Art 500 Goes Free-Form

This year’s Art 500 exhibit on display in the Gelb Gallery feels entirely free-form, as if it had simply arrived in the artists’ imaginations and translated itself into a set of tangible pieces. The students in the class enjoyed proof of their own growth as artists after an intensive, yearlong course. The exhibit featured ten unique pieces, displaying everything from film to sculpture to digital comic book prints. Though the exhibit exuded a sense of effortless inspiration, the guiding hand of the Instructor in Art Therese Zemlin made it possible. Zemlin described it as a “pretty structured process, even though all the work in the show is very different and looks pretty freeform.” The students spent much of winter term preparing for their coming exhibit, which Zemlin called “the capstone of Art 500.” They attended several exhibits at various art museums and reflected on previous artwork that they would have liked to develop, eventually arriving at a basic idea that they were interested in developing. After researching two artists, each student wrote a proposal for his or her piece, including a timeline, a list of materials and a description of the direction in which the artist wanted to go. Zemlin said, “They were not slave to their proposals…The final product resembled, in many ways, their proposals, but it was not necessarily exactly the same.” After a month-long period of intense work, stress and worry, the final products took shape. Artist Kaytlin Morris ’11 said, “I was happy I was done, and I felt like I had done something I could be really proud of.” Morris’s piece consisted of a comic strip made of entirely digital prints inspired by the work of artist Utagawa Hiroshige. She described it as an “indulgent comic,” showing a chase and a battle scene. “It’s not supposed to be deep, it’s not supposed to be profound. It’s just bad-assery at its finest.” Kelsey Lim, ’10, encouraged viewers to draw their own meanings from her piece, which consisted of two sheets of Plexiglas with white lines depicting the lines of a topographical map. Lim recalled constantly discovering new meanings as she went along. She said, “The lines do not physically exist on their own, but instead indicate that something else does.” Many of the artists pursued specific themes. Serena Gelb ’10 created a “house of cards” display, each of the cards showing photographed actors on one side and designs on the other. Gelb’s piece had to do with “luck, gambling, games and strategy,” as well as the question, “How much in life can really be planned?” Gelb chose photographs of actors to show the contrast between spontaneity and the roles people cast for themselves. Jimmy Brenner ’10 also explored an element of “living in the moment” in his multimedia presentation of a face that was continually warped and twisted by different lights, colors, and perspectives. Sam Poliquin ’10 created a video with a distinctly methodical air to it. Poliquin’s work showed segments of people doing everyday actions with special effects to warp time and space. His work was inspired by Edward Muybridge, who employed the idea of freezing time. Melissa Ferrari, ’10, created several posters, each influenced by psychedelic rock advertisements from San Francisco. She wanted to capture the joy and carefree nature of rock music by building off her original ideas. Ferrari said she added elements of “sinister imagery, triggered by the impermanence of time and inevitability of death.” Zemlin said, “[Ferrari] has started to really develop her own style. All of her work is a continuation of itself.” Hannah Lee ’10 worked with the complexity of human emotion. Entitled “Panoramic Landscape,” Lee’s piece consisted of 7,680 toothpicks of varying heights glued to rectangular canvas, arranged in increments of half an inch in 160 rows and 48 columns. Though the process was meticulously precise, the piece hung loosely on the wall, giving an aura of smooth, constant movement. The artist said she tried to capture “the irregularity, range and dynamism of emotion…One toothpick is painful to touch. However, hundreds together are not.” Lee said that one toothpick “cannot pinpoint emotion.” Matthew Renner ’10 also experimented with human emotion. Renner’s piece was a self-portrait showing an outline of the artist with an arm emerging from his mouth. Black, horizontal contour lines both define and fill the outline, and a splash of yellow paint spilled down the canvas on the left. According Renner, these two figures showed the contrast between “precision and chaos,” both in human emotion and in the Renner’s personal artistic style. Jennifer Gerald ’10 created a series of photographic portraits showing various people on campus of “varying degrees of ‘blackness.” Her work centered on African American students who she said are “so connected to their roots, yet so disconnected at the same time.” The subject of each portrait wore the traditional makeup of the Arbore tribe of Ethiopia, showing the connection with his or her African heritage. All members of the class expressed distinctive themes, inspirations, ideas and perspectives, culminating in work that turned “student” to “artist.”