Hopkins Center holds exhibition of alumni artworks

by Amelia Rosch | 1/11/15 7:05pm

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by Amelia Rosch / The Dartmouth

A man made of steel precariously leaning forward, arms thrust behind him. A book made of tissue paper held together by thin, red thread. An interactive machine that manipulates light. All of these pieces and more are featured in the second Alumni in the Arts Biennial Exhibition, which opened this weekend at the Top of the Hopkins Center.

The works in the exhibition, which began two years ago, aim to inspire current studio art majors about possible careers in the arts, Brice Brown ’95, one of the exhibition’s curators, said.

“We wanted to show them that there are very active, very professional artists who are making their way, and that they can do it too,” he said. “That was the impetus, to encourage students to stick to their guns and go out and be professional artists.”

Studio art professor and exhibit co-curator Enrico Riley, who is also member of the Class of 1995, said that he and Brown decided to feature pieces by alumni artists who are still active in the art community and display a diversity of artistic styles. The exhibit includes sculpture, mixed media installations and a sound piece.

There is no specific theme to the exhibition, Brown said.

One of the biggest challenges associated with putting on the exhibition was finding all the art for the exhibition, Riley said. He and Brown began reaching out to artists last August, he said. Two of the artists featured in the exhibition live outside of the United States.

Brown said that figuring out the best ways to display the disparate pieces of art was another major challenge that they faced.

“It’s hard enough to mount an exhibition as a solo exhibition, but when you have 13 different artists with different mediums that require different technical specificities, it was like cats in a bag,” he said.

Riley said that they hope to continue holding the exhibition every two years, but that its future will depend on their ability to attain funding.

Torin Porter ’93, who contributed the steel sculpture “Aviator,” said that he had not yet finished the piece when it was chosen for the exhibition.

“It really started just with the gesture and the clothes came from that, just as an extension of what he could be doing,” he said. “The arms are elongated just to emphasize to that forward motion, and the hands as well. Later I realized from the front, they almost look like, with the foreshortening, they go back to the scale of where they would be.”

He said that the inspiration for the sculpture came from an earlier sculpture of his “High Wind.” That piece was much smaller than “Aviator,” and the figure’s arms were much longer in relationship to its body. He said he chose to use steel in the piece because of its connotations with strength and the industrial.

In addition to “Aviator,” Porter will also hold a public performance in March as part of the exhibition. He said that his performance will be more about using events, instead of a material piece of work, to create experiences in the viewer.

“I see the art of it is actually, it’s a prop for creating an experience,” he said. “That’s where art is actually living, in the person who is looking at it. It’s creating that effect and that’s why, with the performance, it’s a similar thing.”

Porter said that he has not finalized what his performance will entail and the exact date that it will be held.

Laura Grey ’02, who contributed the piece “Book of Hours Medium,” said that she chose to contribute because she was excited to be part of an exhibition focusing on alumni in the arts.

She said that her piece, which is a 25-page book made out of tissue paper and thread, was inspired by the traditional Christian Book of Hours, which were miniature prayer books that include some of the earliest examples of large illuminated illustrations. She said that the text in the book did not come from any original Books of Hours but instead included indie rock lyrics and an excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke’s collection of poems “Book of Hours.”

Grey said that she chose to exhibit that piece because it connected to her professional work as a graphic designer as well as her own interests.

“This is related in the sense it is a book, but most of the work I do is more kind of traditional graphic design,” she said. “This is when I get to play and do things off the computer. It’s related but aside from my main work.”

Both Brown and Riley said that the student response that they have seen so far has been positive.

“I was installing one piece late last night and a couple of students came up and said this is the coolest thing they’ve ever seen and they love it,” Brown said. “It’s going to get a good response.”

Kasha Wahpepah ’15, a studio art major who attended the exhibition, said that she liked that the showcase focused on alumni artists, instead of current students, whose work used to be exhibited at the Top of the Hop. She said that her favorite piece was “Aviator.”

“I think it’s placed really well, and it’s the first thing you see when you walk into the room,” she said.

Wahpepah said that she thought the exhibition was a good way to show that graduates of the College can have successful artistic careers.

“It’s really nice to see that you don’t have to go into teaching or curating or anything,” she said. “You can actually produce art and make a living off of that, if you want.”

Katie Milligan ’15, a studio arts major, said that she enjoyed the variety in the exhibition’s pieces and that it was in a venue outside of the Hood Museum of Art.

“There’s a mix of this one has audio and then there’s wood and a bunch of different mediums and materials,” she said.

The Annual Alumni in the Arts Biennial Exhibition will run in the Top of the Hopkins Center from Jan. 10 to April 30. In addition to Porter’s performance, Anna Schuleit Haber MALS ’05 will have an image projection in April, while at the opening reception Gisela Insuaste ’97 held a live installation.

The exhibition is sponsored by the Hopkins Center, the Hood and the College’s studio art department.

The exhibition will also feature pieces by Mark Brosseau ’98, Frank Chang ’01, Carrie Fucile ’99, Matthew Jones ’02, Anna Linzee MacDonald ’02, Karyn Olivier ’89, Catherine Ross ’94, Kirsten Stromberg ’94 and Anna Tsouhlarakis ’99.