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The Carletonian

The Week in Arts, Weeks 1-3

The first several weeks of Spring Term have brought a bright smattering of arts-related events to our community. In a new column series profiling arts-related events at Carleton, Hannah Sheridan ’23 and Isaac Crown Manesis ’23 will cover and review “The Week in Arts.”

Fifth Year Series

Isaac: The Northfield Arts Guild recently shared a series of new works by young artists in our community. The show was up from March 15 to April 10 and included works by St. Olaf’s studio art fifth-years, Kate Helin-Burnette, Sylvie Deters, Ivy Shonka, Theo Mattson and Carleton’s Studio Art Education Associate Gavin Young ’21. The works included a wide array of functional ceramics, drawing, painting, hair-based compositions, textiles and photographic work. The broad range of works coalesced in a show demonstrating a dramatically wide range of technical skills and topical concerns. 

Central to many of the pieces were notions of embodiment, comfort and identity — all themes many young members of our community have likely grappled with in recent years. One piece used an adhesive spray to create canvas-bound and floating minimalist compositions. Reminiscent of Adrian Piper’s seminal “What Will Become of Me,” the compositions present physical proof of the artist’s bodily existence and processes. A series of ceramics by Helin-Burnette asks visitors to gently cradle functional mugs and bowls with perfectly formed grips. The pieces feel like a gentle handhold, an intimate moment following what has been a hermetically sealed existence for many.

Gavin Young said that his “collection draws from work I made between January and March. I dedicated this time to experimentation and iteration.” A Carleton alum, he has found himself embedded in the Carleton work cycle. “Much like a Carleton term, I found it impossible to take space from my work and became obsessive about the small details in my forms.” Ultimately, the series is an encapsulation of a process in motion, bringing together distinct bodies of work and highlighting his recent endeavors. Young said of the final project that “[his pieces have] strayed from where I had intended to go originally, but it’s been fascinating to track this process in retrospect.” 

His favorite piece stands “at a little over nine feet tall and five feet wide, it is probably one of the largest scale things I’ve made, but it retains the crisp and minute detail that I love so much. The stitching contrasts and grounds its abstract qualities in a way that I’m excited about exploring in the future.”

Like the recently finished Perlman faculty show, the Arts Guild show gave students and local community members an opportunity to see finished pieces outside of the studio environment. Both schools are heavily reliant on their fifth years for their studio arts programs, and it was a wonderful opportunity to see the fledgling professional arts practices of our colleges’ young alumni. 

South Pacific OCS Gallery

A talented group of artists has returned home to Northfield following an intensive ten-week trip to Australia. The group was composed of students from many academic disciplines, including geology, philosophy and, of course, studio art. The students spent their time in intensive workshop experiences with master printmakers and undertook field drawing sessions with the program’s leader, Eleanor Jensen. 

This marked Eleanor Jensen’s first time leading the trip. She first participated in the trip as a student and went on to serve as its founder, Freg Hagstrom’s, assistant. Anna Klein ’23 said of her experience that “Eleanor was a joy to travel with and learn from. She cared for us openly, listened to our opinions, gave thoughtful feedback and made time to have fun with us.” Outside of academics, a community formed among students and program leaders with Jensen as “the star of ‘sporty time’ when we would meet to play games and run around after a day in the print studio or between activities. I’m really grateful to have been on the program while she was leading.”

The top floor of Boliou hosted an exhibition of the program participants’ prints and sketchbooks. At the end of their trip, each student packed up work they wanted to send home. They did not see many of the pieces again until they were hung on the sun-drenched white walls. Included were works of many printing mediums including intaglio, relief and silkscreen. One piece by artist Anna Klein brings together multiple mediums (very complexly: a relief print on chin collé with three intaglio plates printed on top and layered between pieces of chin collé paper painted with watercolor) to create a palimpsest of memories from the program. “My piece is called “Ears in the Water,” and it’s a layered representation of our time at Wilson’s Promontory National Park, all the feelings I had while we were there and the morphology of the tidal river in the park,” said Klein.

 Concep-T Performance

Hannah: On Tuesday, an artist who wishes to remain anonymous performed “Untitled (This is a Concep-T)” to a small crowd on the fourth floor of the library. The performance was advertised entirely through word of mouth; I only happened to hear of it when standing in line in Sayles and decided to see if it was worth covering in this column. What I got was a piece of bread scrawled over with Sharpie, stuffed into a scanner and copied. In the image, the artist’s hands frame the piece of bread in the scanner, and the words “This is a Concep-T 1/1,” with the signature WM, appear written across the slice. The images are ghostly, humorous and completely absurd. The artist proceeded to eat the bread and posted the scanned, numbered and editioned images around various locations on campus.

I’ll admit, I did not know at first what I was supposed to glean from this performance. If I had not found out about the event in such a happenstance way, I may have viewed the whole thing as a practical joke. Was the artist poking fun at the art world and its entertainment of recent pieces like Maurizio Cattelan’s “Comedian,” or at me, the viewer, shuffling from foot to foot in Fourth Libe, unaware that I was the butt of the joke all along?

After discussing the work with the artist and taking more time to mull over the experience, I now think that buried deep within the absurdity of this piece was a deliberate and thought-provoking critique. The artist put it simply when they told me: “I wanted the copy to consume the original, so that is what I did.” By consuming the work, namely the indexical slice of bread, the artist highlighted that all future interaction with the work must be through copies of the object, and never the original. The artist professed they “hate that ideas can be numbered and sold;” the copies they created could theoretically be both numbered and sold. However, the farcical nature of the piece reminds us that objects themselves have no inherent value. Who would care to buy the copies? Who would care to number them, or keep track of them? Indeed, I noticed the artist’s copies are all numbered incorrectly. Thus, the copy consumes the original, the object consumes the idea and the artist consumes a Sharpie-covered snack before heading to their next class. The last strange event in this week’s Carleton arts scene draws to a close. 

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