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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Senior Majors Exhibition puts personal expression on display

Before the summer begins and the College waves goodbye to the Class of 2018, the graduating studio art majors have one last chance to show their work to the community.

Running through June 17, the Senior Majors Exhibition is spread across the Jaffe-Friede and Strauss Galleries in the Hopkins Center for the Arts and the Nearburg Gallery in the Black Family Visual Arts Center.

The three spaces hold an impressive variety of artistic forms. A walk around the exhibition reveals sketches, paintings and photographs, as well as sculptures, videos and mixed media. Many artists have multiple works on display.

Each piece is produced over a two-part senior seminar course that all senior majors are required to take over the winter and spring terms which serve as the culminating experience for the studio art major. During the seminars, students receive guidance and critique from members of the faculty.

Then, two weeks before the exhibition opening, the entire faculty goes through the senior studios and select works for display.

“The work needs to be considered, visually strong and well realized,” studio art chair Enrico Riley said. “It is extremely important to our department that our individual students find their individual voices.”

Every piece makes plain the artist’s unique histories, dreams and philosophies. For Jessica Sun ’18, who was raised in a family that was American, Chinese and French, creating landscapes with charcoal was a way to explore conflicting feelings of cultural identity.

On road trips through China as a child, Sun would stare out the car window as her mother pointed out the places where her grandparents had once lived.

“I would be seeing the landscape, but also we were driving,” Sun said. “So there was this idea of seeing a place but not really seeing a place.”

Among works that express themselves so personally, it’s easy to feel vulnerable. Cecilia Torres ’18’s video installation “¿ Es bonito verdad, hija?” invites viewers to explore her home with her grandmother. In the kitchen, the viewer sees the making of a tortilla. More than a food staple, the tortilla has “memories, smells that trigger feelings and emotions of the past,” Torres said. However, the observer is also observed, as both Torres and her grandmother look back at the viewer from the video.

“I didn’t want my family to be tokenized or exploited by myself,” Torres said. “The way I went around that was by returning the gaze to the viewer.”

The choice of art form, too, is a highly personal expression. Walking into the Jaffe-Friede Gallery, the viewer comes face-to-face with Sky Roehl ’16’s “Beast of Burden,” an enormous skeleton-like steel sculpture. If they aren’t careful, they might accidentally kick the turtles (“Unnatural Disasters”) just beside it, small in comparison and almost blending into the floor.

Roehl was introduced to welding in Studio Art 21, “Sculpture II,” during her junior fall.

“I like metal in part just because of the way you work with it,” Roehl said. “It’s hot, sweaty work, and you get very tired when you finish. At the same time, there are no outside influences — it’s just you and this tiny little space, and goggles in between to protect your vision.”

While the Beast charges at the viewer, another piece is slowly evolving. Closer examination of the sculpture by Zoe Dinneen ’18 reveals it to be composed of potatoes.

During the first part of her senior seminar, Dinneen worked on the colossal Darth Vader snow sculpture. It was then, after working on a piece for months only to have it melt away, that she became interested in the temporality of her sculpture.

“I had this recurring vision of carving potatoes and putting potatoes together in a way to create a form,” Dinneen said. She purchased 75 pounds of potatoes and put them into the studio, only to later find that they had turned into a big pool of black sludge, giving off a rotting smell and earning dirty looks. Undaunted, Dinneen salvaged the potatoes and began to experiment.

“Some potatoes would sprout, or develop pus, and others would harden and fossilize,” Dinneen said. “I was really interested in the way time would change and affect these potatoes, and all the potatoes would act differently”

Perhaps surprisingly, the potatoes were a medium for Dinneen to explore the female form.

“I wanted to play with the weight, mimicking the weight of a woman and allowing her to sag … but also thinking about somebody returning to the earth,” she said.

Austin Heye ’18 discovered film as his preferred mode for expression. Initially interested in combining photography with poetry, he later experimented with film.

“I ended up taking the poetry out because it was too explicit and didactic — the poems were doing all the heavy lifting I wanted the film to be conveying,” Heye said. “I realized what I was really interested in life in general, was feeling something visceral and true, like one often does in love, or any other emotion really… after the emotion there is a lot of interpretation that gets in the way that clouds those feelings.”

The variety of student art on display reflects the range of artistic practice within the studio art faculty, said studio art lecturer Gerald Auten, who curated the exhibition. Kevin Soraci ’18, an engineering and studio art double major, had not initially planned on becoming a studio art major, but became inspired to explore the path last summer after working with artist Eric van Hove during his 2016 residency at the College.

Some works have been granted the Classes of 1960 and 2010 Office of Residential Life purchase award and will be installed around campus after the exhibition. Works from previous years can be seen in residence halls and at the Art Acquisition program’s flickr site.