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Pomona Studio Art Majors Pique Curiosity

In the few weeks leading up to finals, our lives can lose a bit of their wonder. The time for thoughtful musings and questions is over as we are trapped by the expectation that we know all the answers for our exams. But at Curiouser, the Pomona College Senior Art Exhibition on display at the Pomona College Museum of Art, you’ll find no such expectation. Here you are just expected, well, to be curious.

Why is there pie as you walk into the museum? Can I really stand inside the knitted tube? Is this what an actual tattoo parlor looks like? Why is there a cat? Is that a strap-on? What languages are they speaking? How did they make this? Why?

These are a few of the questions that might stumble into your consciousness as you weave your way through the work of the nine seniors on display: Justyna Bicz PO ’13, Adam Chung PO ’13, Nicole S. Lee PO ’13, Sarah Olson PO ’13, Erica Reiss PO ’13, Meryl Seward PO ’13, Alexis Sones PO ’13, Juliette Walker PO ’13, and Lucas Wrench PO ’13.

Each of their works asks different questions and each artist approaches the creation of art in a unique way. The exhibition catalog provides some limited insight into the seniors’ work, but to understand each piece for yourself, you may want to take a break from staring at textbooks and mind-numbing essay drafts to engage your imagination with the work of Pomona’s graduating artists.

This Wednesday, May 8 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. will be the opening reception for the exhibition—the perfect time to take a creative break before Reading Days get under way.

If you’re not curious already, let’s take a preview tour through the exhibition to whet your appetite. And it might literally make you hungry, because the first work you’ll encounter upon entering the museum is pie.

Ready for your eating pleasure, the pies are part of Walker’s piece “Too Much is Never Really Enough.” As her artist statement explains, her work is “interested in how mundane everyday experiences can be subtly changed to create something that becomes a completely new experience.” In this case, that means eating delicious homemade pie while in an art museum.

After the pie, you might take a right toward the ramp gallery. You’ll hear Bicz’s “Tongue-twisters” as you walk into the corridor, and as you proceed downward, you will be immersed in the sound of many voices speaking in different languages at once.

“In my artwork, I explore how speech can blur the line between language and abstracted sound, and how communication lives somewhere between the two,” Bicz explained in her artist statement.

Continuing to the right, the smallest gallery space has become a projection room. Chung’s “Moving Drawings” show looping animated sketches that, as he states in his artist statement, reveal the “physical and digital residue” of the process of their creation.

Chung sees these pieces as acting as “a ‘refresh’ button in our brains, re-sensitizing our greatly overwhelmed visual-kinetic senses.” Indeed, surrounded by these looping animations, your attention is drawn to the simple repetition and subtle imperfections that express the raw mechanics of process.

In the second-largest gallery of the museum, three works are displayed. Drawing your attention to the left are large, white sculptures made of knitted yarn. Titled “To Be Inside #1, #2, #3,” these three pieces are accompanied by a sign that welcomes you to “carefully” walk around and within the sculptures.

From shuffling along the narrow passage created by two curving sheets, to stepping into a tube, to ducking inside an all-surrounding square, the interaction you have with these pieces is perhaps one of the most intriguing of all the exhibitions.

“Using translucency and lightness of material, I attempt to change the experience of being closed in, particularly the ways in which the ‘outside’ is seen and the ‘inside’ is felt,” Seward wrote in her artist’s statement.

Also in this gallery is Olson’s striking series of oil paintings, in which she is “trying to experiment with the tension between humor and sexuality, particularly the inherent sexuality that comes with being a naked woman of my age.” As she points to in her artist’s statement, her paintings of nude figures in desert scenes are made particularly curious by the inclusion of odd props and accessories, ranging from the bike in “Swag” to the strap-on in “Foreplay” and snorkel gear in “Polar Bear Plunge.”

Beyond the juxtaposition that grounds the content of her work, her handling of paint is also full of life, and a huge benefit to visiting the exhibition is being able to appreciate this quality up close. This painterly quality of Olson’s work contrasts with the adjacent work, Reiss’s “its not gay if it's your sister,” with its graphic, outlined representations of figures dancing and grinding, although they both deal with themes of sexuality.

This expansive piece fills up a wall and then some, wrapping around a corner of the gallery. But for all that space, the image reveals little about the nature of the figures. The reduction of details leaves them as mysterious, androgynous signs of people; however, the artist’s statement reveals that the three figures are sisters, “originally formed as two biological siblings and one friend.”

“Our relationships and ourselves exceed the boundaries language sets for existence and expression, so these paintings celebrate our version of family with playfulness and affection,” Reiss wrote.

The largest gallery in the museum presents the work of the three final seniors. First are Lee’s sculptures: large, structured shapes built of delicately painted watercolor paper and a steel frame. Her sparing use of color adds additional dimension within her two spaciously dynamic untitled pieces.

“The spaces I create merge with their own atmosphere, drawing the viewer into their own ecstasy of flux,” Lee wrote in her artist’s statement.

Moving past Lee’s work, Sones’s extensive series of oil portraits takes up the far wall. From her friends to a cat to art professor Sandeep Mukherjee to herself, her work has a wide range of subjects. Each piece seems to capture the individual story and personality of the subject, which Sones attributes to light: “the intangible quality that gives life to a painting.”

Finally, Wrench’s work comprises an installation of a tattoo parlor (a red room filled with a chair, sofa, and tattoo artist supplies), four close-up prints of tattoos, and a binder portfolio of many more similar photos. What makes the tattoos in these photos notable is their often simple, abstract, and freehand design (including series of lines, dots, and unclosed shapes)—they seem to be approached rather casually for something so permanent.

This somewhat tongue-in-cheek theme is reflected in Wrench’s artist’s statement, wherein he provides no explanation but a photograph of one tattoo that reads: “It’s life and life only.”

The exhibition runs until May 19, with the museum open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Mondays). The museum will also open beginning at 10 a.m. for extended hours today and tomorrow for Alumni Weekend.

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