Art 500 Stretches Students’ Creativity

The group of eleven Art 500 seniors stretched their creativity for their Gelb Gallery exhibition.

Featured in the exhibition are works by seniors Matthew Appleby, Chiara Baravalle, Kevin Carey, Jared Curtis, Jess Holley, Caitlin Kingston, Steve Kosovac, Gabby Kwon, Hannah McGrath, Givens Parr and Sosha Sullivan.

During the winter term, each student was given three weeks to propose a project. They needed to include two research papers on individual artists or an art movement, along with a sketchbook of drawings and notes of their ideas.

Therese Zemlin, Instructor in Art, who teaches Art 500, took the group out to visit museums throughout the term as a springboard for their projects.

“The main goal of the class is for students to be exposed to enough art inside and outside of the Academy and to have the freedom to design their own assignments so that they begin to find their own voice and that they expand the level of ownership with the work that they are producing,” said Zemlin.

The eleven artists definitely achieved their goal and presented a wide variety of works that truly tested their creativity. Their unique works included drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures, lights and more.

The blinking light of Appleby’s distinctive artwork catches the viewer’s attention right away.

His work “Light-relations (Or how computers remove the ‘relation’ from ‘relationship’)” is a wooden box with a sheet of Plexiglas underneath, where the white, green, red and blue dotted LED lights blink on and off with different patterns.

“An exploration of the connectivity of the Internet. It explores the phenomena of social media connecting millions of people while removing them from actual personal relationships,” said Appleby.

Next to Appleby’s piece is Sullivan’s six small baby wax figures that have open heads revealing colorful brains lit up with LED lights. The piece is called “[Reproduction: Human nature as told by Karl Marx and Buddha.”

On the left side of the gallery is a large binder filled with the familiar Q&A’s that can be spotted all over campus.

The Q&A’s are part of Parr’s work and compliments the three portraits of student models. Parr said her work titled “Anthropology” was inspired by her interest in learning more about humans.

“I knew I wanted to do a portrait series but I needed to do something more to have it on a deeper level than the simple visual representation of people. So it became this portraiture but deeper, it was about knowing people, …making the unseen seen, bringing that into the visual. This time [for the survey], I used more deeper questions like ‘What do you fear?’ Or ‘What does it mean to love someone?’” said Parr.

Kosovac’s “Chiara, Grotesque” is a series of three picture collages of the distorted figure of Kosovac’s model that pops up from the wall with interchanging levels of different portions of the collage.

The facial expression changes from melancholy to happy from the left collage to the right, revealing the expressions through the changing shapes of the mouth.

“My piece deals with topics that I have always been interested in – perception, distortion, beauty, superficiality. My inspiration for creating it also came from other artists’ work, such as the photography of David Hockney and Andy Warhol,” said Kosovac.

Another prominent piece in the exhibition is Kwon’s “The Face of a New Generation,” which is a huge portrait, half of Kwon’s father and the other half of her brother.

The piece was drawn with graphite and charcoal and includes biblical quotes written in Korean that deliver a different message to the father and the son.

“Initially [my inspiration] came from my passion for drawing. …I’ve always been absolutely terrified of drawing faces, and not being able to produce an accurate interpretation of the subject’s face,” said Kwon.

She continued, “Before this project, I’ve never ever drawn a straight-on face,…but I figured I wouldn’t really get any other opportunity like the big Art 500 spring project to be as creative or crazy as I wanted, so I figured why not make it even more challenging and draw people, and make it people that are related to me.”

Facing Kwon’s piece is Baravalle’s three large long acrylic pieces that depict an almost nude man in different positions.

“The Anti-Man” has a colorful background made of overlapping short thick lines of brush strokes that make the man’s movement appear more kinetic.

Breaking from the norm, Baravalle said, “The list of male painters of female nudes extends throughout most of the history of Western art. Yet, to this day, there remain few female painters of the male nude.”

“Life and Line Alike” by Curtis is yet another eye-catching piece that contrasts the other projects with the use of digital prints.

“This series is most concerned with an exploration of color as a mechanism to amplify the identity of a specific image of idea. It is by deconstructing the human form, elements of nature, and paradoxical geometry,” said Curtis.

At the center of the gallery is McGrath’s lengthy scroll piece “Lying with Dragons,” a graphic story inspired by the MFA’s Fresh Ink exhibition of work by contemporary Chinese artists including Xu Bing and Zeng Xioajun.

“I knew I wanted to do a graphic novel beforehand and when I saw the MFA’s Fresh Ink, I decided to base it off of Chinese contemporary art. The idea was to take the art form of brush-painting and digitalize or modernize it,” said McGrath.

Carey’s work depicts cartoonish creatures emerging from many different places that gradually destroy the “Pleasant Valley,” the title of the piece.

The story of his piece progresses in three paintings. The first shows a few monsters that begin destroying the village and by the third piece, the village is swallowed by a fire the monsters have created.

“The inspiration for these pieces stemmed from my pre-adolescent, skate-punk years,” said Carey.

Up on the ceiling in the gallery is Kingston’s piece, “Three Crows.”

Kingston said, “This year, death has felt really close by, both in my own family and in the Phillips Academy community. Crows are often depicted as harbingers of death, and the funeral mood that they convey is reflected in my project, a subconscious tribute to the grief that we are feeling.”

Kingston used wires and Japanese paper to create the three black wire crows.

“A Tribute,” painted by Holley is literally her tribute to Andover. She said, “This project is a tribute to four years as a student at Phillips Academy, as it finalizes a chapter of the Andover experience.”

Her painting focuses on Samuel Phillips Hall during the fall and the spring, and around the edges are mini square pictures of different parts of campus.

“I think the show is very strong, and the things that I think that make the show strong is the breadth in the work.… I think all of the students learned a lot in the progress of making the work for the show. Most of them took on something that was a risk whether it was scale, subject matter, experimenting with materials that they were not expert at using,” said a very content Zemlin.

Parr speaks for all her classmates who are very satisfied with their exhibition. She said, “I love this kind of culmination of work as a class. It is very nice to see our work on display and see how the community responds.”

The Art 500 exhibition is definitely something to check out on a rainy spring day.