Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Nick Forrest and Meghan Downie’s Senior Exhibits, held in the List Gallery this weekend, explored the possibilities of space both within a canvas or work and throughout the exhibit in each artist’s distinctly different style.
“An idea I find myself constantly returning to is the distance between observation and imagination,” opened Forrest’s senior thesis statement for his exhibition entitled “Pilgrimage”. Entering Forrest’s exhibit, the viewer was brought into a space where color and line escape the page and travel throughout the room.
In an interview, Forrest explained that he wanted the viewer “to feel like they were entering a unified environment experiencing space as a whole.” He achieved this effect through the arrangement of his work and the painting the gallery walls.
Forrest’s work is whimsical, entrancing, and occasionally deceptive with its clean, direct lines. Forrest’s affinity for pen and ink is clear though the balance of white space and saturated color. He ultimately creates complex and concentrated images that attract the viewer’s attention. Forrest is both influenced by artists David Hockney, Robert Gober, and outsider artist Henry Garber and poet Wallace Stevens.
A poet as well as an artist, Forrest was working simultaneously on his poetry while putting together his exhibit. “As I started working more intensely on both, they became very intermingled,” he said. “One day I realized that I was thinking about images in art exactly how I was thinking about imagery in poetry… The process became one and the same.” Forrest intends spend the next year developing his portfolio to ultimately pursue graduate studies either for Literature or Art, “or perhaps both,” he notes.
Meghan Downie, who is an art major and math minor, included a number of oil paintings and few sculptures in her exhibit. Still life is a favorite genre for Downie, although her exhibit included landscape and portraiture. Her sculpture is striking and realistic, while her paintings are equally realistic though distinctly painterly with a compelling tonal palette.
“My work is not very idea-driven,” Downie explained, noting that there is minimal narration in her pieces. “You’re just supposed to be enjoying looking at something.” This enjoyment is inevitable as ordinary objects take on extraordinary character through simple honesty of light and space. Her pieces are a testament to her ability to simplify and define three-dimensional space with carefully blocked light and color.
Downie also hopes to take a year or two to expand her portfolio before pursuing an Master of Fine Arts. Her influences includes her professors at Swarthmore, Brian Meunier and Randy Exon (a portrait of whom she has included in her show) and her high school drawing teacher Timothy Engelland.
Downie describes her process as very much about “copying,” even making use of the same scale. However, Downie avoids photorealism. She believes that if someone want a photograph on canvas, they can order one but “I don’t feel like painting that way,” she said. Instead, both her whimsical sculpture work with “wacky finishes” and richly painted layers of oil on canvas remind the viewer of the satisfaction of looking at one’s subject, particularly when a well trained eye and hand recreate it.
Forrest and Downie’s exhibits ran in the List from April 25 through April 28. Sara Haley and Linda Huang’s, next in the List’s Senior Exhibit series, will open on May 2.