By RICHARD BOHAN
It’s not just an art mash-up, re:WORKS is an ambitious exhibition by seven SYE students that plays with the concepts of time and space, and experiential nature of art.
The basic premise behind the re:WORKS exhibition is that each senior in the SYE curate two to six works from St. Lawrence University’s permanent collection and then create their own artistic replies. A simple premise, but this project led to some of the most unexpected, yet fascinating combinations that crossed-over multiple mediums.
“They gave us free-range over the entire collection, however much we wanted to work with,” Olivia McManus said, “It gave us a launching pad, I have made political art in the past, but this gave us a position to start thinking.”
For her installation, McManus hung up posters by the artist-collective, Guerilla Girls, politically charged works centered on women’s rights, while adding her own screen-prints that advocated women’s health. “I acknowledged [the Guerilla Girls’] art-historical basis, but I focused on their social, political-minded work,” McManus said.
“We picked stuff that was visually stimulating to us,” Mike Cianca said. Cianca found work by artists, such as Francis Bacon, visually interesting as they explored the line between object and subject. In response, he hung up his own photographs that merged people with objects; one of them features a girl fused with a toilet.
Much of these juxtapositions blur the lines between the past and present. For example, Courtney Kuno flawlessly blended her own modern posters with older travel posters.
However, not every work in the exhibition was hanged and framed; other students utilized different mediums and made use of the space in the exhibit.
Alli Howe constructed sculptures and artist’s books in response to older animal totems that revolved around man’s spiritual connection with animals. “I created these works out of recycled, natural, and found materials,” Howe said. Howe created books to accompany the sculptures she made, and through the use of tree stumps as stands, brought a mystical atmosphere to her work that can only be experienced in person. In other words, created an installation with her work.
“An installation takes up space you can relate to,” Alexander Duane explained, emphasizing the experiential dimension of art. Duane had two different installations in the exhibit. The first one is an eerie plaster of Theodore Roosevelt’s face accompanied with natural sounds and some of Roosevelt’s speeches. The second uses a projector to display family images over an old woodcut figure of man. The woodcut was strategically placed so that the father in each image would appear transposed over the figurine, casting a chilling shadow over the actual image.
Duane explained that the projection represented the way in which “Western culture projected onto other cultures.” I saw the installation as very Jungian with its projection of the shadow, and the projection of the collective unconscious of one culture onto another—but the beauty of this set is that it can bring out such personal interpretations due to its manipulation of space.
Ev Haynes also used projectors in his work which explored the relation of time within local areas Canton and Potsdam. Haynes projected videos of modern day Canton and Potsdam onto old photographs, creating an uncanny effect.
“I wanted to eliminate time,” Haynes said. He not only played with temporality, but also utilized sound and images to convey a space that the audience can immerse themselves into.
However, The artwork is not only a hands-on experience for the audience, but the students also got a hands-on experience through learning how to put on the show itself.
“It’s crucial for us to understand that a career as an artist is more than understanding techniques to make a body of work,” Lindsay Tarolli said. For her project, Tarrolli created six colorful prints in response to a surreal, Japanese-style painting. “It’s rare for college students to be able to exhibit their work, but to be able to learn the entire process of exhibiting artwork is entirely priceless,” Tarolli said.
“We learned how to write artist resumes, create blogs, how to hang work, how to mat and frame,” Cianca said, adding that the project was completely “hands-on for the students.”
“The group went to the gallery on at least three occasions,” gallery director Catherine Tedford said, “Once at the beginning of the project, a few more times individually to go through the permanent collection, and then again as a group to talk about their ideas.
“The gallery has never done a ‘re:WORKS’ project like this before, so I was really impressed by how thoughtfully each and every student interpreted the assignment.” In fact, the SYE project was so successful that there are plans to make the class mandatory for seniors.
“This SYE has become the capstone of the Studio Art Major,” McManus said. The re:WORKS exhibit is open until April 18.