Imagine that you come across an old image that portrays the story of Henry Brown, a slave in Virginia who arranged to mail himself to abolitionists in Philadelphia, Pa., to reach freedom. If you're an artist like Bucknell University student Ashley Freeby '15, reading about Mr. Brown is where the process of making new art begins.
Freeby's research and ideas led her to make a 2-foot-wide, 2-foot-8-inch-deep, 3-foot-long box out of an old fence from her parents' yard. And on Friday, April 17, after the snap talks about this year's student art exhibition, Kaleidoscope, in the Samek Art Museum, it will become an interactive piece. "It's a powerful experience to be in that box," said Freeby, who will invite audience members to sit in it themselves. "I'm excited to see if anyone sits in it, how long they stay and what their experience is like."
Kaleidoscope features the work of senior studio art majors and studio assistants. The students took Senior Projects in Studio Art with Professor Joe Meiser, art & art history, during the fall semester where they each developed a proposal including the ideas they planned to explore, the materials and media they would use, and a timeline for their work. The students began to develop their projects in the fall, and then refined their projects and planned the group exhibition during the spring semester.
Meiser said that in class discussions the students received critical feedback that helped them develop the technical and conceptual aspects of their projects. "In the visual arts the intellectual basis for the work matters just as much as the outward aesthetic," he said. The students worked together to title the show and decide how they would use the space in the Samek Museum. "To stage a professional exhibition in a museum is an enormous undertaking," said Meiser. "Students learned a great deal from the process, and the experience is important preparation for the professional world."
As a group, the artists described Kaleidoscope by saying, "We the artists seek to present the audience with a multitude of lenses, a kaleidoscope of ideas. Rather than trying to fit one theme, our show reflects the diversity of thought and experience integral to the human condition." Find out more about their work below.
Deanna Boerstler '15
Boerstler said she's drawn to the visual arts because of its transformative nature. She experiences transformation while she makes her art, and simultaneously reflects on her presence in space and time.
For one of her pieces, she planned to make 100 pinch pots — simple, handmade clay pots — and display them, but her process led her to make 537 and to release them back to nature. "Each object I create holds a piece of me, " she explained, "and when viewed, the imprint that my intent leaves on the artwork is transferred to the audience, creating a harmonious circle."
Kendra Elyse Douglas, studio assistant in sculpture
Douglas is a sculptor who works with many different materials. Her pieces include wire, steel, mason jars, wood, cast aluminum and paint, among others. She describes her work as an exploration of what it means to be vulnerable — how difficult that can be, but also how it can lead to growth.
Through her work, she asks, "Can we learn what it means to welcome an unwanted situation, with its sense of groundlessness, as an awakening? Can we look to our experiences as a signal that there is something to be learned? Can we examine our fears and insecurities to deepen our wisdom, understanding, and self-love? Can we allow it to penetrate our hearts?"
Ashley M. Freeby '15
Freeby began her work for the exhibition intending to explore her multiracial identity. She contacted and photographed local multiracial families, but ended up focused on the complexity of her own family as well as the history and legacy of slavery in the U.S.
She learned to use new materials to create one of her pieces, The Dining Room, an installation that depicts a family meal that never happened and the many aspects of her identity, as well as that of her white mother and black father. "My work explores history, culture and race to create a collective, more inclusive story about humans," she said. "My hope is that this work touches others and starts conversations about race."
Veronica Hanssens, studio assistant in printmaking
In her artist statement, Hanssens said she has developed an appreciation of images with dark humor through her life experiences at home and at work in Philadelphia. She described her animation, Grubbing in the Ashes, as a "lighthearted acknowledgement of the possibility of this universal state of disorder."
"My images of urban pandemonium and inverted rural utopias reference centuries of apocalyptic imagery in both art and literature," she said, "yet they are also embedded with representations of the people and places that have shaped my own sensibilities."
Alana Jajko '15
Jajko uses natural elements like air and fire to make her paintings and sculpture, and also visits junkyards to gather materials to repurpose in her work, a reflection of her interest in the complex boundaries of the manmade and natural worlds.
"My work is about nature," she said, "but it is also about contemplating the span of our world that can be considered natural. For instance, is a National Park really natural when we pave roads and drive cars through its sanctity? What happens when the wildlife becomes so used to this frequency that they walk right up to tourists and vehicles? Can the manmade world then be considered a part of this nature or has the nature of these wilds actually been domesticated by the manmade world?"
Stephanie Lee Knaus, studio assistant in photography
Human interaction, particularly the difference between the development of relationships through a lengthy exchange of letters and the short exchange of text messages, is important to Knaus, as she explained in her artist statement.
"My work is process oriented; it is about observing contemporary human communication in light of the current digital world," she said. "I wish to create a platform where my audience can recognize the similarities and relate it to what they view in their life in terms of communicating with one another."
Alexandra Lamancusa '15
Growing up with cats made Lamancusa aware of the importance that pets have as individual beings in their relationships with people. While cat memes are shared widely, she wanted to express the worth of real cats in portraits, so she collected photos of local people's cats and decided to use watercolor to mimic their free flowing nature.
"Animals, particularly domesticated animals, gift us with opportunities of intimacy without words, and empathy beyond language," she explained. "Maintaining relationships with animals like cats binds us to physical reality and the immediate moment."
Lily Robinson, '15
Robinson found a family diary from the 1880s, which was filled with notes and poems handwritten by her great-great-grandmother's circle of friends. She decided to capture similar moments in her own life, and think about how those are affected by the ubiquitous use of communicating through electronic devices. In her artist statement, she explained that her work looks at the intersection between conversation and technology: "This homage to Bucknell is a series of images taken from a smart phone camera and then rendered in watercolor, which is a medium that is transparent and instantaneous, yet very traditional."