Not in Show

Todd Arsenault, assistant professor of art (left), chats with students during the opening reception for the senior studio-art exhibition.

Photo by Kathryn Davison '16.

Senior exhibition peeks behind the curtain of art-making

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Literary classics and four-star movies reveal no trace of the hours, months and years of labor and decision-making behind their creation. It’s that “man-behind-the-curtain” element of all successful art-making—the paradoxical truth that the more skillfully it’s done, the more effortless it appears.

That axiom is the underlying theme of Not in Show, a milestone exhibition for members of the class of 2014 that represents all they’ve learned as studio-art majors at Dickinson. It is on display at The Trout Gallery through May 17.

As the exhibition title suggests, while the student-artists showcase the finest works they’ve created during an intensive senior year, they do so with a nod to the pieces that did not make the cut—and the weeks and months of brainstorming, revision, surprise and, sometimes, seeming defeat that are vital to the process.

Creative metamorphoses

May Abou-Khalil (Spanish and art & art history) focused on printmaking at the start of her senior year, a medium in which she was most comfortable. But she soon began to apply the same process-driven approach to sculpture and installation art and experimented with ways she could transform two-dimensional paper into three-dimensional forms. The result? Intriguing miniature works fashioned from paper and plastics that hearken to patterns found in everyday natural and manmade forms.

“At first I tried creating depth literally, creating boxes through which [images] could be seen and building up the work through layering,” she describes. “But in the spring semester, my work became more abstract, and I began building up the work and creating depth in different ways, through the image itself.”

Tesha Chai’s exhibited works draw from her experiences as a Jamaican of Chinese heritage who discovered a new identity during her time as an international student at Dickinson. As her worldview expanded, her artwork followed suit, moving from formal, conventional forms to more daring and individualized explorations.

Molly Leach (French and art & art history) made a conscious shift away from pre-conceived ideas about artistic “beauty” during her senior year and transitioned from representationalism to abstraction. She also experimented with different materials and processes; her final drawings are on drywall, which provides interesting textures as well as an element of surprise.

Megan Sagastume, who was creating landscapes last year, exhibited portraits that reveal, through exaggeration and skewed perspectives, her subjects’ personalities and their relationships to her, while Emily Lehman's paintings and drawings became more abstract over time. Many call to mind cellular forms, seen through a microscope lens.

According to Associate Professor of Art Todd Arsenault ’99, who led this year’s senior seminar, creative metamorphoses like these impart lessons to the graduating seniors that reach beyond the studio and into all realms of professional life.

“If the students in the seminar learned anything through the course of the year, it is that any worthwhile endeavor takes much work and persistence,” he says. “More than leaving Dickinson with a strong portfolio ... [our] students leave with a resilience and stubbornness that allows them to work through situations that will continue to confront them both in and out of the studio.”

Not in Show Catalogue 

Learn more

Published May. 1, 2014