Art practice thesis exhibition pushes limits of form with spectacular mixed media showings

Olivia Staser/Staff

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“I was once terrified of the world outside my doorstep,” wrote Rachel Pyon on her piece “Childhood Terrors” on display in the Worth Ryder Art Gallery. Her life-sized installation piece features a small, dated TV surrounded by stuffed animals and a tiny patterned couch. On the TV dances an abstract animation of horror — a small paper puppet is chased around the screen by a snarling monster.

36 graduating art majors truly proved themselves to be jacks-of-all-mediums in “Put This on Your CV,” the campus art practice department’s spring 2018 senior thesis exhibition. The pieces displayed in the exhibition moved beyond classical form and instead found shape in everything from concrete to stuffed animals.

One clear example of this diversity is found in the work of Linden Julien-Lehr. Julien-Lehr’s piece “Frameworks II: knotty edition” manages to string together somewhat sensibly a completely nonsensical idea. The work makes use of lindenwood, after the artist’s name, and the description of the piece focuses on a long linguistic history of linden. The lindenwood serves as a frame for tattered canvas and ceramics that resemble chunks of meat. The eerie piece was at the center of the main room. Its gaudy coloring grabbed attention and its intricate linage held viewers to it.

Alvaro Azcarraga’s work “SEMO Soil Laboratory II” offered a counterspectacle to Julien-Lehr’s piece in the form of a life-sized laboratory constructed of found materials and lab items, complete with plant lights and nitrile examination gloves. Azcarraga’s work faced Julien-Lehr’s and together the two competed for the most attention among more modest or traditional pieces.

As a whole, the exhibition pulled away from the conventions of art and pushed through to find expression off of the canvas. A.J. Parry’s “A Few Moments,” for example, features dozens of glass jars filled with tiny furniture and small lights. In the dark, the jars become delicate and whimsical, while still playing with the role of audience. Viewers peered onto a table with place settings or a couch behind a TV, walking among and around the various settings as careful onlookers into a magical space.

Both Clarissa Viviana Heredia and Aston Grieco took different interpretations of a “rough look at the body,” to borrow a phrase from Heredia. Heredia’s work “We see some different things” features three pieces: two oil paintings and one sculpture. Each piece offers a fragmented look at a body — Heredia intends to keep the naked figure from being looked at as a whole person. Heredia invites an unsympathetic, critical and analytical gaze at an unconventional body. The sculpture element of the work offers complexity beyond intricate oil painting. At first, the sculpture seems to be a large blob of gray clay and nothing more. This confusion invites the viewer to inspect closely what is actually an exposed stomach, complete with belly button, while the face belonging to the stomach watches the audience somewhat lifelessly from behind.

In Grieco’s three pieces, she fluctuates from the intimate to the grandiose with a small etching of her figures, called “Big Girls, Small Studio,” accompanied by two huge paintings of the figures on wall-to-ceiling raw canvases, called “Double Trouble.” The pieces, all representations of Grieco’s own body, demand attention in size while not pandering to that attention with any glossing over or romanticizing of the naked female form. In “Double Trouble,” Grieco makes uses of yellows and blues for the shading on the legs and face of her figure, giving a somewhat sickly and otherworldly quality to them.

“I feel there is no limit to the number of times I can draw and redraw and sketch and print feminine bodies and still find a new way of seeing them,” Grieco wrote in her commentary.

Meditations on representations of the human body shifted to a more abstract style in the work of Evie Liu. Her three pieces, titled “Skin, 1, 2 and 3” are huge works on raw canvas done in flesh-colored acrylic paints. While the smears on the canvases offer only the implication of human figures, Liu allows her pieces to be damaged and worn, seeking kinship with blemishes and scarring on the human body. Just like human bodies, her pieces take on more meaning the more damaged they become, gaining new significance apart from the artist.

Aalaa Mohamed proved herself to be not just proficient in several mediums — working in digital illustration, acrylic, ink, watercolor and poetry for her piece “DIA: The Call” — but also technically brilliant. In her piece, which adopts the style of comics to present a dreamlike sequence, Mohamed’s watercolors stand out as clean, vibrant and so well integrated that it is at times difficult to distinguish between the different mediums.

Throughout the entire exhibition, whether it be in acrylic, oil, ink, video, etching, sculpture, watercolor or concrete, graduating student artists complicated traditional art forms in the pursuit of more intimate and honest expressions.

Kate Tinney is the assistant opinion editor. Contact her at [email protected].