Concepts and Portraits: An Art 500 Exhibition

This year’s Art 500 class put a fresh spin on modern art with their indoor exhibition in the Gelb Gallery. The exhibition features a variety of media, including sculpture, painting, photography and film and demanded two projects from each Art 500 student: a conceptual piece and a self-portrait.

This was the second exhibition put together by the class of three students. Emmie Avvakumova ’14, Emilia Figliomeni ’14 and Shanice Pimentel ’14, reimagined their work for a different environment than their first one, which was on display in the Cochran Bird Sanctuary that occurred earlier this month.

“Part of the challenge of putting up the show was the fact that it was a small class this year. [However], the students did a fabulous job of making work that not only fills up the space physically, but also has a presence,” said Therese Zemlin, Instructor and Chair in the Art Department, who teaches Art 500.

The three artists pursued specific themes for each of their projects. Avvakumova used her pieces to focus on the idea of self-destruction.

Her self-portrait is a combination of painting and drawing. This two-part piece portrays a girl lying down with her head and her body on separate sheets of paper. Avvakumova strategically placed black needles in the hair and on one of the thighs.

From the shading to the texture, she was able to clearly show her emotions on the paper, drawing the attention of the guests as they passed by. The background consists of red and black splashes and stains. Avvakumova used tea, paint, charcoal, needles and pencil to create this mixed media work.

“I stained [the paper] with paint and tea because I didn’t want to play on a clean surface,” Avvakumova said. “[The piece is] too conceptual to have a realistic background. It has a lot to do with change and struggle. I used needles to play around with materials, but also to [send a message]. My hair was long there, but I cut off my hair [three years ago]. The needles show the hair that’s gone. It’s self-destruction but more in a literal sense in this case, versus a mental one.”

Pimentel, another Art 500 student, also displayed a self-portrait in the exhibition. Her piece, however, is aesthetically and thematically different from Avvakumova’s. Painted on a wooden panel, Pimentel’s piece features images as well as musical lyrics, interrupted by lines running horizontally and vertically across the foreground, giving a geometric feel to the work.
Words, lyrics and textual descriptions fill the corners of the painting. Over a background of small letters and writing in Spanish, she highlighted the words “DOMINICAN REPUBLIC” and “MISSING,” in red capital letters.

“I wanted to represent [the state of] missing in a way. It show[s] me running away from here and going back to my roots,” said Pimentel. “It is about me and how I feel sometimes, particularly towards Andover. A lot of people [also feel that they] don’t know how to be themselves here. They feel that they need to conform all the time.”

In the opposite corner, lyrics in graffiti by Pimentel’s favorite rapper, Immortal Technique, are hidden behind the artistic representation of herself.

“I like how the quotes and song lyrics in the background were a kind of artistic representation of the struggle surrounding cultural identity and the idea of belonging. Also, the colors mix well together. I love her beautifully painted face, with red and white highlights running down her figure. I think she did a really good job with the message,” Sadie Holmes ’16.

Straying from the conventional concept of two-dimensional self-portrait, Figliomeni chose to create a self-portrait film.

Set in her Stevens Hall dorm room, the film explores the concept of the effects of intrusiveness of the outside world on the creative process.

A few frames show Figliomeni sitting on her bed, trying to start a new artwork. However, her attempt to find inspiration is immediately interrupted by her blaring alarm, the ring of her dorm phone, the notifications on her phone and knocks on the door.

Combining both artistic filmmaking techniques and humor, Figliomeni creates a self-portrait that highlights her skills as an artist and her outgoing personality.

“I really enjoyed Emilia’s film! It gave me a glimpse of her busy life. I can relate to the topic that she’s filming because I also feel that sometimes I don’t have time to just sit and think in this place,” said Molly Magnell ’14.

The exhibition will be on display until early November.