to give the impression of different scenes, from spouting water to a gently waving flag.
Sweeney says it will take time to settle into the position.
“I have to be vigilant about … balancing how much thought and energy and seriousness I put into my own work compared to the people who are actually in my classes,” Sweeney said. “I’m bound to overextend myself, but that’s OK. I’m in a good place to do that.”