Arts & Culture

Exhibition showcases ‘off course’ art

Annual art show draws from across majors, years of Brown/RISD Dual Degree Program

Staff Writer
Friday, January 30, 2015

A ceramic piece, “Two Birds” by Maya Bjornson ’19, gleams in the light in the Cohen Gallery. First-year Dual Degree student Bjornson’s work responds to the fragility and symbolic power of birds, according to her artist statement.

Currently on display at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, the 7th Annual Brown/RISD Dual Degree Exhibition examines everything from the sky to the self. You will encounter drawings of common subjects, like abstract images of women, as well as more distinctive ones, such as a drawing of an exit sign that sits right below the building’s own. Sculptures of frail birds and cosmetics merchandise boxes jump out at the viewer, and a giant fabric mouse rests on the ground. Subverted household items, such as a hexagonal lamp and a table with a transformable surface weave through the exhibition. There is a film of burning matches; there are dresses made out of potatoes and CDs.

On the wall by the entrance, a logo playfully spells out this year’s exhibition theme: Of(f) Course.

The exhibition’s logo illustrates the artists’ rejection of the mundane. The tweak of the second ‘f’ reveals the entire meaning of the phrase and the goal of the showcase: exploring the notions of expectations, routine and deviation.

Every year, volunteers from across class years assemble a committee to decide the theme for each year’s exhibition. Bonnie Cai ’18, one of the members of the executive committee, said that when brainstorming themes, the members seek a topic that people can relate to in order to appeal to a wider audience than just the Dual Degree candidates.

“We decided on the topic of ‘Of(f) Course’ because in our society these days, everyone has a set routine. But at the same time, we are always trying to think of something that’s new and exciting, some way to present ourselves as being unique,” Cai said.

The congruence of these two forces manifests itself in Cai’s own work. Her charcoal drawings, entitled “Sky,” capture the consistency of the sky’s presence as well as the vicissitude of its patterns. In her two contrasting pieces, the simplest colors compose vivid images of skies encompassing nocturnal mysteries and divine lights.

The theme spawned diverse interpretations. Dual Degree candidates from distinct backgrounds embody similar concepts in their own media and narratives. The exhibition showcases the innovative techniques and personal perceptions these artists use to express deviations from normality.

Out of the many media used, the software-generated self-portrait by Philip Bayer ’19 stood out. Contrary to the precision of lines and shapes typical of computer-based drawings, the image is amorphous and abstract. Bayer said the piece stemmed from one of his visual dynamic studio classes, in which he learned how to use the software Rhino 3D. Bayer said he 3D-scanned himself onto the software, multiplying and manipulating the image to produce a self-portrait. Though from afar, the portrait hardly resembles traditional human forms, a closer look reveals that it consists of repetitions of human figures that convey a sense of ambiguity and intimacy.

While Bayer takes advantage of innovative media, others seek sparkles in their conceptions. In his work, “New Haven, Three Views,” Jeremy Wolin ’19 examines issues of urban planning and cultural contemplation by carving into three books that his mother owned.

Wolin said he has always been interested in making artwork that reacts to his surroundings and to relevant issues.

Candidates are particularly optimistic of the prospects the program has to offer.

“The (Dual Degree) courses allowed me to explore so many different ways of making artworks. It changed my perspective of the art world and how I think,” Bayer said.

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