Student art expo features flannel, eggshells

Monday, March 16, 2009

This year’s Student Art Exhibition, which opened in the David Winton Bell Gallery Saturday and runs until March 29, is most striking for the variety of media, traditional and otherwise, employed by the artists. Flannel, soda can tabs and eggshells are just some of the materials the artists have creatively incorporated into the pieces featured in the collection. The diversity of media used seems appropriate, given the heterogeneity of subjects featured and the style in which they are rendered.

Jesse Cohn’s ’10 untitled work, for example, is composed of chains of linked paper clips, silver and brightly colored, which together create a large-scale map of the United States. (Rhode Island is represented by just two red paper clips.) Cohn uses repetition of a mundane household item to represent an ordinary image, but in the process creates a piece that is unusual and truly compelling.

Next to Cohn’s map stands Zachary Smith’s ’11 piece, also untitled – a combination cabinet-table-lamp made of wood, as economical as it is aesthetically pleasing.

Bart Dessaint ’11 has two photography pieces, “American Dream: 100 Year Old Providence Grocery” and three distinct photos that together make up “Elementary Language.” According to the posted artist’s statement, the series documents “a paper trail of revealing curiosities” – enigmatic phrases and texts that Dessaint found at Reservoir Avenue Elementary School in Providence.

In his statement, Dessaint also said his primary goal with “Elementary Language” was “finding the simple beauty in an establishment that enables the children to feel safe and escape difficult situations.”

The interactive pieces drew small pockets of inquisitive viewers at the exhibit’s opening. John Szymanski’s ’09 “Interface” is a swirling, bubbling hurricane in a glass bottle sitting atop an antique magnetic stir plate. Ironically, written in capital letters around the neck of the bottle are the words “Federal Law forbids sale or reuse of this bottle.”

“Persephone” by Galen Broderick ’09 is an engineering feat as well as a work of art. Two giant inflated hands are connected to a table where the invitation “Please Caress” is printed around a patch of faux fur. As viewers pat the patch, fans beneath the table blow air into the inflated arms, causing the hands to move.

Slightly more traditional is Anne Blazejack’s ’09 oil painting, “Bathtub Ritual.” In this beautiful depiction of a woman in a bathtub with a goldfish swimming near her toes, Blazejack uses perspective to achieve a playful yet elegant effect.

Emily Martin ’11 plays a dual role in this year’s exhibition. Her piece is an untitled lithograph of a mask and baby dress. Martin is also the subject of a portrait by Erica Palmiter ’09, hung beside Martin’s own lithograph, entitled “Emily’s Flannel.” The portrait is done in oil on flannel, and Palmiter said she chose an alternative to canvas to better “incorporate the person that I was painting.”

Palmiter also said she thought the flannel represented not only Martin’s style but also that of many others at Brown.

Palmiter’s work is one of many in this year’s student exhibition that illustrates the praiseworthy talent and multifarious perspectives of not only the artists but also that of the larger Brown community.

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