December 17, 2012

"Cadets Marching"

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By Molly O'Brien-Foelsch

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Unseasonably warm air clashed with the cold water of the nearby Susquehanna River to produce a thick fog across campus on the last Monday morning of classes for the fall semester.

Senior Tyler McClenithan was halfway across the Academic Quad on his way to his environmental studies class when out of the mist appeared several shadowy figures. They were the same size as people, but they had no color — they almost blended in with the fog.

"It was really creepy at first," said McClenithan. When he got closer, though, he saw that the figures were actually an art piece called Cadets Marching, life-sized paintings of five soldiers marching across the Quad.

The piece was part of The Yearbook Project, the final assignment for Assistant Professor of Art Anna Kell's Painting I class. For the last three weeks of the class, the students broke into groups to recreate Bucknell yearbook photos and display them in the exact spot on campus where the original photo had been taken. "I wanted to involve students in a project that would commemorate Bucknell's history and explore everyday life and ritual on campus," said Kell.

Kate Rolfes and Abbey Brundage, both first-year students, were immediately drawn to the 1985 photo of the cadets. "We initially thought the photo was from the '40s, but then we realized it was from the '80s," said Rolfes. "We thought the piece could represent any time in Bucknell's history."

Katie Doughty, a sophomore, and Dulcinea Muñoz Gomez, an exchange student from Spain, joined Rolfes and Brundage for the project. Brundage said the four had different painting styles, but they intuitively gravitated toward similar ones for this project. "The cadets have no distinguishing facial features," she said. "We wanted to use an impressionistic style to make the pieces uniform and ambiguous because in ROTC, you're part of a team."

Cadet Pat Towery said the paintings have caused quite a buzz in the ROTC program. "For the past few weeks, I kept hearing people asking each other what the figures were as they passed by them, and I was proud to tell them that they are my predecessors," said Towery, a senior. "It is especially meaningful to me as I enter into my last semester as a student and a Cadet here at Bucknell, knowing that soon after I leave here I will join the long line of officers that those figures represent."

In addition to Cadets Marching, two other installations appeared around campus. Based on a 1977 photo, Page 163 depicts a couple holding hands as seen from behind. The piece was displayed in the Grove, the historic wooded area in the eastern part of campus where Bucknellians including Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson once walked.

"I chose this picture in honor of my aunt and uncle, who graduated from Bucknell in 1977," said senior Lindsay Coffee, who created the painting in collaboration with sophomore Kristen Zahn. "I don't believe the picture is actually of the two of them, but it celebrates their relationship and my family ties to Bucknell," said Coffee, whose cousins also attended Bucknell. "We wanted the painting to remind us of those who came before us and made friendships and memories in the same places we do today."

The third installation, Classic Greek, depicted students hanging out at a house downtown. "I liked the aspect of the more relaxing part of Bucknell," said Will Gibbs, a first-year student who worked on the project with sophomore Taber Gifford and first-year student Sarah Fraser.

Kell said she hopes to do the project again with future classes so that eventually, there will be enough artwork to create an exhibit that spans campus. "I've always been interested in how to illustrate the layers of history in a place," she said. "What if you walked onto the Quad and you could see everyone who'd ever been there?"

Contact: Division of Communications