by Tyler Raso
On Oct. 29, Guy Bailey ’17, Rose Bishop ’17 and Eileen Cartter ’16 opened up a new space for student art titled Gallery @ A1 — located in a vacant bedroom in Bailey and Bishop’s residence in the New Apartments’ A-block. According to their mission statement, curators Bailey, Bishop, who is the Collegian’s art director, and Cartter, its chief copy editor, “hope to provide an area for artistic dialogue, collaboration and reflection.”
“I think to some extent, we’re trying to subvert the gallery culture,” Bailey said. Gallery @ A1 is a space for any Kenyon artists willing to submit an exhibition and artist’s statement to the curators. The gallery will remain up as long as the curators are on campus this semester.
Bailey, a studio art major, created the inaugural installation entitled waste and wasted space., which consists of a yellow shopping cart lofted on plastic bags, carrying pink and blue carpet padding covered in pastel paint. Along the room’s wall are digital photos documenting the industrial landscape Bailey encountered while foraging around Mount Vernon for materials for the piece. To establish a visual unity between the sculpture and the photos, as well as underline the social and political statement he intended to make, Bailey edited the photos to feature matching pastel hues.
Bailey’s installation represents the idea of consumer culture, drawing a clever parallel between the formerly unoccupied New Apt room and the found trash used for the medium of the installation. Bailey manipulated aspects of what has become of our natural landscape — discarded shopping carts, industrial backdrops, plastic bags — and ignited them with pastel and purpose. Its pleasing aesthetics contrast with America’s cultural apathy surrounding waste.
Gallery @ A1’s creators also intended for this first exhibition to call attention to issues surrounding housing on campus this year. “There’s a sort of weird disconnect in the narrative of inflation of student population, lack of housing, New Apts being a problem,” Cartter said. The three of them want the complexities of Bailey’s piece to spark the first wave of artistic dialogue they want the gallery to stimulate.
The location of the gallery is essential to the vision behind the project. “At some point or another, everyone comes to New Apts for a party, or on their way to Port,” Bailey said. “I think it’s sort of expressing the domesticisty aspect of the gallery, because we’re using empty space that we have in our own home to display art.”
“We wanted people to stumble upon [the gallery] and wonder what it was, if we’re being serious, if we’re kidding,” Cartter said.
Though the curators hope to cultivate a sense of shock and confusion, the intentional mystique surrounding the gallery, such as relying on word of mouth and offering minimal context for the pieces, seems too obtuse to initiate genuine and longform dialogue.
“Just last night, I walked outside, and there were two people looking at the gallery, like, ‘Why is there this shopping cart in this room?’” Bishop said.
But the existing reputation of the New Apts among the Kenyon administration and student body is also a key concept of the current exhibiton and the space itself.
“There’s something intensely funny about opening a gallery in a New Apt, which is, by and large, the worst living space in Kenyon,” Bishop said. “It definitely feels that the College has this sort of amnesia with regards to New Apts, but then here we are with two empty spaces. We designed this gallery to be an active reclaiming of the space.”