Section: Arts

Senior studio art majors exhibit thesis work in The Gund

Senior studio art majors exhibit thesis work in The Gund

Students worked with a variety of media to create their works, which are on display in The Gund. | COURTESY OF SIMONE MARTEL

The hum of voices could be heard even in the lobby of The Gund on Friday, a noise that grew to a roar as visitors made their way up into the deceptively empty first room in which the heads of artist Nancy Spero’s Maypole: Take No Prisoners continue to sway. This illusion dissolved upon turning the corner into the adjourning room, the artworks becoming obscured by the floods of visitors that shifted between them at the opening of the Annual Senior Student Exhibition.

Several of the 15 studio art majors graduating in 2024 wrote emails to the Collegian about their journey to this moment and the experience of seeing it realized.

For Mickey Adams ’24, daily charcoal sessions made creating his piece, Courage, special. “I would look at it for hours and interact with it every day to see what would look better and how I could improve it,” he said. As people approach the towering canvas spanning the back wall of the gallery, Adams hopes they will come to an understanding of the strength possessed by each person: “Everyone has felt fear in one shape or form that made them feel like it was unfair and impossible to overcome, but you’re still here today with us and that shows who you are as a person and what you have overcome.”

Dani Buch ’24 spent over 200 hours in the studio tattooing rawhide for her work Melt, an expression of life with a traumatic brain injury. Reflecting on her piece, she said, “Sometimes, there are aspects to life and events that will happen that can’t be explained by science or logic. For me, art fills in that space. Art brings peace, communication and understanding to the unexplainable.”

Around the corner of the exhibition, Amanda Marie Moore Johnstone ’24’s ‘Buy-A-Body’: Deconstructing the Female Body depicts female bodies packaged like dolls. While mainstream media may have acclimated society to the smiling faces of dolls such as Barbie, these are women whose body language and expressions create an uneasy feeling in the viewer. “My art highlights the toxicity that social media and the male gaze has inflicted on women of our generation, and how our bodies are over sexualized. I want people to look at my art and realize that these problems are very real and very prevalent, but that we can take a stance against them,” Johnstone said. “Women are strong, people who identify as female are strong, and we can heal and fight together.”

In the final room of the exhibition, visitors were presented with the rare opportunity to touch art as they were encouraged to interact with the clothes of Sam Ehrlich ’24’s Fantastic Man’s paper dolls, dressing up magnetic photos of his close friends. Ehrlich said, “[T]he work is first and foremost an act of gratitude for the friends I’ve made during my time at Kenyon.” He explained how his work further digs into expressions of personal style: “Through the lens of children’s dolls, the work explores how men’s fashion acts as a way to solidify gender binaries. My work is all about reframing fashion and gender expression in a lighthearted, fun and challenging way for people to explore and come to their own conclusions.

“I loved seeing how much fun everyone had interacting with the piece, and I was amazed at all of the original combinations that people came up with,” Ehrlich said. “The interactivity of the work is central to its success, since people can engage with the work on a deeper level and make it their own.” 

Freya Benson ’24 stood with her work in the same room on opening day, surrounded by  the hanging metal and unyielding corsets of Made of Honor. “The way I was able to be in my installation space and engage with everyone who came to see the show, answer questions and observe people’s reactions was such a privilege,” Benson said. “I have never been able to have that opportunity before, and even some of my closest friends have not seen my art that up close and personal before. I hope everyone was able to connect and relate in some way, and would love to see people visiting a second time in the future to take in the work in more privacy and quietude.”

Now that the exhibit has quieted after the opening, the artists encourage visitors to return to experience their work anew without the bustle of an eager crowd.

Elinor Fallon ’24 was thankful to everyone who has spent, or plans to spend, time with the glowing television screens and deep blue cyanotype prints of her Bodies of Water. “I would encourage anyone who is planning to visit the exhibit to listen for the resonant frequency produced by the television monitors in my [piece],” she said. “It’s a very interesting sensation when you find the specific pitch amplified by the physical space the work inhabits.”

With the support of friends and peers, Jiwon Lauren Kim ’24 was able to share her works with the community on Middle Path during the opening. Her illustrations addressed anxiety and depressive disorders. “Even when meeting for the first time, I was able to connect with countless individuals and have deep conversations about my work and mental illness,” Kim said. “Many had opened up about their own struggles and expressed their appreciation. These meaningful interactions will forever be valued in my artistic endeavors.”

A process four years, if not more, in the making, these artists repeated the world “surreal” to describe the experience of sharing their work with others, and expressed gratitude for all those who supported them in their artworks creation, and those who now visit to experience it in its completion.

 “I grew closer with all of the other art majors in our class year and together we truly formed a community,” Buch said of the experience. “The encouragement, critiques and all around positive influences that came out of dedicating time and discipline to this piece went beyond the hope of just passing comps; after installing my piece in The Gund, I felt like a true artist, and not just a student who enjoyed making art. The whole year was a journey and path towards growth. Seeing everyone’s work come together to make such a beautiful and unique show will stick with me forever.”

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