Art-500 Exhibit Explores Feminism, Forever, and Friendship

Three wooden boxes are nailed onto the wall, each positioned at a different height, in a corner of Gelb Gallery. Contrasting with the light brown wood of the other five sides, the front face of each box had a thick, black fabric with a round opening in the center. As visitors began to file into the exhibit, they were invited to place their heads through the openings in the fabric, where, inside each box, the glow of thin strings of small LED lights was reflected off of the mirror-lined inner walls, illuminating smudged, white painted text that read, “I don’t know how to make something last forever.”

The artist, Jack Hjerpe ’17, who titled the piece “I Made All of These Boxes and I Still Don’t Know,” created these boxes as a way to explore a physical manifestation of infinity after his reflections on the end of his Andover career. Hjerpe is one of seven students in the Art-500 class whose work is currently on display in the Gelb Gallery spring exhibit titled “Art-500: Slices7.”

“[Art is] a good way for me to think through my own emotions… [and] sort my thoughts, [so this piece is about] what I have written in the boxes, [about how] I don’t know how to make something last forever. I think that’s kind of the theme or message behind it, how do you make something go on forever, how do you make something last,” said Hjerpe.

Ranging from wax molds to projected videos, the exhibit has no overarching theme, but is rather a collection of pieces that reflect on topics that are personal and meaningful to each student. 

“I think that all of [the pieces] are incredibly interesting and intriguing because each one kind of captures a different image on a variety of topics, and it’s really captivating to look at the way that each artist decided to capture a particular topic or idea that had a lot of meaning to them. I think that all of the artists who have pieces in this room did an incredible job of really evoking that idea and those feelings that they feel about said topic into their art,” said Grace Hitchcock ’20, a viewer of the exhibit.

A series of nine paintings by Zöe Sottile ’17 are arranged in three rows and three columns on a wall. The three large paintings on the top row each depict a woman in Sottile’s life. Underneath are quotes from President Donald Trump on the topic of women during the presidential election. And, finally, on the bottom row are three idyllic nature scenes which contrast with the stark, political text above. The paintings together represent Sottile’s reflection on art, politics, and feminism in order to spark a project on empathy and understanding.

“I really like the mystery of the portraits. I think that the use of colors and shadows and everything is very, very cool. I think they really work together because I think that, even though they’re very different subject matter, the color and the aesthetics of everything really bind it together, almost like a candy-like lifestyle,” said Avery Kim ’17, a model for one of Sottile’s paintings.

In a corner of the gallery, a video made by Meg Davis ’17 is projected onto the wall. In the video, there is a slideshow that captures various members of the Andover community wearing white t-shirts printed with different letters of the American Sign Language (ASL), each spelling a different word or phrase. Davis intentionally depicted the words and phrases in ASL, a language that not many people know, in order to show viewers the “awkwardness of not understanding,” as she writes in the description of her piece. 

“[This project is] about me becoming hard of hearing after I came to Andover, so it’s my way of, as I’m having difficulty understanding other people and sort of dealing with the two different worlds of being hard of hearing and also once not too long ago not being hard of hearing, so I guess it was my way to sort of fight back and have something that other people couldn’t necessarily understand that’s really important to me,” said Davis. 

Throughout the year, the seven students have grown closer, and this camaraderie can be seen in their title, “Slices7,” which hints at an inside joke among the seven students and is the first title of any Art-500 exhibit.

“This is the first year that I can remember that for this show, the spring show, that the students had a title, the idea of the seven slices of pie… Usually it just says Art-500 because [the students] can’t decide. So it’s been a really fun group to work with because they’re very different from each other and yet they can come together and collaborate and kind of work as a team,” said Therese Zemlin, Instructor of Art-500 and Chair in Art.