Student Spotlight: Hood intern Laura Dorn ’15

by Kourtney Kawano | 4/21/15 6:30pm

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Dorn is working on a senior thesis, which includes a series of large canvasses.

From the moment she received a mini art set from her grandmother for her sixth birthday, Laura Dorn ’15 knew that she loved art. After beginning lessons, she realized that she was the most taken with painting. But then the real world came along and told her that being an artist was not particularly practical. She needed to be more sensible. By the time Dorn arrived at Dartmouth, she planned on pursuing a major that would help her land a job after graduation.

Still, she told herself that she would take at least one art class during her undergraduate years, so in her sophomore fall — after a close friend convinced her that she could handle a four-course term — she enrolled in both “Drawing I” and “Painting I.” Despite her packed schedule that term, Dorn realized that she needed to keep taking courses in the studio art department.

“It feeds a part of my soul that nothing else does,” Dorn said.

Now, two years later, Dorn is a studio art and history double major completing an honors thesis in painting. Dorn said that her paintings for the thesis — which include a series of large canvasses and have an emphasis on layering and mark-making — encompass several themes, including the passage of time and human relationships at an interpersonal and intrapersonal level.

“One thing that I think is interesting about building up these marks and layers is seeing how over time, different experiences interplay and interact,” Dorn said. “But also certain things come forward and certain things get obscured or recede.”

Studio art professor Colleen Randall, who is Dorn’s thesis advisor, said that she and Dorn met nearly every week this winter to discuss Dorn’s work and have continued to meet nearly once a week this spring. Dorn started her thesis process in the fall, Randall said, when she contacted the department to develop her proposal.

“It’s been rewarding working with her,” Randall said. “She has developed a mysterious feel for mark making and touch.”

Aside from working through senior seminars in studio art and history this quarter, Dorn also serves as the Homma Family intern at the Hood Museum of Art, working alongside fellow students as part of the Hood’s senior internship program. Dorn said her work at the Hood interests her because it combines art and history in novel ways.

At the Hood, Dorn has taken the role of student curator for one of the museum’s current exhibitions, “About Face: Self-Portraiture in Contemporary Art,” and conducted research about pieces in the exhibition for its accompanying display labels. In addition — and more recently — Dorn completed her curatorial project with work on “A Space for Dialogue,” a mini-exhibition for the museum’s interns that involves organizing a select number of objects from the Hood’s collection, designing informational labels and a brochure for visitors and holding a gallery talk. Her exhibition for the project, “The Tortured Soul: Exploring Excesses of Emotion,” featured 12 works including Richard Westall’s oil paint on canvas “Ophelia”and Man Ray’s color lithograph “Sade (Imaginary Portrait of the Marquis de Sade).”

Hood coordinator of academic programming Amelia Kahl, who supervises Dorn’s work, said that Dorn explores different approaches to extreme feeling, including fantastical, tragic and moralistic. The application process for the museum’s senior internship program is highly competitive, Kahl added, but Dorn was a standout through the selection process.

“[Dorn] conveyed her passion for the arts and her deep interest in museum work,” Kahl said. “The three different references we contacted spoke in glowing terms about her intelligence, disciplined work habits and personable nature.”

Having finished her intern project, Dorn is now focusing on organizing and curating an upcoming exhibition entitled “Picturing the World: Class of 1965 Photographers,” which will celebrate the works of five well-known alumni of the College — Dick Durrance, Dewitt Jones, Heinz Kluetmeier, Chris Knight and Joel Sternfeld, who are all members of the upcoming exhibition’s eponymous class.

Dorn said “Picturing the World” will be displayed in the Hood’s Albright Gallery, and that she is excited that the exhibition will be held during the photographers’ 50th reunion.

“It’s really cool as a senior to talk to these alumni and ask them about their Dartmouth experience,” Dorn said.

On top of her work with the Hood, Dorn co-curates the student gallery at the Black Family Visual Arts Center with Jordan Craig ’15, where she is responsible for planning, organizing and advertising student shows. Although she does not have set plans for what she will do after graduation, Dorn said she is considering taking a job abroad or pursuing a career in the museum field. One thing she knows for sure, however, is what she would tell students interested in majoring or minoring in studio art.

“It is in no way impractical,” she said. “The skills you learn as an art major are applicable in so many places. You learn problem-solving, creativity and how to deal with failure and criticism.”

The final word with Laura Dorn ’15:

Must-visit art museum: Tate Modern, London

Color of the day: Soft, muted lavender

Favorite Artist: Painter Rebecca Purdum.