Art Meets Nature in Student Installations

While perched on a ladder, Matt Alpert ’15 was hanging up his dragon sculpture made of chicken wire and leaves when he heard a loud crack. The tree he was attaching the dragon to began to fall down, forcing Alpert to jump off of his ladder and crush the dragon’s head. After repairing the sculpture and climbing up a different tree, Alpert finally hung up his dragon and completed his Art 500 installation.

Alpert is one of eight students in Art 500 using the Cochran Bird Sanctuary as an exhibition hall for their work. Focusing on installation art, the students utilized the Sanctuary’s natural features in their artwork as well.

“The one stipulation that I had, which was very general, was that they take an idea, notion or expectation, part of which has to do with a place like the Sanctuary, and subvert those notions,” said Therese Zemlin, Instructor of Art 500 and Chair in Art.

Art 500 student Alex Westfall ’15 hung a wide array of analog clocks, ranging from red and vintage to blue and square-shaped, on tree trunks in the Sanctuary as part of her project. The trees surrounded a bushel of bare branches from which handmade card prints dangled.

“My artwork was about disrupting the peace of the Sanctuary and bringing in the structure and rigidness of the Andover campus. For example, each card has a text of stuff from my planner glued onto it. The reason why I made the cards look like a deck of cards is because it’s supposed to entice the viewer with something of leisure, like a game, but once you look closely it’s actually the opposite,” said Westfall.

Inspired by a poem entitled “Elves” that she once wrote in the Sanctuary, Olivia Legaspi ’15 created two pieces for the show. The first sculpture consisted of plexiglass plates that were covered with lines from the poem. The plates were combined with segments of bamboo to form a low structure that curved around a base of a tree. For her second sculpture, Legaspi used strings, wood scraps, chicken wire and nets made from white T-shirts to build three hanging, woven canopies.

“I’ve heard comments comparing [the canopies] to a family of jellyfish, but they were originally supposed to resemble dream catchers because of the dream-like quality of the lives of the elves,” said Legaspi.

A display of two human figures made of chicken wire, styrofoam and wood were seated beneath a white bed sheet was also in the show. A red door was tied to a nearby tree and propped open by a boot. Adding a dramatic effect, the erratic melody of the song “Fraxinus (Ash)” by Bartholomäus Traubeck emanated from the human figures under the sheet.

Haille McKenzie ’15, the artist of this set, wanted to use her project as a representation of the new parietal rule at Andover. “I just wanted to bring to light the issue of students being pushed to the sanctuary due to being pushed out of the room,” she said.

McKenzie’s combination of visual art and music was unique to the Art 500 show.

“[Fraxinus (Ash)] comes from this album [entitled “Years”] where [Bartholomäus Traubeck] sliced a tree and played its rings as a record and [the song] is what it would sound like if it was converted to the piano. It’s supposed to represent time and years of students coming to the sanctuary,” said McKenzie.