Striding into the "Unknown"
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A new exhibition opened at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art, and each of the unique pieces now lining the walls have one thing in common: they were created by a graduating senior. The capstone projects of fourteen graduating art majors will furnish the museum until the end of the school year as part of the exhibition “As of Yet Unknown,” bringing together a variety of mediums from painting, to multi-colored yarn, to video, to sculpture, to ceramics.
Projects such as Thomas Rubio’s installation “Gun Debate” and Judah Milner’s ink drawing series “I’m Alone. No, You’re Not” seek to provoke thought and discussion on issues such as gun control and living with anxiety. Bailey Tripp’s collection of found objects inspires viewers to take time to appreciate the natural world, and Benjamin Zacaroli’s experimental film “Linescaping” invites them to see the beauty that can be found in everyday urban objects. Alyssa McKee’s series of oil paintings called “When Nobody’s Looking” captures life’s private, and potentially embarrassing, moments, adorably replacing humans with a variety of bugs. “For this particular piece, I drew inspiration from real life awkward moments that I wouldn't want to be caught doing,” says McKee.
An opening reception for the exhibition was held on April 6th, unveiling the projects that the seniors spent months developing and creating into the public spotlight. Aly Smith, the creator of a dazzling, glitter-encrusted fantasy installation, says “the response that I got at the opening was amazing! There were four or five young children who came to the opening and they really gave me the best response. One of the little girls walked around the piece five times, and I heard that a little boy exclaimed ‘There's the glitter piece!’”
“Having my art in the museum makes me feel vulnerable but also totally validated as an artist,” says Arianna Spiller, who hopes to challenge cultural norms and “provoke people enough to question why we sexualize and gender objects” through her series of graphite-drawings of underwear.
Senior artists are allowed to use any medium they choose for their independent project. After taking Painting 1 last fall, Briana Gaultiere fell in love with oil painting, deciding to create a series of eight paintings of teacups that had been in her family for generations. “Once I started I didn’t want to go back,” she says. For Gaultiere, the experience of having her work displayed in the museum is “surreal.” “It is such a joy to finally get to share my project with other people,” she says. “I was so blessed at the opening watching people look at my project and loved hearing how they were encouraged and inspired by it!”
Jenna Haring finds inspiration for her art in not only the people in her life, but also amidst the “abstract phenomena peculiar to living and shared by all: for instance, the fragility of life, or the paradox of being an isolated individual finding identity within community.” Her series of oil paintings “Witness to Another” incorporates fractured lines to convey the mindset of a personal friend who is recovering from a brain injury. “Thinking back to all the incredible artists that have been represented on the walls of the Ridley-Tree Museum makes the honor all the greater,” says Haring of having her piece exhibited.
Running alongside the senior art exhibition is the Sophomore Project, which also gives Westmont students the opportunity to publicly display their work in the Adams Center Student Gallery. For their project, the art majors and minors are tasked with creating a single piece of visual art inspired by a single-word theme: “Night.”
Sophomore art major Leslie Duggin, who combined her two passions of art and theatre in a “Cloak of Night” costume, found this year’s theme particularly compelling, stating “I’ve always been fascinated with fairy-tales, and magic, and the wild; these concepts have informed who I am as an artist and a person. Night has a magical quality to it, ordinary things suddenly become other in the dark and it’s really interesting to think about that.”
Such a broad theme resulted in an abundance of different interpretations, ranging from Anna Isaacson’s clay sculpture of a kindly, bespectacled grandfather entitled “Bedtime Stories,” to Suzan Han’s miniature model of a bedroom complete with tiny sleeping bees, to Kianna Arriaran’s photograph of the Northern Lights, “The Alaskan Night Dance.” Both Alex Vazquez and Isabel Mata’s projects focus on the hidden stories of those who suffered and died in the Holocaust, depicting the tragedy through paper mache and serigraphy artwork respectively. “Everyone’s piece is so incredibly different,” says Duggin.
Both the sophomore project and graduate exhibitions celebrate the talent and devotion of Westmont’s student artists.