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Monday, Jun 5, 2023

Mixed Media Student Artwork Elicits Varied Interpretations

Author: Suzie Moses

Gliding out of Johnson Gallery on Friday night, I mused over my "wrong" interpretations of the artwork by Jesse Kulp '02, Sally Olson '03 and Penelope Wall '02. Elements and themes that seemed blatantly obvious to me in the artists' pieces did not coincide with their intentions or concepts. Even though I am a novice in the world of art criticism, I felt confident in my responses to the exhibit, "Patterns."

As soon as I reminded myself of art's central dogma — a single piece of artwork gives something absolutely unique to each person, or perhaps each person brings a new perspective to the piece — I enjoyed experiencing this premise in a direct and immediate manner.

Kulp, Olson and Wall, all art majors, found a common thread of patterns uniting their work.

While some of the pieces literally use patterned wallpaper, others conveyed the figurative patterns of human behavior through visual narratives and motifs.

The exhibit comprised a variety of mixed media and art forms that created a cohesive and pleasing whole.

The women's work, individually distinct to each artist, merged and mingled in Johnson Gallery with a charisma that bound the show together.

My eyes did not feel at ease as I gazed at Kulp's paintings, intaglios and collographs, and specifically at "Powder Blue," "Turquoise Blue" and "Dark Blue," a series of three large latex paintings on canvas.

As Harvest Ficker '02 explained, she could see "the passion and the intense emotional tension between the subjects."

I perceived the same tension that pricked at my comfort level just enough to sustain an alert twitch in my eyes for the pieces.

The gray, black, green and various blues courted each other on the canvasses to depict the artist's monochromatic process.

Where I saw sexual encounters between the subjects, Kulp illustrated "commentaries on different aspects" of her life.

In Olson's eclectic collection of collages, paintings and sculpture, "Chair Entwined," a found object sculpture of wood, glass, vines, ribbons and scraps of wallpaper, welcomed me from across the gallery onto a throne of entanglements and discomfort.

If I were to sit on the sculpture, I felt like the vines would awaken, envelop me and I would be integrated into the piece.

This strangely inviting piece moved me, as did "Wallpaper II." This collage of wallpaper and fabrics, inspired by an abandoned farmhouse down Route 23, reminded me of a kitchen being renovated.

As the layers of wallpaper peel away, endless designs of outdated colors resurface after years of concealment.

Wall's work launched the audience into a "Tumbling Sequence" and "Body Falling or Flying," a series of some abstracted form plummeting through open space riding a trapeze.

"Tumbling Sequence," a smaller ink and paper version, took only seconds to create.

Wall felt the immediacy of the motion echoed in the immediacy of its creation much "like a photograph," she said.

"Body Falling or Flying" brought a smile to my face. This larger series used the same concept with two disparate colors.

The dual colors, one as the object and one in the background, remained separate from each other but worked through and into the other's space.

In color, the idea conveyed a wittier commentary on "the courage of the jump" while "always remaining graceful in high heels," she elucidated.

The distance I removed myself from the series really affected my perception of the actual object.

While I saw a pregnant woman with the image of a fetus in her body established in several of the prints, Wall only saw a female figure.

Even Olson and Wall became installations in their own opening. The dresses they wore were essentially pieces in the exhibit.

Created with industrial materials, Olson's aluminum shift dress, accented with buttons, caught everybody's eye.

Wall graced the gallery with a sleek, strapless green gown and pink heels that complimented her exhibit, entitled "Giant Green Purse and Pink Necklace."

It was wonderful to discover through my experience at this exhibit that there is never a "wrong" opinion in art. What makes artworks of this nature so exciting is that each person brings something different to his or her perception of the piece.

Everyone's interpretation is equally valid.

Rarely do I get to explain my perception of artwork to the actual artist and then listen to their passionate articulation of what they see in their own work.

Subjecting myself to this experience and feeling a personal vulnerability really proved its wildness to me.