“Yard Party”: Art-600 Students Experiment with Mediums and Modes of Presentation

An envelope with the words “DO NOT OPEN” written on it lies in the center of a collection of decorated journal pages and oil paintings of carefully arranged food. This work by Marie Latham ’18, titled “Consumption,” is one of the Art-600 pieces currently on display in the Gelb Gallery.

“It was originally a letter I wrote to myself on the night that I was denied from my early decision school… You know how people say ‘write a letter, never send it, and you’ll end up never needing to’? So it was pretty symbolic for me, because I took it out of my journal, I put it on the wall, and I took the letter out, and I actually threw it away,” said Latham.

The Art-600 installation, titled “Yard Party,” opened last Saturday and features independent, student-designed projects. Since the assignment was entirely open, each student came up with their own topic, project, and mode of presentation.

“We originally thought we were going to call it ‘Yard Sale,’ because it’s a bunch of random stuff that we want people to come in and experience. But then we were like, ‘Yard Party,’ is much more fitting of how we work as a class and how we are together — it’s a party,” said Latham.

Therese Zemlin, Chair of the Art Department and Instructor of Art-600, designed the course to give students freedom in exploring their interests and abilities as artists.

“The classic response in Art-600 with the open assignments is ‘Oh cool, I can do whatever I want!’ and the second response is ‘Oh no, I can do whatever I want.’ Students do a proposal for their projects, and I fully expect them to veer from their proposal… because a big part of the process of making the piece is so that it can evolve,” said Zemlin.

Projected on one end of the gallery is a video made by Flynn Bryan ’18 which shows her practicing ballet. In between shots of dancing are clips where Bryan has common tools such as a razor, a hairbrush, and a bread knife tied to her pointe shoe, and she attempts to perform daily tasks with the added burden of her dance shoe.

“I started this piece thinking about self-ascribed identities and boxes that we’ve put ourselves in, based on our abilities and our skills. And I thought the perfect character for this would be the dancer, because so much hinges on that ability. But in turn, it also means that outside of that specific skill set, you may feel other things are no longer valuable because they no longer fit,” said Bryan.

A piece done by Eden Cui ’19 is composed of a series of white pages with differently colored barcodes. Some other pages portray Chinese characters that are common phrases seen when online shopping.

“The barcodes are symbols of different products that you buy. I drew [them in] different colors just to emphasize how diverse the products we buy can be. I hope that people can be able to relate to this and hopefully think of what they are tempted to do when they are clicking into these really attracting ads,” said Cui.

One corner of the gallery is cluttered with shelves, tools, and a large overhanging piece. According to artist Aki Charland ’19, he made his work resemble an art studio to draw attention to how an artist’s surroundings can affect their work.

“A lot of it was just based on how I felt the space could look at its most authentic… I rearranged the whole place a few times just to see how I would set it up. It’ll probably still change, even though the opening is today. I’ll continue to rearrange things and continue to work here. And that way it’s almost a performance piece, because it changes and I’m working in it, and that’s a performance in itself,” said Charland.