In this year’s undergraduate thesis exhibition, 17 senior art students explored the personal, the political, the cultural and the technological as well as the physical, the metaphorical and the unknown in an effort to explore identity and representations of selfhood.
The exhibition, entitled “seventeen for seventeen,” was held in the Yale School of Art’s main gallery space between April 13 and April 22. It featured work from across the major disciplines — painting and printmaking, animation and graphic design, sculpture, photography and filmmaking — as well as work from two Computing and the Arts majors. “Seventeen for seventeen” abounded with students’ idiosyncratic examinations of individuality, producing a result best described by Director of Undergraduate Studies Lisa Kereszi in the exhibition catalog: “Personal histories and future anxieties collide in a wonderful mash up of 17 incongruous minds.”
“People can give you really great advice,” said sculpture student Wa Liu ’17, a former photo editor for the News. “But not every time will they point you in the [desired] direction. You have to figure out what [was] the original intention that motivated the whole process, where was the starting point of everything and try to go back to that.”
Liu’s senior thesis project, “Still,” was more than a year in the making. Her interactive installation combines seemingly analog elements — a desk, a book, a lamp and a houseplant — with neurotechnology in the form of an electroencephalogram headband. When unoccupied, the desk shakes, and the lamp remains dimmed. However, as the headband-donning viewer sits down and begins to focus, the light becomes more present and the trembling stills.
Like many of the students, Liu arrived at her final idea through a series of collaborations and conversations. Over the past four years, she has experimented with different art forms and clarified the set of themes that define her work, such as cultural representation, performance and the idea of “collective consciousness.”
Similarly, for Gabriela Bucay ’17, arriving at a thesis required she test out new approaches and ideas. Bucay’s project uses figures representing motherhood and childhood in a series of paper-based paintings and drawings. In the past year, she has started experimenting with printmaking, she said, which has opened up a whole new process of image making for her.
When asked about her artistic process, Bucay emphasized the importance of trial and error.
“I think it’s important to follow your curiosities, even if you aren’t quite sure how others will relate to the work,” she said. “Better to convince someone through making awesome work than to try to cater to what you think someone wants to see.”
Constructive criticism and the expectations that come with being an art major — critiques, presentations, workshops — were also crucial to her growth as an artist, Bucay added.
As part of a larger academic trend, other students have also looked outside of the department for inspiration. Liu is a double major in art and anthropology, Steven Roets ’17 is majoring in art and ethics, politics and economics and Sherril Wang ’17 is majoring in art and economics.
Double majoring has allowed Roets and Wang to discover the niches of art in which they can most naturally express themselves — for Roets, this is art about politics; for Wang, design.
“When I started as a freshman, I was concerned about making something visually appealing. … I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it was limiting for me,” Roets said. “I think just being able to break down the rules that I was imposing for myself as I went through the curriculum here and my own studio practice was really important in developing my practice to where it is today.”
This year’s senior art exhibition also featured work from Téa Beer ’17, Meg Brink ’17, Yanglin Cai ’17, Tess Hamilton ’17, Alex Inguaggiato ’17, Kristy Loya ’17, Meg Mathile ’17, Chris Paolini ’17, Jenny Park ’17, Sam Roller ’17, Christie Ramsaran ’17, Anna Wane ’17 and Jin Ai Yap ’17.
Correction, April 28: The previous version of this story misstated that there were 17 art majors featured in the exhibition. In fact, there were 15 art majors and two Computing and the Arts majors.