Gabriela Banda ’21 presented her art studio thesis, “MIRA PA’CÁ,” during the Senior Thesis Exhibition’s virtual opening reception on April 21.
This month, the Center for the Arts is hosting three virtual opening receptions for 19 graduating art studio majors to showcase their work as part of the Senior Thesis Exhibition.
Since Zilkha Gallery is only open to Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff during the pandemic, the virtual format allows alumni, parents, friends, and other members of the Wesleyan community to view the students’ work.
“We’re hoping to create access—especially for those of you who are not on campus—to see these shows in person and see what [the artists’] work looks like in space and scale,” said Benjamin Chaffee, associate director of visual arts and adjunct instructor of art. “We’ll also have a chance for some brief conversations with each of the artists who can enlighten us about their process. Our hope is that these conversations might approximate one aspect of an opening reception—the opportunity to hear directly from the exhibiting artist about their work.”
Julia Randall, associate professor of art and senior thesis coordinator, said the studio art thesis is likely the most challenging and immersive creative project accomplished by the students during their time at Wesleyan. The seniors work independently in their studios while receiving regular feedback from their advisors. “This is an intense process of discovery that involves a great deal of sweat, research, and managing doubt,” Randall said. “It requires studio art majors to …work towards breakthroughs and to embrace failures along the way.”
On April 21, Chaffee interviewed six seniors who discussed their work through the second virtual opening reception. Images are below:
Candice April Cirilo’s thesis “fluoxedreams” is a painting in multiple dimensions that focuses on medicine. Specifically, the work, which incorporates panels of plexiglass the viewer must walk through, captures the moment when the pill touches the stomach and is in the process of dissolving. “It’s really about…different emotions that can take place with medicine, because I think medicine and pills, a lot of people have different relationships with them,” Cirilo said.
Cirilio also explained where the title “fluoxedreams” originated from. “The first part of the title is from the name of the antidepressant fluoxetine, and I worked it with the word box of dreams because I really wanted it to represent the two opposing forces in my thesis — one, the very medicinal and pharmaceutical side of these dissolving pills, and the other these very highly saturated dreamlike images that I painted,” Cirilo said.
Gabriela Banda presented a series of oil paintings on stretch canvas titled “MIRA PA’CÁ.” Her work was sourced from three VCR tapes featuring family members in Chile. “VCR tapes have this kind of grainy and not fully realized representation,” she said. “Working from video, I was able to take these kinds of gestural liberties in terms of color and abstraction.”
Each painting measures 64 to 68 inches wide. The thesis title “MIRA PA’CÁ” “is a shorthand way of saying ‘look over here!’ or something that you might say when filming a home video,” Banda explained.
Tyler Barr presented his architectural thesis titled “Public House,” a three-dimensional model of a housing project in New York, along with blueprints of the design.
Barr spoke about his design serving as an effort to combat challenges of isolation faced by residents of such projects. “In New York, you’re sort of met with this collision of different things: the indie radio [art] gallery next to the restaurant, next to the residence, next to the library,” Barr said. “And here at this site, you were largely robbed of that diversity, so the idea was to design a building that sort of acts as a corrective to that by introducing a number of the programs that you would sort of typically find at the neighborhood level in an urban setting.”
Ben Lyon presented a thesis called “Subsurface” which displays the substructure, or support structure, that makes up an actual structure. Lyon’s project, roughly 12 feet in length, width, and height, originated with the observation that past construction methods more honestly depicted labor and material usage. “In modern building practices and architecture, there’s an intense attitude of concealment in that there’s an exterior skin and interior skin that is meant [to] entirely conceal all of the indications of labor and materials within,” Lyon said. “This is an attempt to kind of peel back all those layers and depict all the content that lies within.”
Lyon also spoke about the choice to create a pyramid shape for the project. “We’re looking at materials that are incredibly mundane, but once they are put into the form of the pyramid. it carries significance which allows the audience to dig deeper into the meaning,” Lyon explained. “As the title conveys, this project is all about the surface of the wall, and the pyramid lends itself well to observing a surface … It’s a slightly tilted back surface, which is easily digested by a viewer, and as you work your way around, you can slowly see all of these surfaces in there.”
An Pham’s thesis, titled “This Daughter Mine,” uses ink and charcoal on paper, interspersed with color from oil pastels. Pham’s visual work is accompanied by a written component. “I explore a lot of inherited trauma and how my mother’s body image issues are passed down to me,” Pham said. “And this is a celebration in spite of that, a celebration of the flesh of the voluptuousness of my body, of the woman’s body in general, and I wanted to use the colorful palette to express that.”
Pham, who presented her thesis virtually, elaborated on the relationship between the visual and written aspects of the project.
“I didn’t want my drawings to be illustrations of my writing and vice versa,” Pham explained. “I didn’t want my writing to be captioned for my drawings, and so both of these bodies of work have their own journey and exploration of my starting off point, but I believe that they could be very much interpreted and understood on their own and do not need each other. But they would be very much supplemented [by] each other.”
Luisa Bryan’s thesis, “.join()” is an interactive installation in which viewers can scan a QR code with their phones to see videos on multiple screens. The project also displayed a case with various computers and the wires inside it. “It was one of my goals to expose the inner workings of everything,” Bryan explained. “I wanted the Macs to be open and visible, and also the microchips, and just to be able to see what’s happening. Just to…question the way that we generally want all of our technology to be like a black box, like we don’t know the inner workings….And then also just to challenge the myth of the programmer that sits down and codes their whole entire project [from] scratch, because that’s totally not true.”
“Our exhibiting artists in 2021 have not only managed to make exceptional work, but they managed to do so in such a productive matter in an incredibly unstable time during this pandemic,” Randall said during the reception. “I was really touched by the grace of how everyone adjusted to all of the limitations that were imposed on us because of COVID.”