Transcending Fabric and Faces

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While April is that time of the year when every Macalester student is either outside with a guitar or desperately writing hundreds of pages of research papers, this year’s student show is worth coming inside and taking a break for.

While April is that time of the year when every Macalester student is either outside with a guitar or desperately writing hundreds of pages of research papers, this year’s student show is worth coming inside and taking a break for. Unlike previous years, the show—which consists solely of work by students who took art classes during the 2005-2006 academic year—went through a more rigorous selection process, with both professors and outside jurors selecting the pieces for inclusion. This means that while it is still a very broad show, the quality of work within is impressive for an open show.

Despite all of the work being held to a higher standard, there are a few standout pieces. Probably most talked about for its suspended catfish is senior Courtney Dicmas’ piece So Sure I Dreamt I Was a Fish, inspired by the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Made of everything from wax to feathers to human hair, it is a striking and gestural waterscape and installation combination. The canvas itself was painted with the artist’s feet, and the fish are from casts of actual catfish.

While both of the painted self-portraits hanging on the outside walls are busts, they manage to be interesting for different reasons. Emily Savage’s (07) Untitled Self-Portrait (Quoting Lucian Freud) is an elegant, evocatively familiar portrait, while Heidi Loosen's (08) Self-Portrait Mit Zigarett is a witty confluence of Jesus, the self, and habit. They are not only images of the physical self but visual entry points into the psyche of the artists.

Andrew Bonadino’s (09) 5th Tree pushes the boundaries between fibers and traditional 2-D art. A lone birch on a field of black fabric, the precise lines and shapes create a contrast that serves to transform the piece into a picture rather than fabric. Eve Thomas' (07) sculptural fibers piece Untitled Suspension pushes boundaries between fibers and sculpture in a similar way to Bonadino’s work. Two large cocoon-like installations manage to be, as sculpture pieces, loose and ephemeral in a way that is often associated with fibers rather than the hard, dense material often used for sculpture.

The most compelling drawn and printed pieces are those that deal with layering and depth of imagery. Self-Portrait in Saigon Flower Market is Grace Tran’s (06) print of both her mother and father's faces exposed on top of each other. Camille Ann Scheffer's (09) piece Dream is a multilayered composition of foliage with sharp lines of white cutting through the depth.

The pieces detailed here are just a sampling of the entire show. While I could probably reference more than half of the artwork there, you can visit the show yourself in the Macalester Art Gallery until April 21. Now is definitely one of the best chances to see the work coming out of the art department.