Student Spotlight: life as a studio art intern for Kaitlyn Hahn ’19

by Emily Zhang | 1/16/20 2:00am

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Each year, five graduating seniors majoring in studio art are chosen to be interns for the department upon their graduation. Kaitlyn Hahn ’19, one of the studio art interns for this academic year, is especially interested in exploring sculpture and digital art during her internship. She is working not only as a teaching assistant in photography, printmaking and senior seminar classes, but also on her own art, which includes multimedia projects and installation exhibits.

In fall 2019, Hahn’s solo exhibition “Overload Saturated” was on display in the Barrows Rotunda at the Hopkins Center. Her exhibition was up from Sep. 17 to Oct. 21 and featured a TV installation running different time-coded animations with imageries taken from mass media. Through this exhibit, Hahn said her goal was to discuss the impact of social media on human relationships and self-perception. 

“I wanted to encourage people to think about their relationship with media, how much power we give it in our lives, and how much we let it control our reaction and thought processes,” Hahn said.

Hahn said her inspiration came from social media experiences she had last summer. She had just started her internship shortly after graduation and observed her friends traveling around on social media.

“Social media has made a lot of people anxious,” Hahn said. “It forced me to second-guess my decision to stay here in Hanover. But this is my life, this is what allows me to continue doing the work I want to do.”

Hahn said the studio art internship is a great opportunity to get access to the facilities in the Black Family Visual Art Center as well as work with professors who are willing to help develop her projects. 

Though Hahn grew up taking art classes, when she first came to Dartmouth, she said she had no intention of being a studio art major. As a first-generation college student, Hahn said she felt a certain pressure from those around her about her career choice. 

“Many people’s perception of college is that college is a means to a job,” Hahn said. “I was planning to do computer science during my first two years at Dartmouth, but as I started taking studio art classes, I just wanted to take more and more.” 

Her sophomore summer, Hahn took SART 17.18, “Art & Activism,” a class taught by studio art professor Viktor Witkowski in which she explored different kinds of media and realized that studio art is a subject she deeply cares about. 

“I really feel strongly that four years is a short amount of time, and this is your time to study what you are interested in and have access to incredible professors,” Hahn said. “You should study and learn what you care about, not what you think the world is telling you to or what is profitable. I think by the end of the day, work takes up the majority of your life, and you just want to be happy.”

During the “Art & Activism” class, Witkowski said his first impression of Hahn was of a self-assured, open-minded student.

“Whenever I threw something at students, I never had to worry about Kaitlyn,” Witkowski said. “She did [the assignments] in a very confident way, determined while open to different ideas at the same time.”

In her senior honors thesis, named “that which contained us — no longer a home,” Hahn dove into the theme of home and belonging by building a model of the house she grew up in with acrylic, dichroic film and mirrors. Hahn said she intertwined her exploration of light, shadow and layers with her understanding of how the relationship within her family has changed after coming to college.

“There are things that you recognized and believed to be true only because they were normalized,” Hahn said. “When you are a kid, your parents are the people who teach you things about life, but as you grow older, you come to realize that your parents are people too and are just as much trying to figure out their place in this world as you.” 

Hahn said it was difficult to work with topics that are so close to her, which is why she then decided to create more social commentary like “Overload Saturated.” Nevertheless, she said that she enjoys working with ideas about home and is now creating a projection installation with footage she took this winter while at her home in Los Angeles.

Witkowski said he really appreciated Hahn’s effort and courage to include her personal identity and narratives into her artwork. 

“It is not an easy thing to do, because when you expose yourself, you become vulnerable,” Witkowski said.“When the student is able to combine personal histories into practical work, it just makes it much stronger and richer and I really love that she went there.” 

Recently, Hahn found out that her thesis won the 2019 Jonathan B. Rintels prize for the best honors thesis of arts and humanities. 

“It was kind of crazy for me, but it was really reaffirming as a young artist to get recognized by the College,” Hahn said.

As an intern, Hahn said she not only enjoys the opportunity to pursue her own projects, but also the experience of being a teaching assistant, which includes duties ranging from helping professors with classroom logistics to advising on students on their work. Hahn is a teaching assistant in Witkowski’s senior seminar and Witkowski said Hahn has brought many fresh perspectives to his students’ projects.

“[Studio art interns] bring in this kind of outsider aspect and serve as a role model for students,” Witkwoski said.

Hahn said being a teaching assistant is not just a process of helping others, but also an opportunity to continue learning. In a photography class she assisted last term, Hahn said she has gained many new insights by participating in classroom conversations.

“As a TA, I tried to be helpful on a technical level, but the students are all so thoughtful and I was just blown away by the conversation that could come up,” Hahn said. “[Working as an intern] feels very different than being a student, but I’m learning so much, which is what I love.”

When asked about future goals after her internship, Hahn laughed and said, “That is a big question.” Hahn said that right now, she is an animation and design freelancer and at some point in her career plans to pursue a master in fine arts. 

“Doing design and freelance work is totally an option, but if possible, I’d love to keep doing art independently,” Hahn said.

Studio art professor Enrico Riley, who critiqued Hahn’s senior honor thesis, extolled the artistic bravery Hahn employs in her projects.

“I think Kaitlyn is self-motivated and brave,” Riley said. “Studio art doesn’t necessarily have the clearest career path all the time, but Kaitlyn works extremely hard to realize her ideas.”

Hahn encouraged all Dartmouth students to take a studio art class during their time at the College, especially recommending SART 29, “Photography I.” 

“A lot of us in our generation are familiarized with editing photos on our phone,” Hahn said. “But all of that is derived from actual physical processes, so it’s cool to see it physically happening on film in a dark room.”

Kaitlyn Hahn is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.

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