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Capstone Exhibition Showcases Electrifying Mix of Student Art

graphic for strange multitudes exhibition

“Strange Multitudes” runs April 27 to May 19

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

The title for this year’s senior studio art exhibition, “Strange Multitudes,” is a riff on a famous line by the poet Walt Whitman and a clue to the wide-ranging work on display in The Trout Gallery through May 19. Although the student artists have read and discussed the same art-history texts, visited the same NYC galleries and inhabited the same spaces in the Goodyear Building, they each come to the project with unique sets of interests—and in some cases, additional majors. And, like the coursework and life experiences that inform their work, their joint exhibition is electrifyingly diverse.

The exhibition is the culminating event in a studio art major’s Dickinson career, and it arrives on the heels of a midyear practice run in the Goodyear Gallery. For their capstone project, class of 2018 studio art majors Becky Deihl, Julianne Gortakowski, Sammy Holden, Megan McCulloh, Amanda Patterson, Rowan Price and Lucy West built on that experience when they designed an exhibition of their final works in The Trout Gallery, complete with an accompanying full-color catalog.

Nagelmattan (steel nails, cotton embroidery thread, aluminum screen, and thermal adhesive), detail, by Rowan Price ’18.

Nagelmattan (steel nails, cotton embroidery thread, aluminum screen, and thermal adhesive), detail, by Rowan Price ’18.

Price, a double major in studio art and environmental studies, invokes women’s history and notions of domesticity in her sculptural fiber art, which juxtaposes the softness of fabric and thread with the mettle and fortitude of 19th-century factory embroiderers. She invites the viewer to take a second look at everyday objects through abstract designs and nontraditional materials.

Safe Home (found objects, ceramics, acrylic, fabric, and digital prints, variable dimensions) by Becky Deihl ’18.

Safe Home (found objects, ceramics, acrylic, fabric, and digital prints, variable dimensions) by Becky Deihl ’18.

Deihl also depicts a complicated vision of home in her elaborate, surrealist installations. The works speak to the comfort she found in familiar surroundings as a child, and her continuing fascination with kitschy home-decor elements, while commenting on the interplay between low and high art.

Vegetables (ink and oil on canvas, 54 x 24 in.) by Megan McCulloh ’18.

Vegetables (ink and oil on canvas, 54 x 24 in.) by Megan McCulloh ’18.

McCulloh, who has a second major in economics, presents paintings and prints that are as vibrant as an explosive jazz lick. She describes her act of creation as “a carefully choreographed task” and writes that every mark made is “part of a conversation with the previous line or strategic blot of color.” Like musicians in the zone, she writes, it’s a “call-and-response in paint.”

Yellow is the Color (acrylic and oil stick on canvas, 60 x 101 in.) by Lucy West.

Yellow is the Color (acrylic and oil stick on canvas, 60 x 101 in.) by Lucy West '18.

Music is also a source of inspiration for one of West’s colorful paintings, which found root in an inexplicable earworm. That spontaneous, instinctive approach to artmaking lends a sense of immediacy to her works, which she describes as explorations between subconscious and conscious impulses.

Eye of the Storm (gouache and ink on paper, 8 x 6 in.) by Sammy Holden ’18.

Eye of the Storm (gouache and ink on paper, 8 x 6 in.) by Sammy Holden ’18.

Holden, a double major in art and political science, brings us delicate drawings that give voice to her experiences with injury and pain and her struggle toward recovery/victory. Superstition, symbol and ritual come into play in these works, which cycle through symbols of anxiety, discomfort, triumph and strength.

Noise (photocopied digital prints and graphite drawings), detail, by Amanda Patterson ‘18.

Noise (photocopied digital prints and graphite drawings), detail, by Amanda Patterson ‘18.

Patterson’s collages find spark in a different personal and societal struggle—the #MeToo movement. Her layered pieces, composed of her own figure drawings and of hand-lettered text, draw attention to violence against women, in part through deconstructed female forms that she ripped, cut and covered in black Sharpie.

Mind Wandering (ceramic, plywood, and acrylic, 30 x 60 in.) by Julianne Gortakowski ’18.

Mind Wandering (ceramic, plywood, and acrylic, 30 x 60 in.) by Julianne Gortakowski ’18.

Layering is also key to Gortakowski’s two-dimensional, process-driven fiber-art works and abstract prints—the latter, created by digitally manipulating hand-drawn forms. These pieces echo the symmetry and pattern of the natural world—a natural subject for this biology and studio art double major. Like Deihl, Gortakowski is interested in exploring tensions between pattern and chaos, and in depicting a sense of place.

Separately and together, these works indeed “contain multitudes,” writes Associate Professor of Studio Art Anthony Cervino, who led the senior capstone project this year with input from fellow studio art faculty.

In her catalog essay, Gortakowski describes the collection in more biologically based context—one that Whitman himself would have delighted in. “Individuality,” the budding artist-scientist asserts, “is in our DNA.”

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Published April 26, 2018