Senior Art Majors Present in the List Gallery, Showcasing Diverse and Affecting Work

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.

Arranging an exhibition requires a strong sense of spacing and shapes, much like what goes into making the individual art pieces that make up a collection. The List provides the perfect arena for seniors to present their work at the Senior Art Thesis Exhibition Series. “Seeing [their work] in this space is fundamentally different than seeing it in a crowded studio,” List Gallery Curator Andrea Packard said. The opportunity to present to the community at large has certainly inspired these seniors to hold themselves to impressive standards.

The first artist to present in the gallery was Sarah Diamond ’13, who displayed her oil paintings April 18-22. She paints the people in her life with dozens of entangled, colorful strokes, each figure or face exuding vibrancy and power. They often look right at the viewer, but when they don’t, their shyness or distraction is equally telling.

“The intention of my work is to convey the emotional connection between myself and the subject. The viewer then experiences that connection by proxy,” Diamond wrote in an email to The Daily Gazette. “The point is the love between people.”

The next exhibition, featuring the ceramics of Alex Anderson ’13, opened yesterday, April 25, and will be up through April 29.  Anderson’s pieces are uniformly elegant, ranging from streamlined beauty to more complex and gilded pieces. One dark, glistening vase serves as a platform for a small ceramic bird, lying on its back with its delicate legs sticking straight up. Others incorporate fragile-looking flower petals or tendrils. Anderson describes his work as moving slowly away from functional sculpture and dealing with themes of “mortality, decay, and ephemeral beauty.” He cites 16th century Dutch still-life paintings and a recent trip to China as influences. He credits vanitas paintings, which he first encountered in his Western Art course, as contributing to his fascinating with “the fleeting nature of life.” For Anderson, “The fact that you can have all these beautiful things in life, but you can’t take them with you” is an eternal conundrum worth exploring. “There’s so much that you can say with an image or an object that words cannot necessarily express,” he said.

The next two artists to show in the gallery May 2-6 are Soomin Kim ’13 and Shiyin Cindy Lin ’13. Kim’s multi-media installations will cover themes of duality and home, as encapsulated by one of her main pieces. A wooden ring with a ten-foot diameter will be suspended from the ceiling, gauzy material floating down like an exquisite shower curtain. Two video projections will play within the curtain, combining footage from the two places that Kim has lived: South Korea and the United States. “I wanted to create a space that literally collapsed two homes for me,” she said.  Her exhibition will also include materials such as wood, hand-blown glasses, and fabrics. In addition, she is interested in providing “heptic,” meaning sensory or bodily, experiences through film. Her work will deal largely with liminality. “It’s about how you feel within space,” she said. “I want people to pay attention to the space.”

Lin’s exhibition will showcase her paintings and ceramics. She aims to bring the three-dimensional quality of her clay work to her paintings, and the two-dimensional detail of her paintings to her clay work. “I work to bridge that gap between [painting and sculpture],” she said. In any drawing, there is foreground and background, layers that are both contradictory and coexisting. In sculpture, she said, the internal and external space form a similar dichotomy. They are both “separate and the same, because they share one plane,” she said. Lin’s work raises questions about these thought-provoking themes. “Nothing is ever one-sided,” she noted.

Alexandra Huber-Weiss ‘13 and Sayaka Sai Merriam ‘13 will both exhibit their work next, May 9-13.  Huber-Weiss will display her intricate tapestries, which represent “the intersection of fabric and animal imagery,” she said. “My show will be about the progression of my work,” she explained, noting that she learned how to weave at the age of eleven and has been experimenting with different techniques ever since. She has worked on incorporating artistic elements, such as color, line, and shape, into the unique medium of tapestry. “The tactileness […] is very important to me,” Huber-Weiss said, running her fingers over one of her creations as she sat at her loom. She will be presenting her tapestries as the three-dimensional objects that they are, hanging them in space so that viewers can see both sides and sense the physicality and intimacy of each piece.

Merriam’s drawings will also contain animal imagery, approached from a very different angle. “For this show I’ve been creating pencil drawings on paper depicting animal subjects in realistic yet slightly surreal settings. I anthropomorphize my subjects, giving them character and distinct emotion that tells a story,” she said in an email. Merriam’s influences range from Italian Renaissance and Mannerist art to Pixar animated films to nature and animal photography. For Merriam, raising questions in her viewers and allowing them to connect with her work is very important. Her drawings incite thought with their unique treatment of a common subject matter.

The last exhibitions will be those of Kathleen Teleky ’13 and Rose Morris-Wright ’13, May 16- 25. Teleky’s oil paintings focus on strange, beautiful sea creatures, rendered on her canvasses with thick clumps of paint and subtle, diverse coloration. “I’ve always sort of had an affinity for fish and ocean life, and I love the beach, so I’ve been influenced by that,” she said. She is fascinated mainly by the textures of her subjects, from shells to tentacles to barnacles. She enjoys “playing around with representing the sea creatures in a way that is not necessarily as focused on them […] as the shapes and colors, the little pieces of them.” One eye-catching and delightful painting of an octopus, sprawled upside-down across the canvas, will form one of the center pieces of her show.

Morris-Wright’s is a ceramicist, and her large, hand-built pots are in part inspired by the landscape in which the artist grew up: the desert and rock formations of Santa Fe and the surrounding rural area. The space inside of Morris-Wright’s pots is just as important to her as the outside. “I try to focus a lot on the negative space of my work,” she said, pointing out that many of her pots are speckled with holes and places to peek into. “I want people to ask, ‘what’s inside there?’” she said. For Morris-Wright, empty space “represents a sort of potential,” she said. “The viewer can decide what is inside that potential space that has not yet been born.”

This year’s Senior Art Thesis Exhibition Series will be a whirlwind, granting these talented six artists the gift of a space, an audience, and an opportunity to consider the trajectory and meaning of their work.

All opening receptions will take place on Thursdays, 4-6 p.m. Gallery hours are Thursdays, from 12-6 p.m., and Fridays through Sundays, 12-5 p.m. 

Photos by Elena Ruyter/The Daily Gazette.

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