Art-600 Installation in Sanctuary Explores Invisibility

One of the pieces in the Art-600 Installation by Jennie Guo ’19 depicts three paintings of facial features connected by red string and postcards.

Propped against the stone arch in front of the Cochran Bird Sanctuary is a clear, plastic pane painted with different designs and fonts of the word “ART” in colorful acrylic. A large white arrow points towards the entrance of the sanctuary, and other small arrows decorate the path to a large clearing. There, students may walk around to see the different installations, jumping over stretched wires, and peering through open doors.

This sign marks the entrance of an exhibition featuring the work of the seven students who are currently taking the course Art-600: Advanced Studio Art, which showcased the various student pieces in the sanctuary. This installation has become an integral part of the course and provides an opportunity for the students to work in a unique space.

“I’ve been doing the sanctuary project for a long time, and I keep bringing it back because it is a project that the advanced art students look forward to, and they’re disappointed if they don’t get to do it. It is also an opportunity for the students to be challenged by working on a very large scale, and to be working outside of the context of a gallery or institution.” said Therese Zemlin, Instructor and Chair in Art.

For this project, students were asked to use materials of their choice to invoke ideas of invisibility, among other themes, using inspiration from the current Addison Gallery of American Art exhibit titled “Invisible Citings.”

“The Addison curators curated a beautiful exhibition from the permanent collection that accompanies the installations downstairs also on the theme of invisibility. We started the idea of invisibility as how that pertains to empowerment, or a lack of empowerment,” said Zemlin.

One of the installations, which was untitled, displayed three different paintings connected by rows of red string and postcards. Each painting displayed a feature of the face: a green ear, eyes on a purple backdrop, or a mouth that appears to be sewn shut. The postcards hanging from the red string featured different words, actions, and drawings, ranging from arrows pointing in different directions to phrases such as, “I’m so tired.”

“A lot of this came from things I dreamt of at night or things that just randomly popped into my mind… It was supposed to represent the things people see, hear, and say, and everything that is not heard, not seen, and not said. That’s the theme of invisibility. The postcards represent the thoughts that go through our mind, but we don’t say them. Or the things we bear witness to, but we don’t really think about, or things that we hear and decide that [are] not going to exist for us,” said Jennie Guo ’19, the artist of the piece. 

Another piece, titled “Transparency and White-Outs: Artificial Preservation and Natural Deterioration” and created by Eden Cui ’19, featured three transparent umbrellas hanging upside down. Beneath each umbrella were mounds of white balls attached by invisible wire as if they were floating and painted white leaves strewn over the ground.

“Transparency is kind of like invisibility. In addition to that, I think the color white is nothingness and blankness, and I really wanted to go into that… I think these are the two main colors that are represented in this piece. All the leaves were painted with acrylic, and they’re wired and hung so it’s a lot of repetition, and the hovering [balls] are hung by monofilament onto the poles and solidified by UV glue, so that’s a lot of repetition and tedious work. It ultimately came out as a product, so I guess that’s satisfying,” said Cui.

With the establishment of this installation in the sanctuary, Zemlin hopes that students will stop by and appreciate their peers’ work.

“Art is often made by individuals in solitude, but the ultimate reason for making the work, and one of the main outcomes of the existence of the work is for the sake of an audience. If an artist puts a lot of work into creating something, and the audience shows up, the audience is going to get back as much as they put into understanding that work or experience,” said Zemlin.