Over 100 people attended the opening of the Senior Art Projects on Wednesday in Little Hall. The senior art concentrators have worked on their projects steadily throughout the year under the instruction of Associate Professor of Art and Art History Lynn Shwarzer as well as the professors in each artist’s specific medium. At the beginning of the fall, each student picked the particular medium in which they were interested to work. The class followed the normal routine of reading texts and work-shopping each other’s pieces early on but, after winter break, the artists got in full gear for their final projects.
“This is the largest senior project in studio that we’ve ever had,” Shwarzer said. “It was an adventure for us all in terms of thinking about how to take a group of 28 people and get them to know each other’s work well and…to produce this incredible show.”
The process of the Senior Art Project is a long one. Senior art concentrator Alex Agnant describes the process: “You should go in there – for anybody who’s a senior art major – thinking large and then scale down.” The evolution of the projects has been exciting for the artists: while the general, initial concepts of the project have remained the same, it is the process of honing in and narrowing which leads to such fine and final products.
“It’s interesting being in the class because you see the evolutions of peoples’ projects…just the way that things are much more creative, much more intriguing by the end of the semester,” senior studio art major Elisa Benson said.
What makes the Senior Art Project different from past projects is the complete liberty each artist has to explore. They have the extensive aid of the faculty, but their respective projects are completely their own creations. “I will say that every student designed their own project; nobody was handed an assignment, nobody was given a framework they had to work within…the basis of it comes from the students,” Shwarzer said. “I think this show is an incredible testimony to what can happen.” Shwarzer also pointed out that traditionally at least some form of guidance is given to art students in upper-level studios.
The artists worked in various mediums: photo, video, sculpture, drawing, painting, prints and more. Although each piece is provocative and challenging in its own distinct way, many common threads exist among the projects. Numerous artists focused on the issues of private and personal space, effects of technology and global issues (military and economic), constructions/deconstructions/relations to Other and self, race, perceptions/ preconceptions of what one experiences or sees, exploration of other arts as well as issues of the body and life forms.
Many pieces are based on grids or systems. Shwarzer commented that this aids in an “understanding [of] our system of looking…how we make sense of what we say. The grid sets up this wonderful formal way of exploring the work but it’s also a method of almost cataloging.” This theme of challenging the viewer’s perceptions is present in many of the works.
Each piece is accompanied by an artist’s statement that complements the work. “It’s a little glimpse of where you’re coming from or what inspired you so that you [the viewer] can have some way to wrestle with the piece,” Agnant said.
The artist’s statement is an invitation into the mind and goal of the artist. The viewers of the show are further invited to experience a few of the pieces in a participatory nature: some invite the viewer to take a piece of the art with them or to touch the work.
“There are some things that are participatory, some things that fool you…some things operate on the premise that you have to get kind of close in there and really look at things,” Shwarzer said.
Benson also described the phenomenon of interactive art. “I have always been interested and attracted to artists in the wider world that solicit direct viewer interaction,” she said. “I like art that’s speaking to me on my own level and that feels really accessible.”
The sterility of a modern museum is absent in Little Hall; there is energy surrounding and emanating from the pieces, simultaneously inviting and challenging the viewers to take the work seriously.
The Senior Art Projects opening is a part of Colgate’s weeklong Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Works, which began last Sunday and will end this Sunday. The week focuses on the research and art of some of the most talented students at Colgate in a public forum.
On the exposure of art and artists at Colgate, Agnant expressed his satisfaction.
“I think for me it makes you feel that Colgate University is taking art seriously,” he said. “[It] brings a new perspective on how serious art is and that artists are part of the leaders that are changing the world.”
Benson added to this notion of the importance on art on a grand scale:
“We live in a society that is so visual; we are surrounded by visual images in visual cultures and that I have a language in talking about that and a framework in understanding,” Benson said. “I feel it allows me to perceive entire aspects of our society that aren’t necessarily apparent to somebody that hasn’t had training in the arts. Not that I think you have to have training to be able to perceive the world in that way, but I think it certainly helps.”
On the success of the opening and her student-artists, Shwarzer commented, “I’m so proud of them all; they just accomplished a tremendous amount. It was an honor to work with them because they just never let me down.”
If you missed the opening, the work will be displayed in Little Hall until the end of the semester. In the next two weeks, a number of the seniors will defend their honors in a public forum to which all interested students are invited.