The Booth’s termly exhibit of student art will be opening Friday

by Helen Liu | 1/21/20 2:05am

Source: Courtesy of Tanya Shah '20

Directly across from the Hinman Mail Center in the Hopkins Center is The Booth, a small but carefully curated display of student art. With its eye-catching neon pink sign, welded by student curator Jamie Park ’20, The Booth is hard to miss.

This mini art gallery gives students an opportunity to showcase their work for an entire term at a central location on campus. Formerly an unused phone booth, The Booth has become a unique artistic experience in the two years since its founding. 

“Dartmouth’s art program is quite small, so there’s not a ton of opportunities for student artists to showcase their work,” Park said. “Even though we have small exhibitions in the Black Family Visual Arts Center, there’s not a ton that happens outside of that.”

According to Park, The Booth aims to change that ­— by displaying student artwork in a heavily trafficked area, it effectively increases campus exposure to student artwork.

This term, The Booth is displaying the artwork of Cate Heisler ’20 and Tanya Shah ’20 — an eclectic combination of photography, collage and sculpture. According to Park, artists can apply to be featured by sending her a portfolio through email, but she also relies on word of mouth to help her find artists who seem like a good fit for exhibition. Park said she takes into careful consideration the balance and synergy between featured artists’ works, and aims to always simultaneously exhibit artists whose works complement each other well. The artists also entrust Park with the responsibility of framing and installing the art in the space.

“It’s really like a mini gallery sort of thing,” Shah said. “We’re the artists, she’s the curator.”

According to Heisler, the works she will have displayed are the pages of a zine she made last term through collaging different images. Heisler’s journey in art began with a drawing hobby, but after taking some photography classes at the College, she began to realize the extent to which she could use real images and collage to express complex emotions.

“I didn’t really know what kind of feelings I could evoke in a picture, since these days everyone can just take a photo,” Heisler said. 

However, in “Photography II,” she said that a collage assignment led her to recognize how recombining images from different sources allowed her to convey new, insightful meanings.

“I was forced to think a little harder about why things were important,” she said.

According to Shah, her side of the display will be composed of photographs of a sculpture installation that she had previously set up in the “Sculpture I” classroom. 

“That was one of my favorite sculptures I’ve ever created,” Shah said. “It was a 6-foot by 6-foot by 6-foot cube that I built out of wood, and it was like a little mini room that you could go inside and spend time in.” 

Since the original installation had to be taken down within two days, Shah said she is enthusiastic to showcase her sculpture again in a different light: through photography.

“I’m excited to see it in a space,” she said. “I’m excited to see what Jamie does with [the photographs].”

Although Shah began her Dartmouth career with the intention of becoming a software engineer, she decided to pursue a double major in computer science and studio art after taking “Photography I” in her sophomore year.

Both Heisler and Shah also said they were heavily influenced by studio art professor Christina Seely, who challenged them in “Photography III” to really think about their artwork and pushed them to create on a deeper emotional level.

“She’d ask you to tap into the emotions she was feeling,” Heisler said. “She knew everyone’s vibe in the class. She could read you better than you could express yourself.”

Coincidentally, Heisler and Shah had actually been friends long before they were chosen for the Booth’s art display; they met each other through “Painting I” during their sophomore summer and developed their friendship through mutual appreciation of each other’s artwork.

“We got to know each other through looking at each other’s work,” Shah said.

The similar themes in their artwork and their personal chemistry both contribute to the cohesiveness of the art exhibit as a whole.

“I’m really happy we’re being shown together,” Shah said. “[My work]’s about dreaming and it’s very out of this world, and Cate’s is about reality, but in a very dreamy way.”

By juxtaposing thematically similar but stylistically distinct works of art in the same space, The Booth creates an immersive yet accessible visual art experience.

Despite being fairly new, The Booth has already displayed works from both art majors and non-art majors, seniors and sophomores. Furthermore, most other student art installations and exhibitions are only permitted to be displayed for a few days before takedown, but The Booth’s commitment to showcasing only two artists a term allows more people to appreciate the artwork.

“It’s a sick opportunity, because the only real chance to showcase your work is the senior major showcase at the end of the spring,” Heisler said. “So for someone like me who didn’t follow through with the major, it’s really exciting.”

According to Park, she also takes seniority into account when selecting artists, so that those who want to seize a last chance at being featured in a gallery before graduation can achieve that goal.

“This space exists to offer people who don’t necessarily always have the means to pursue showcases and exhibitions,” Park said. “It’s a way to give opportunities to underprivileged students who may not have the chance to share what they create.”

The exhibit officially opens on Friday at 1 p.m.