The Art of Independent Study

by Margaret Donnelly, Editor in Chief

The senior studio art majors’ Independent Study exhibitions opened last week in the MacKenzie Gallery at the Ebert Art Center with the works of Will Santino ’11 and Nick Ouellette ’11, whose exhibitions explored Biblical concepts of creation myths, language and the Tower of Babel.

Santino showed drawings from his graphic novel “FISH THAT DON’T EXIST: The Wonderful Plague of 1666: An Unfinished Illustrated Novel.”† In his junior year, Santinio researched the history of science and began writing “FISH THAT DON’T EXIST” as a magical history of science that blurred the line between fact and fiction and was originally a collection of fictional marine monsters.

The project evolved into Santino’s Senior I.S. as 38 large diagrams that look like doodles but use a combination of drawings and writing.† Science and religion intersect in Santino’s story, which explores the history of science and the origins of human language beginning with Adam and Eve.† One of Santino’s diagrams even throws a metaphorical wink to Ouellette’s project with a small drawing of the Tower of Babel.

“The union of text and art is something I’m developing and really into,” said Santino.† “I imagined the book as something you can open to any page, so I think of them as individual stories or chapters. It’s like ëWhere’s Waldo?’ You look at the page for a very long time. The text and crazy pictures are meant to be dwelled upon.”

Santino’s large-scale drawings are intricate works of art, although they appear simple enough for one to believe that they are doodles in one of his well-worn notebooks; indeed, that is how Santino originally became a studio art major.† However, each diagram is a well-thought out creation that seems as though it might leap off the page.

Some of Santino’s diagrams are representations of mythical creatures with text that indicate how Adam and Eve named the animals and created the world’s first language.† Others are black and white doodles that explain the history of science after the Great Fire of London in 1666.† The magical and goofy creatures, that Santino describe as “magoofical,” are drawn in vibrant colors that are starkly contrasted to the black and white doodles that depict the world of science.† It is within Santino’s “magoofical” creativity that allows viewers to tread the porous line between science and mysticism.

Ouellette explored similar themes of creation myths and language in his three-dimensional series of sculptures called “Babel.”† Inspired by the Biblical story about the Tower of Babel, Ouellette constructed several sculptures out of brick that he hand-mixed from dirt, clay, sand and straw.

Ouellette, who has experience building with adobe for sustainable housing, said he began to think about how and why buildings get put together and why they fall apart.† “I created a display of remnants of a fictional civilization to try to encourage the viewer to imagine what context they would fit into and the narrative of each building,” said Ouellette.† It is unclear whether each of the buildings is in the process of being built or falling apart.† “They’re all just barely staying together,” he said.

Ouellette said that he tried to make each of the structures seem universal, using materials that would not necessarily identify each structure as belonging to a specific culture, in order to help viewers make a connection with his pieces.† Because they are not specifically ruins or new buildings, they force viewers to ponder the significant structures in their own lives.

Santino and Ouellette’s joint exhibition worked very well together both conceptually and spatially.† While their concepts of creation myths and language complimented each other, their physical pieces of art balanced one another.† “It’s almost as though my work asks the question ëWhy do we make stuff up?'” said Ouellette.† “And Will’s answers, ëWhy not?'”

The following week, Nina Dine ’11 and Nathanael Kooperkamp ’11 presented their I.S. exhibitions, called “IMPRO-VIBES 17X: The Visual Expression of Hip Hop Lyrics” and “Been Struggling Way Too Long With Pockets Still Empty,” respectively.

Dine showcased 17 images of hip-hop artists including Tupac, Nas, Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, Kamen, Lil Mama, Lil’ Kim, Nicki Manaj, Dr. Dre, Mos Def and Kanye West.

Instead of creating traditional portraits, Dine used charcoal, spray paint and gel mediums to produce the artists’ images on brown and see-through paper.† Dine used charcoal on brown paper to depict artists whose lyrics explore darker sides of hip-hop.† The see-through images represent artists whose music is more playful and upbeat, said Dine.

“The mixed style of charcoal and illuminating colors represents the layering of vocal patterns and beats in hip-hop music,” Dine wrote in her abstract.† “This style allows the essence of hip-hop to emerge and to be seen as something beautiful, despite the problems that occurred during the rise of this culture.”

While the brown images were hung on the walls, the see-through images were suspended from the ceiling, allowing viewers to see the images from all sides.† Dine further enhanced viewers’ experiences at the opening of her exhibition last Sunday by playing songs by her featured artists.

“I wanted to get people having fun and get them in the mood of what they’re surrounded by and give everyone the ambiance of being at a show,” she said.

Alongside Dine, Kooperkamp presented his exhibition, “Been Struggling Way Too Long With Pockets Still Empty.”† Kooperkamp created what he defines not as sculptures or pieces but areas of devotion assembled from broken and discarded items from the ground or in the trash.

“I collected a lot of objects and by putting them in the religious connotation I gave them a sense of religiosity by heightening the sense of everyday objects,” said Kooperkamp.

Kooperkamp used scrap wood, old newspapers, religious objects and other discarded items, which he then weathered to make them look old and worn out, before assembling them to construct devotional areas.† “I find myself envying garbage collectors, as they find perfect artifacts that I would love to utilizeÖ My goal in every piece is to bring out all the natural beauty of these forgotten, scrapped objects,” he wrote in his I.S.

Kooperkamp altered the states of the objects that he used by assembling them together to create a religious aesthetic.† “The found objects are made to conjure the same feelings, assumptions and associations of devotional art,” he explained.

“When I can heighten [the objects] and bring them into this space and make them significant it’s sort of about redemption of the objects which plays into the lack of religion in my life,” said Kooperkamp. Though Kooperkamp’s father is a priest Kooperkamp does not consider himself to be a religious person.

“I appreciate the religious aesthetic, and have been attempting to reproduce not strictly in the imagery but the feeling and connotation that such art can arouse,” he said.

Dine and Kooperkamp’s show will be on display at the MacKenzie Gallery at Ebert Art Center through this afternoon.† The work of Anna Sharpe ’11 and Austin Gifford ’11 will go on display next week with their gallery opening on Sunday at 5 p.m.

2 thoughts on “The Art of Independent Study”

  1. There is no way other than someone from the Voice staff going through all 1200+ posts and correcting them. When the old site was imported it added me as the post author.

  2. Mr. Breitenbucher: I was wondering if we could get the correct bylines with the stories. I wrote this piece and am currently in the process of applying to jobs and need to show my work to potential employers, so it would be helpful if they could see that I wrote it. Thank you.

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