Section: Arts

Art of Exploration

Art of Exploration

By Devon Musgrave-Johnson and Daniel Olivieri

This year, more than 560 visitors came to the opening reception of the Senior Art Exhibition in the Buchwald-Wright Gallery in the Gund Gallery to view the capstone work of the 19 senior studio-art majors. The students displayed a wide variety of work from sculptures to oil paintings to interactive works. Pieces explored themes of identity, intersectionality and culture. The exhibition will be on display through May 20. For more photos of student work, visit

Emma Brown- Self Portrait

Emma Brown was able to celebrate her multicultural heritage through her work by creating a traditional Japanese folding screen and painting it with depictions of important moments throughout her life. Brown, who is half Japanese and half white, said that she wanted to unite both aspects of her identity by using oil paints, a traditionally western medium, on a Japanese folding screen. “The combination of these two things felt very natural to me,” she said, “and I feel really good about it. I’m really happy.” Brown was so dedicated to the idea of the traditional Japanese screen that she refused to use metal hinges when constructing it, opting instead to go the traditional route and use fabric.


Claire HarnEnz- Chicken Bits

Bold colors pop out from the stark white walls of the gallery in Claire HarnEnz’s piece, Chicken Bits, which was inspired by her time living at the Kenyon Farm and depicts close up images of chickens as well as different human faces. This collage of linoleum prints showcases bright greens, blues, reds and yellows, with a glossy resin coating giving the artwork a polished look. “It was a really long process,” she said. “It’s all I’ve done for five weeks.”


Emma Harrison- Intradermal series

In what most would perceive as grotesque, Emma Harrison found beauty in her project entitled Intradermal. Harrison decided to tattoo animal hides that she purchased on Etsy. She stretched and warped the hides into new shapes resembling aspects of the human figure. Although Harrison normally works in two-dimensional art, she said she wanted to try something new for her senior exercise. “I’ve always been interested in the body and how it plays into identity,” she said, “but the material for this project was actually kind of random. I was in Colorado and I saw some snow shoes and was inspired by that.”


Hannah Gilman- Lucidity series

Hannah Gilman’s three oil paintings put a contemporary twist on Renaissance themes and techniques. Each image depicted a female deformed in some way — one with extra arms, one with a third eye and one with antlers — and played off of Renaissance iconography representing fertility, fidelity and death. “Now that I’ve finished, I just feel so good,” Gilman said. “I’m so excited to start sleeping again on a regular basis, but mostly I’m just excited because I know that this is the hardest I have ever worked on an art piece.”


Ella Jones- Baby Face

Pastel pinks and deep graphite grays covered Ella Jones’s three canvases depicting the transition from childhood to adulthood. “I feel that the lines are drawn a bit too dramatically between what’s for kids and what’s for adults,” Jones said. “And that makes the transition to adulthood difficult because you feel like you have to give up the things you love as a child in order to be taken seriously as an adult.” Each canvas depicts a woman and her doll in a different state of undress, symbolizing the stages of coming into adulthood.


Jessica Ferrer- Common Thread series

Jessica Ferrer’s series of works explore ideas of domesticity, femininity and her Filipino-American roots. Each work is a piece of paper intricately woven together with other textures of paper in a variety of patterns, resembling Banígs — or handwoven mats — often used throughout the Philippines and East Asia. It took Ferrer 15-20 hours to complete each of the five papers. First, she would cut all of the strips and the lines in the paper, and then she would spend hours weaving the strips into the paper. “It’s really exciting to see my hard work — and everyone’s hard work — culminate in this way,” Ferrer said.


Gabe Avis- 44° 53’ 36.402’’ N 86° 0’ 20.898 W

Visitors to the Gund Gallery can actually enter Gabe Avis’s piece, a large monochrome box with four chairs and a projector shining down into the center. The walls depict black-and-white fields that represent Avis’s home state of Michigan, but also made a broader statement about environmental neglect and actions that harm the environment. “It’s supposed to be disorienting; it’s supposed to be thought provoking,” Avis said. “I want people to have conversations inside, whether it’s about the environment or anything in life.”


Emily Tillitt Balber- Andromeda

As a psychology and studio art double major, Emily Tillitt Balber decided to combine her academic passions — as well as a passion for crocheting — to create her final project. With a vortex-shaped crocheted piece stretching from floor to ceiling and pieces of yarn shaped like rain drops climbing up two of the walls, her gargantuan piece played with the concept of memory. “Everything you remember isn’t always the same as it actually happened,” she said. “This piece is almost like a black hole and each drop is a memory and eventually it hits and it ripples and fades into the subconscious.” Though most of the pieces were made up of yarn consisting of cool colors, Tillitt Balber incorporated deep reds and oranges up the walls of the gallery to look like the colors of dying stars and represent the impact of time as memories grow older.


Evie Gimbel- I’m not joking

In Evie Gimbel’s piece, five white pedestals stand in a row, each displaying different aspects of movement both figuratively and literally with moving parts. While one has an imprint that digs into the sculpture, the other pedestals hold black sculptures made from materials such as plywood, silicone and animatronic moving parts. “I think that at its foundation — quite literally — each one is made possible by its backbone, its structural integrity,” Gimbel said. “Each one is different, but when they move they will always come back to their place.”


Kate Lovins – 9,973

In Kate Lovins’ installation, threads covered in sand hang from the ceiling. The strands are meticulously arranged in rows to make a rectangle, and at the bottom of each strand is a small rock. The strands hanging from the ceiling are different lengths, so the rocks hang at different heights. The piece allowed Lovins to explore the occupation of space. Lovins described the creation of the piece as, “labor intensive.” She had not seen this exhibit installed until she got to the art exhibition. “I wanted to do something where like a really small thing became something kind of massive,” Lovins said. “And so I decided to use sand, which is on the threads.”


Mary Lauletta – Ladylike series

Different paintings cover an entire wall of Mary Lauletta’s exhibition. Each brightly colored digital painting shows a different woman in some act of rebellion. Some are smoking, while one raises a middle finger. Almost all these women have their backs to the viewer. Lauletta based these paintings on women she knows. “Everyone has that point in their life where they’ve done something kind of counterculture or something that wasn’t considered lady-like and it really empowered them,” Lauletta said of the work.


Meghan Surges- Bridge and Oculus

The Oculus part of Meghan Surges’s exhibit asks the viewer to step inside a tall wooden frame. Installed in the top of the frame are a series of screens. Patrons must crane their necks straight back to look at the videos being projected down at them. The videos seen there come from the Bridge section of the exhibit. In the Bridge installation, patrons are asked to walk on a wooden plinth with cameras installed recording their steps. “The main part of this piece is the monitor itself,” Surges said. “Obviously, there are links to surveillance culture, but I’m presenting a more mundane perspective.”


Morgan MacDonnell- Origins

In Morgan MacDonnell’s piece, several concrete rectangles stand near one another. Some have what look to be plaster human parts chipped out of them. The plaster human parts are colored in pink while the rest of the rectangles keep the simplicity of concrete. Visitors can walk between the cluster of rectangles to see each part from different perspectives. “I’ve been trying to make a metaphor about people looking at each other in a different perspective,” Morgan said. “A more open perspective. Actively trying to understand another person.”


Truda Silberstein- She’s a Girl, For Sure

Visitors must stoop to enter Truda Silberstein’s exhibit, an enclosed tent-like structure with art lining the inside walls. Affixed to the walls of the structure are small video screens depicting Silberstein’s lips. In some screens she is reciting poetry written by her mother. In other screens she is reciting thoughts about her mother. “I’ve never done installation before,” Silberstein said. “Building walls, I feel like I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned to do electrical things like wiring and construction. It’s amazing. I think the thing I got most out of this process is learning so many new skills. You really learn how to problem solve.”


Anna Petek – 神 (かみ, kami)

In Anna Petek’s work, wood shaped like rocks are splayed up and down a wall. The wooden rocks come in many different shapes and sizes. In some places they are clustered closer together and in others they are far apart. Petek has been working with this form for years. “For me, whenever I get a block of wood I just intuitively just want to start grinding away at it and make some kind of round form,” Petek said. While Petek may have experience with this medium, it was still exciting for her to see the work up on the wall. “When they’re sitting on a desk they’re much more demure or humble,” she said. “Putting them on a wall I could finally do the compositions I had in my head.”


Drew Meeker- The Butterfly Effect

Drew Meeker’s five-minute animation deals with environmentalism head on. By telling a story focused on animals, it confronts current issues like deforestation, pollution and the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. The creative process was a one: Meeker used traditionally drawn two-dimensional animation, which required enormous amounts of time. Meeker needed to draw and rearrange images for hours at a time. “For this it was fun to get to know the tools I was using more,” said Meeker.


Aaron Salm – After the War Everything was Fine, Nothing was Wrong at All series

Aaron Salm worked with oil paint on enormous canvases to create images of men and women drinking, having sex, and watching television. Salm enjoyed the physicality of working on such large canvases. Even after so much work, however, Salm does not feel his art is finished. He still wishes he could add to his paintings. Whether he is content or not, his paintings are undoubtedly striking. In one painting, a group of women sit around watching television with their lips closed tight. The faces of his subjects are exaggerated to the point of looking uncannily inhuman. “There’s some way of painting someone that reveals more about them than if you painted them realistically,” Salm said. “I was trying to create a mood by making it a little recognizable so it had a narrative but also a little weird and offputting so people wouldn’t really know what to think.”


Charlotte Mitchell- The 27 Club

Charlotte Mitchell’s piece consists of glass jars that contain a total of sixty-two different cut-out drawings of famous people who died at twenty-seven years old. Such celebrities included Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin. Each jar has an electric tea light mounted on the inside of the lid. All of the jars are set out on shelves. This installation was a way for Mitchell to engage with the subject of time. Each drawing shows the person at a younger age than when they passed away. The theme of time also intersected with the idea of fame. “It deals with time and how we look at youth in society and holding onto memories,” Mitchell said. “And in terms of celebrity culture, turning people into products.”


Harlee Mollenkopf – soma/sema

Harlee Mollenkopf’s work uses the medium of fashion in new and unsettling ways. Each of her nearly twelve dresses is made of paper sliced with complex patterns. The title is a reference to soma, the scientific name for a section in the anatomy of a neuron These patterns are based on the long-term effects of eating disorders, in which cells begin to eat other cells. By transferring these patterns to the dresses, the installation deals with attempts to control the body and its entropy. “I’ve spent a long time on this concept,” Mollenkopf said. “It’s kind of exploring dichotomies of the bind and the body and wanting to control the self.”


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