Art 500 Exhibit Studies Color, Crowds and Comic Strips

Tucked in the corner of the Gelb Gallery, a three-dimensional booth called “Demophobia or Fear Of Crowds” welcomes viewers inside with its red curtains drawn open. As viewers step inside the small stall, they are surrounded by three walls of oil paintings that depict angry, anxious people. Anna Krakowsky ’15, creator of the piece, intentionally decorated the booth with theatrical elements, such as the red curtains, to help convey a message about crowds.

“I think a crowd becomes like a performance in some ways, especially the way crowds are depicted in media, such as [recent] riots [in] Ferguson and Baltimore,” said Krakowsky. “The media influences the ways we see riots and crowds and who we think of [participating] in these riots and crowds, and how they’re put up in the public imagination and theatricalized. I really wanted to draw attention to that.”

Krakowsky is one of the nine students in the Art-500 course who are currently displaying their artwork in the Gelb Gallery as part of a new spring exhibit. Featuring pieces that range from oil paintings to vibrant sculptures, this exhibition has no particular theme and is rather a collection of the students’ recent works.

Adjacent to Krakowsky’s piece, Kay Xia’s ’15 watercolor comic strip “Reflection” occupies an entire wall.Combining storytelling with cartoon-like visuals, the comic strip follows a fictitious student and the mental health challenges they face at boarding school. Xia states that mirrors are an important theme to her piece, which is the reason she decided to place an actual mirror at the beginning and end of the comic strip.

Xia said, “I feel like every morning almost everybody wakes up and looks in a mirror, and almost every morning, you look more or less the same no matter what you’re going through. You could be stressed, you could be really happy, but right when you wake up and look in the mirror, it’s always the same face. So I was trying to play with that idea, and there’s mirrors from the start and end of the piece so that it could bring the viewer into the piece too.”

Inspired by an English class she took in the fall, Evie Elson ’15 created “Poker Face,” a six-piece collection of water-based oil paintings that also hangs in the gallery. Each painting is a realistic portrait of a student at Andover, and they are connected by having matching yellow backgrounds and similar neutral facial expressions. Elson supplements her paintings with a continuous audio loop of her subjects talking about their life experiences.

Elson said, “My aim for my project was to bring to light the fact that you don’t really know anyone. You look at these paintings and you see their faces, but you don’t really know anything about them. With the voice recordings, you are hearing all their stories and vulnerability, but you can’t necessarily match a voice with a face, so that brings the idea that it’s really easy to hide things about yourself, and it’s hard to really get to know somebody.”

Moving away from the paint medium, Alex Westfall ’15 documents intentional yet unnatural scenes in her selection of color-themed photographs. Each photo was assigned a color and shows a different person surrounded by both natural and manmade objects of the respective color.

“The point of my art wasn’t to set an emotion per se, but for the viewer to look at it and then have the piece trigger a memory or some emotion associated with that color. So that’ll be different with each person, because everyone associates different emotions with different colors,” said Westfall.

Composed of litter that she collected from the streets, Olivia Legaspi’s ’15 sculpture, called “All I Have,” was made by gluing and tying those found objects to an aluminum wire frame. The trash is assembled into the shape of a mother and child holding hands.

“I definitely wanted to use the pieces to represent [the child and mom] as people,” Legaspi said. “For example, the kid has a lot of bright colors, bits of toys, generally more lighthearted things. [The mom] has a lot of cigarettes and pill bottles to show a lot of turmoil in her life that the kid hasn’t had time to experience yet.”