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Senior Exhibitions Showcase Studio Art Major Work

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Courtesy Pomona College Art Museum

Allison Riegle SC ’14 would not describe herself as a lover of technology. But upon seeing the Rieglematica, a 1970s-era photo booth that she restored herself, that is hard to believe. The many photo strips from the booth—restored with the help of a Texan family who specializes in the technology—compose her senior thesis show and provide a window into her life; the thesis projects of the other 5C studio art majors do the same.

“This is a reflection of my response to being observed by others, by occupying this both public and private space,” Riegle said. “The photo booth feels really private because you can pull the curtain and be alone, but they are often placed in extremely public places. It’s this weird world in between the public and private spheres.”

Students majoring in art at Scripps College culminate their study with a final year spent writing a thesis first semester and enacting that thesis second semester, culminating in the senior show. Each artist within the major can audition to show their work in the senior show, though some choose not to exhibit their work. This year's exhibition features an astounding array of works, ranging from paintings and drawings to sculpture, photography, and Riegle's film strips. Despite the differences in media and content, many of the artists' projects reveal the inner workings of their minds.

Riegle’s work in the photo booth, in which she performs the daily activities of a girl who does not know that she can be seen by the public eye, reflects both her childhood growing up in a public family that was often scrutinized and observed and her experiences at Scripps. Riegle chose Scripps for its fine art department, but she also liked that it was a women’s college.

“I loved the idea of making art alongside other women artists because women artists are so often underrepresented in galleries and in the mainstream art world,” Riegle said. “It’s been a very inspiring experience to work here with a lot of the female professors, and I’m very proud to graduate with an art degree from Scripps.”

One of the artists featured, however, has a different perspective. Will Yandell CM '14 has a dual major in art from Scripps and economics from Claremont McKenna College. After deciding to be an investment banker at a young age, Yandell put aside his artistic pursuits until he changed his mind in college. Scripps’ program worked best for him, so he pursued his major through that route. But while Yandell did not choose Scripps for the same reasons as Riegle, the gender dynamics influenced his work as well.

“In the art program, there was so much discussion about gender, and none of it was about men,” Yandell said. "It was all about women. It was interesting to me, but it was hard to empathize. It’s hard to make work without referencing gender, especially talking about male power dynamics, which is a very gender-charged issue. There’s a lot of intimidation and physical dominance that isn’t as present in women’s."

Yandell’s work is a sculpture piece that examines these power dynamics. The figures—four male forms—seem to challenge the viewer, bringing issues of dominance to the surface. In this case, the male figures show their dominance in claiming four tricycles: a memory from Yandell’s own preschool experiences.

Meridith Burchiel SC '14 also addresses children in her work, but but from a less autobiographical angle. Her work focuses instead on children as they tell their own stories, using stills from videos of children as they talk as the basis for drawings.

Burchiel was inspired by a story from the Holocaust about children in concentration camps who performed an opera written in Czech, which the Nazis used as propaganda, not realizing that the Czech lyrics actually condemned their actions.  

She also researched other artists who feature children in their work as part of her written thesis, an endeavor that proved to be very inspiring. Her primary focus was the ways children are portrayed in art.

“A lot of people get criticized on different ends of the spectrum—either over-sexualizing or under-appreciating or over-reverence,” Burchiel said. “People are hypersensitive when it comes to children, which is very understandable.”

Her work looks at children’s personal narratives. It consists of 25 drawings of 10 different children, but the way the works are arranged make it appear that the children are telling one story.

“It tracks this emotion or this narrative," Burchiel said. "A lot of my research was about the continuity of children’s narratives universally, and how they perceive fantasy vs. reality.”

Chloe Dobbert CM '14 focuses on perceptions as well, but her work is concerned with those of the viewer. Her six photographs, which she describes as a “behind-the-camera autobiography,” allow viewers to see reflections of themselves in her work based on their interpretations of her photographs. 

“Some people think it’s funny, and some people think it’s scary or creepy," Dobbert said. "I thought it was an autobiography of myself, and trying to walk in my shoes, but people see it differently. That’s what I really enjoy, and that’s what I wanted.”

The artists curated the show themselves, organizing their own exhibitions as well as refreshments, music, and student volunteers. Kirk Delman, the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery collections manager and registrar, and Director Mary McNaughton assisted in the process, but the show is very much student-directed. Scripps Professor Susan Rankaitis served as an adviser and guide throughout the process and was a positive force for the artists—one described her as a “fairy godmother.”

Pitzer College is also hosting its senior art exhibition this week. The Pitzer show is entitled “(dis)order” and features the work of graduating seniors Virginia Anton, Heather Bejar, Juliana Bernstein, Corinne Monaco, Yeyo Nolasco, Maiana Radack Krassner, Maggie Shaffran, Pete Siegel, Elena Thomas, XL Wee, and Jaya Williams. 

Williams described the life of a Pitzer art major as intensive in preparation for the exhibition. 

“For the Pitzer studio art major we spend most of our time creating tangible work for the exhibition and spend exorbitant amounts of time making it gallery-ready and planning the reception that goes along with it,” Williams said.

Williams’ work uses graphic design to challenge perceptions of consumption, specifically of beer, bacon, and chocolate. She re-examines the packaging of these commodities, changing them to make “the packaging and branding more readable, digestible, honest, and aesthetically pleasing,” she said.

The reception is the perfect event for those who like consuming art as well as food, however, according to Williams. 

"We will have wine from Turley Vineyards, beer, lavender lemonade, hors d’oeuvres catered by the Grove House, and wood-fired pizza from the Shakedown,” she said. 

Pitzer's (dis)order show will be on display at the Nichols Gallery, Barbara Hinshaw Memorial Gallery, and Salathé Gallery May 1-17.

The Pomona College senior exhibition at the Pomona Museum of Art is entitled “Viscerreal” and runs May 1-18, with an opening reception May 7. Viscerreal features the work of graduating Pomona seniors Maurissa Dorn, Sydney Dyson, Joaquin Estrada, Jenny He, Jing Jin, and Grace Wielebinski.

Wielebinski's video, "Hunky Dory," blends colors, shapes, and plant imagery in a collage style, with hints of a skeleton lingering in the background. In her work, Wielebinski is interested in exploring gender and sexuality and their intersections with structures of power. 

"Through paint and collage, I aim to create my own personal iconography that both maintains and interrupts these coded images and ultimately fabricates an alternative space of both familiarity and discomfort that allows the viewer to recognize, question, and deconstruct these representations," Wielebinski wrote in her artist statement. "With that in mind, the goal of this project is not to provide definitive answers but rather to raise and interact with some very real questions, both for myself and for my audience." 

He's piece, an oil painting on canvas, captures multiple individuals from a perspective that places the viewer into one of the figures in the work. As an artist, He is inspired by photography and examinations into art's ability to distort and change perceptions of a single moment. 

"One of my favorite activities as a kid was to go through old photo albums with my family," He wrote in her artist statement. "Something about that glimmer of recognition and familiarity through the haze of reminiscing captivated me. Years later, I still catch myself doing the same thing. In today’s world of saturated media and social networking, we often fail to acknowledge the value of a single photograph ... Through my paintings, I seek to explore the fluidity of memory through the photographs of others."

The Scripps senior exhibition, entitled “MISC.," runs May 2-18. The show features the works of graduating Scripps seniors Annie Aqua, Nic Chan, Audrey Howell, Dominique J. Smith, and Alex Trimm, alongside those of Burchiel, Dobbert, Riegle, and Yandell. The event opens tonight, May 2, in the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Viewers will be able to use the Rieglematica and leave with film strips of their own for $3.

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