On Wednesday, March 12, the work of the Art & Art History London Study Group was honored at a reception in Golden Auditorium. The show, titled “London Works,” is designed by the students and features various pieces by ten of the twelve students who traveled to London last fall.
This was only the third trip to London for the Art & Art History department, and Associate Professor of Art & Art History Linn Underhill was the first studio art teacher from Colgate to work directly with the students. The experience was an unusual one, as the group had no studio to work in, and many students were not studio art majors.
“Because there was main no studio space, the projects were required to be somehow contained. I decided to try the idea of a studio in a sketchbook,” Underhill said, leaving it up to each student to create his or her own sketchbook to work from. Additionally, the theme for the semester’s projects focused on the concept of mapping.
“I got the idea from a book called You Are Here, by Katherine Harmon,” Underhill said. “She explores the different ways of thinking about maps that go beyond your typical roadmap. It seemed like a natural choice, given that we were traveling to a place that many of us had never been before.”
Upon arrival, their first project was to map how they got there. Junior John Emison used his body by drawing detailed lines to indicate plane rides and land travel across his arms and chest.
“The mapping assignments were a great way to re-evaluate not only the way we saw the city and being in a foreign place, but it made us more conscious of how we interacted with our surroundings and remembered those experiences,” Emison said.
Junior Amy Long deconstructed a dress that her mother had given her for the plane ride, dividing it into several squares and fastening them to a wooden board. Next to the board are excerpts from Joan Didion’s “Goodbye to All That,” which describes a young woman’s travels to New York City, and her realization that this new place has changed her opinion of a dress she once thought was stylish and smart.
“It’s about the layers of experience, and changing perspectives,” Underhill said, as she stopped to reflect on the work.
“We lived, most of us, together in a few conjoined flats on Bedford Place,” Long said. “On Sunday nights before big deadlines, we had map parties. John Emison made a playlist and a bunch of us would just lie on the floor and map and talk and theorize all sorts of crazy shit. When three a.m. rolled around, we’d have to get serious, because it was three a.m., but it was just so much fun.”
The study group also paid a visit to Sigmund Freud’s house in London, where they viewed his study, which has been preserved exactly as he left it. Their next assignment was to map a psyche. Junior Katy Morley applied her neuroscience studies to the project by portraying the synapses of the brain. She added numbers in various places and included a kind of “map key” with quotes about the interior life. Among them are, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” “Think about crossing the line” and “If you want to be somebody else, change your mind.”
“Almost immediately, Professor Underhill made it clear that she wanted more than cute children’s book illustrations,” Morley said. “For a while I struggled, feeling a bit silly trying to incorporate more ‘edge’ into my maps, but I think in the end I became a better artist and produced more interesting work.”
The final project assignment was to map “your” London. Junior Melanie Homoki cut up various pictures from the trip into triangles, labeling the spaces in between with street names that reminded her of the experience. Emison carried a small bottle with him one day, and captured some London fog.
Underhill perceived that the studio in a sketchbook idea intimidated some, but she felt that they all rose to the occasion. Long expressed that she was initially frustrated with the construction process, but “now, the book exists as a total source of pride and recollection. It just made the experience total, because no matter where we were, we had access to an enormous book full of blank pages.”
Although “London Works” was supposed to end on March 14, the students’ work is still on display in Little Hall. The work of Juniors Albert Guerrero, Ali Wolter, Christie Lebano, Joanna Best, Lisa Marchi and Rachel Potter is also featured.