Expressions: A Senior Art Show to Remember

Photo of Kate Wallace at the senior art show. Photo provided by Kate Wallace

During the opening show, I was mesmerized by the array of talent and hard work displayed throughout the gallery. Reading the accompanying artist’s statements while admiring their pieces felt like I was getting to know each artist in a new way. The artists opened themselves to the viewer, which, in my opinion, takes a substantial amount of strength. I was able to speak to some of the artists concerning their process and how displaying intimate experiences and feelings impacted them.
One of the artists showcasing their work,
Kate Wallace, used “bodily and cyst-like imagery,” in their show Concealment as they view the subject matter as beautiful and visceral. When asked why they focused on cysts, they stated, “I use cysts as a metaphor for discovering my transness and the act of concealing and revealing that part of my identity to others.” When asked about their process of creating their work and expressing their personal experiences through their pieces, Kate described it as “energizing, refreshing, and rewarding”. These feelings were influenced by the
subject matter being so intimate. Kate focused on authenticity, causing them to make some careful choices concerning the language used in their public artist statement. When asked about the overall process and outcome, Kate stated, “As you can imagine, it was somewhat anxiety inducing, but looking back at the opening, I think I made the right decisions.”

Another artist, Mikey Milligan, chose to create a variety of cakes with different messages to showcase the utilization of food as a medium of emotions in his show titled I Made It. He stated, “I was taking the common use of message cakes and twisting it to deliver messages that are less likely to be given through this medium. I wanted to celebrate all of the feelings and experiences, not just ones we decide are appropriate to share like this.” Despite being a ceramics major, he chose to use spackle, joint compound, and foam to ensure the cakes looked as real as possible. When asked how he felt regarding the pieces being a reflection of himself, as he chose to write his actual feelings and experiences onto the cakes, he described it as a terrifying, exciting, and stressful experience. However “seeing everything come together was really amazing.” as he states, “I felt very proud of the work I’d done and the show we put together.”

To create art is already a very personal experience, and these artists chose to open themselves up to the world through their work. This choice and strength is something I admire, and will remain to be inspired by. Everytime I pass by the gallery, I am inspired by all the hard work that went into each piece, the stories behind each one, and by how impressive the craftmanship is. Furthermore, Kate and Mikey’s shows contain themes that many can relate to, and I hope that their work continues to be appreciated in the future.

Photo of Mikey Milligan at the senior art show. Photo provided by Mikey Milligan
Photo of Prinshu Gautam at the senior art show. Photo provided by Joe Potter

On April 9th, ceramics major Prinshu Gautam gave his senior art performance on the Heart, where he wore segmented pieces of white and black porcelain on his arms and legs. As he walked around the circular sidewalk, the audience was invited to follow after him. The field was dead silent; you could feel the weight of his pieces, the effort in each step taken. The porcelain would  clack together like chains and eventually
break, cutting his feet and ankles. The broken, sharp pieces would be picked up by several of his friend and sometimes handed to audience members. In the final act of the performance, Prinshu returned to the center of the Heart where he initially donned the porcelain. His friends, Isao, Leigh, Sonam, and Marshall buried the pieces of broken ceramics and disinfected and cleaned his bleeding wounds.

Prinshu’s performance was entitled Entangled in Time and dealt heavily with the paradoxes and binaries which have colored his experiences as a trans person of color. He specifically references the Bhavachakra, the wheel of life symbolizing Samsara, the Buddhist cycle of death and rebirth.

Most striking was how all these core themes came together during the performance, both through the performer and the audience. The “clothes” Prinshu sculpted were made of porcelain, which he explained thusly: porcelain is both the thinnest but firmest material a ceramicist has available. It is perfectly fragile, even while impenetrable The pieces were segmented and held together by thin ropes, bound together yet moving of their own volition.

I was curious to know what part of the creation of the performance felt the most expressive or intimate to Prinshu, since I saw the glazed black and white porcelain as a beautiful creation in its own right. In a way, I wondered if the act of creation or the act of destruction in this case was the more cathartic or intimate act. I didn’t think I would get a straight answer to a pretty unanswerable question, but his answer still surprised me:

“When I think about breaking, and especially in a binary context, one dimensionally it’s very liberating…You’re breaking out of something, but then…the broken pieces are still attached and linger with me. I don’t think the breaking part is cathartic, the part that is cathartic is people coming up and taking care of me at the end.”

Even more striking was the fact that the final act, the cleaning of Prinshu’s wounds, was only added a few weeks before the final performance. Upon rehearsing the performance, Prinshu recounted that his friends expressed a sense of emotional rawness and that “though they didn’t say it, [he] interpreted [their emotional response] as saying ‘take care of me, resolve this tension that you’ve created”.

Prinshu’s work explored the binary entanglements and cycles which operate in a paradoxically nonbinary way: the cycles of death and rebirth are omnipresent, even while they constantly produce and require new conditions and new forms of being. His performance art carried the weight of a year of introspection, the weight of seeing oneself through one’s own eyes and then again through the eyes of others. As Prinshu put it, “Performance art, at least how I understand it, is only complete if the audience participates in it.” I think it is fair to call his work complete, since I spent several days trying to articulate my emotional response to his performance. I still think about the sounds of the porcelain breaking and the sounds of the pieces being buried in the center of the Heart.

The art majors’ work will be on display in CVPA and Leeds Gallery until graduation. Other works include Mateo Quiñonez’ beautiful and meticulous tapestries, Margaret Bartimole’s surreal and awkward ceramics, Esther Hale’s cosmic oil paintings, Abi Adamson’s work in theater, and Meeghan Kersten’s intimate photography. Many of their works are on sale and may even have a student discount.

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