The search for identity ó individual and collective, personal and national ó unites the two senior Independent Study art exhibitions being shown in the MacKenzie Gallery in Ebert Art Center through today, Friday, May 1.
Juliann Lafferty í09 incorporated transparent photographic prints, light boxes and thrift-store picture frames in her artistic study of family, home and memory titled ìSynthesis: Connecting with Home Away from Home.”
The most prominent section of the exhibition features a series of three or four layers of the transparent photos, each suspended on fishing wire. Light boxes behind the photos emit a clear white light that illuminates and conflates the images. Each of the images have been collected from places Laffertyís family lives, works or attends school ó a focus, she said, that happened almost on accident.
ìI started out comparing urban and rural scenes, but I found myself photographing either Wooster or my family, where they lived,” she said. Intrigued by the way she had been drawn to the familial and the familiar, Lafferty changed her study, choosing to actively seek out places associated with home and family.
ìI was just going to the different places my family was and trying to connect with what they see in those places, what they love about living there,” she said.
As the project went on, it became even more personal, as Lafferty connected the images with her own memories of home and studied them in the context of impending graduation and entry into independent adulthood. ìItís looking at home, and where it is for me now,” she said.
Another component of the project weaves transparent photos from a family vacation cabin in Canada into a patchworked, backlit work that recalls the look of an Amish quilt ó and is equally symbolic of family heritage. ìI liked the scrapbook quality,” said Lafferty. ìItís as though I can pluck out images, move them around and change them as my concept of home changes. Itís not concrete by any means.”
We end up in front of yet another component of the exhibition: layered, transparent photos of Laffertyís immediate family, contained in a cluster of thrift-store frames. It looks like someoneís hallway portrait gallery, an idea Lafferty says she was reimagining. ìThe idea of multiple images shows the concept of time and memory,” she said.
Across the gallery, Charlotte Castle í09 presents her exhibition that makes its own investigations into identity and selfhood. For her art, these concepts are intrinsically linked to the turmoil of a nation she has traveled to for the past few summers: Malawi, in southeastern Africa. Castleís exhibition, ìVulnerable Identities: An Artistic Exploration of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Malawi,” is a study of the countryís HIV/AIDS crisis and its social, psychological and even environmental impacts.
The idea began, she said, with a comparison of African and Western humanism, which she discussed with Richard Bell, Frank Halliday Ferris professor of philosophy emeritus at the College. ìAfricans value community, and their identity is found through the community,” said Castle. ìWestern identity is more individualistic. We are taught to be independent, which may result in less sensitivity towards the wellbeing of others.”
The centrality of community was the inspiration for Castleís initial plan: a wall of portraits with the faces literally cut out of the panels, representing the loss of identity and the formation of a new community of individuals who were HIV-positive.
Although the community did not ultimately materialize in Castleís project ó ìI got frustrated with that idea,” she said ó two of the cutout portraits take up one wall of the exhibition. One shows the body of an HIV-positive Malawi woman; the other is a self-portrait of Castle herself. The titles, structured as analogies, reflect the statement Castle hoped to make with her art. The Malawi womanís portrait is titled ìHIV Positive : Isolation :: Invisibility : Failure”; Castleís portrait is ìAzungu : Wealth :: Invisibility : Success.”
ìAzungu means white person,” Castle said, explaining that the key to combating HIV and poverty is not an influx of Western money but underground restructuring and education. ìFor me, as a white person in Malawi, success would mean my presence goes unnoticed. Instead my efforts and work are acknowledged,” she says. ìFor her,” she points to the Malawi woman, ìinvisibility is failure.”
Each of the paintings is the result of Castleís travels in Malawi and her interactions with the people there. ìI met every person that I painted,” she said. ìI wanted to preserve the dignity of the people ó they are very happy, very proud. They wouldnít want people to feel sorry for them.”
Next week, junior studio art majors will be presenting exhibitions of their junior Independent Study projects in the MacKenzie Gallery in Ebert. Artwork by Alice Case í10, Benjamin Katz í10, Calvin Todd í10, Hannah Matthews í10, Jongseok Oh í10, Kevin Reiswig í10, Lindsay Lutz í10, Nicholas Knodt í10, Sarah Manning í10, Tyler Scheidt í10, Allegra Angelini í10 and Sarah Harbottle í10 will be shown. The opening will be held Sunday, May 3 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the MacKenzie Gallery in Ebert, and the exhibition will be open to the public May 3-8. The MacKenzie Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.