This year, we are looking forward to introducing you to artists who are asking important questions about our world today, questioning why things are the way they are, and helping us to envision how they might be.
At a time when our country is struggling to find its way in terms of race relations, we’ve invited writer/performer Daniel Beaty to campus for a residency that includes the October 9 performance of Mr. Joy, his highly acclaimed tour de force solo show about a community’s efforts to heal in order to dream again.
Composer, visual artist, and new media innovator R. Luke DuBois takes over the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery from September 16 through December 13 with his exhibition In Real Time, creating maps, scores, and videos that use real-time data flows and media footage to raise questions of artistic agency, privacy, and fair use. In time for the election season, the CFA has commissioned him to create a new work using research generated by the Wesleyan Media Project.
All this shares the fall schedule with performances by faculty and students, including the final class performance by students of Adjunct Professor of Music Abraham Adzenyah, who is retiring after teaching Ghanaian drumming at Wesleyan for the past 45 years. You won’t want to miss that concert on December 4.
As always, we hope you will look to the CFA as a place of enlightenment and enjoyment in the months ahead.
Zilkha Gallery showcased the work of the Class of 2015’s thesis students in the Department of Art and Art History’s Art Studio Program. Each student was invited to select a single work from their Senior Thesis Exhibition for this year-end showcase of drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, mixed media, and architecture curated by Professor of Art Tula Telfair P’13. Ms. Telfair talked about the exhibition on May 23, 2015 in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. Co-sponsored by University Relations. Click here to view the full album on flickr. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
This event celebrated the river as a source of cultural inspiration and creativity on May 9, 2015 at Harbor Park in Middletown. “Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter” featured live music, visual art installations, plein air painters, a kids’ activity zone, environmental education exhibits, as well as a craft fair and farmer’s market–all designed to bring patrons closer to the rich culture, history, and science of the Connecticut River.
Click here to view the full album on flickr. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
Seniors in the Art History Program of Wesleyan’s Department of Art and Art History presented their talks: Alexa Burzinski, Brandon Eng, Rachel Pei Hirsch, Samuel Usdan, and Gavriella Wolf on April 20, 2015 at 41 Wyllys Ave in Room 112. Click here to view the full album on flickr. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
The reception for seniors Luca Ameri, Raphael A. Leitz, Dat Vu, and Derrick Qi Wang in the Art Studio Program of Wesleyan’s Department of Art and Art History, took place on March 25, 2015, in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Miranda Orbach ’15, Eriq Robinson ’15, and Virgil Taylor ’15 about their theses in Dance, Music, and Studio Art.
With the deadline for theses this Friday, April 10, 2015, Wesleyan seniors from all different majors are hunkering down across campus to complete the projects they have dedicated their year to. Thesis writers in Dance, Music, and Studio Art are presenting their work at the Center for the Arts every week through the end of the semester.
Featuring new works by eight choreographers, the Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert took place last weekend in the Patricelli ’92 Theater. Closing the first half of the concert was Miranda Orbach’s form[all] training, a piece in partial fulfillment of her honors thesis in American Studies and Dance.
Ms. Orbach’s written thesis, “Monstrous Form: the Ballerina and the Freak,” draws the ballet and the freak show together to examine how each distinct performance mirrors the other. Her thesis reads the ballet through the lens of the freak show, and the freak show through the lens of the ballet.
“Historically we have separated these forms so far away from each other,” says Ms. Orbach. “Bringing them together actually allows us to intervene in the literature about both of them. It’s not that they are the same, but that they are useful for reading each other, as spectacle, body, and display are central themes to both performances.”
In her thesis, Ms. Orbach tells the story of one ballerina: Caroline Shadle ’16, who performs in the piece with two other female dancers. They dance with one foot in a pointe shoe and one barefoot to a sound score that narrates Ms. Shadle’s story, giving powerful insight into the life of an aspiring ballerina.
“The feeling of freakishness is not so far from the feeling of being trained,” says Ms. Orbach. “The two work in tandem. All of these categories that we oppose so starkly in society—form and deformity, ability and disability—are actually inherent to each other.”
Eriq Robinson’s senior recital, Reality Ends Here: The Beginning of the End, will take place this Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 7pm in Fayerweather Beckham Hall. The recital, featuring a vocal ensemble and a horn ensemble, is one component of Mr. Robinson’s thesis in Music. The vocal ensemble is inspired by South African overtone singing, the music of the Japanese Ainu, and Slavei, an a cappella group on campus that performs Slavic, Balkan, and Georgian liturgical music.
“The performance is a narrative story telling experience with music, based on a cosmological structure that I made up myself,” says Mr. Robinson. His cosmological structure is based on ideas from Buddhism and other Eastern religions, as well as Abrahamic religions and some African religions.
“It’s a story about the beginning of the end of the world,” he explains. “The idea is that humans are the nerve endings of the cosmos. We are all just the end of invisible tendrils that are the cosmos, all part of a giant macro organism.”
In the written component of his thesis, Mr. Robinson gives a short history of Afro-Futurism and attempts to determine if his music fits into that creative lineage.
“Because I’m making up a cosmological structure, I’ve been trying to make music that doesn’t sound familiar,” he says. “The hardest part about it has been trying to make music that sounds unfamiliar, while at the same time not making bad music. What I think makes music good, on an objective level, is having some sort of system and methodology that’s tying it all together.”
Mr. Robinson plans to continue writing his story even after the recital, and hopes this will be the first in a series of performances.
Studio Art major Virgil Taylor’s thesis, Irregular Quadrilateral, will be on display in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery from Tuesday, April 14 through Sunday, April 19, 2015; with an opening reception on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 from 4pm to 6pm.
After receiving a Zawisa fellowship from the Wesleyan Studio Art Department last spring, Mr. Taylor travelled to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the summer to study metal plate lithography at the Tamarind Institute. The youngest person in the program, both of his roommates were university professors.
When Mr. Taylor returned to Wesleyan this past fall, he realized he wanted to shift the focus of his thesis from lithography to intaglio prints. Intaglio refers to a printmaking process in which the image is carved into the plate with acid, a scribe, or a needle.
“Even though I did not end up doing my thesis in lithography, I think my work at the Tamarind Institute this summer really informed me on how to think about compositions,” says Mr. Taylor. “It was an opportunity to spend four weeks doing nothing but printmaking.”
His exhibition will fill Zilkha Gallery with intaglio prints of irregular quadrilaterals, which look like rectangles in perspective. In addition, he has created a large-scale composition resembling his prints that will occupy the back bay of the gallery—a 24 foot long piece of steel painted blue will mirror the many blue lines in his prints, and an eight foot tall drywall panel will appear in the shape of one of his plates.
“I’m interested in work that doesn’t require or desire any explicit content, or really any implicit content, but exists as a formal space,” says Mr. Taylor. “That’s why I like being able to make the giant version, because I can emphasize that it’s simply an arrangement of forms.”
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 interviewed Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Art Studio Technician Kate TenEyck about a project the Center for the Arts is partnering on with John Lyman Elementary School in Middlefield, Connecticut.
Last year the Center for the Arts teamed up with John Lyman Elementary School, located seven miles from Wesleyan University in Middlefield, Connecticut, to apply for an Arts in Education grant that partners public schools with arts organizations. Out of a total of over 80 applicants, the CFA and Lyman were one of only eight to receive a grant.
The idea for the partnership started when teachers at Lyman had the vision to transform the school’s aging, fading walls into blank canvases for students to fill. They envisioned a series of murals, which students would help design and paint.
When Lyman first approached the CFA about partnering on the grant, Director Pamela Tatge knew that Wesleyan Visiting Professor of Art Kate TenEyck should be involved because Ms. TenEyck, in addition to being a gifted artist, is a generous community citizen. But Ms. Tatge didn’t know that Ms. TenEyck had attended school in the same regional school district.
Excited about the prospect of collaborating with Lyman, Ms. TenEyck signed on as faculty advisor to the project. She then assembled a team of four students from the Wesleyan Art Department to assist her: Addie McDowell ’16, Zach Scheinfeld ’16, Virgil Taylor ’15, and Sonya Torres ’17.
“I couldn’t ask for a better team,” says Ms. TenEyck. “It’s truly the perfect team to be doing this project.”
Every Tuesday and Friday, Ms. TenEyck and the Wesleyan students go to Lyman to work with the eighteen students in Phil Moriarty’s fourth grade class. Together they are creating the first of the murals made possible by this grant.
“I think for the Wesleyan students it’s really nice to go into the community and understand a little more about the place where Wesleyan exists,” says Ms. TenEyck. “I think that’s a huge benefit.”
For Lyman, a Higher Order Thinking School with a strong emphasis on arts integration, it was important that the project be imbedded into the curriculum.
“The subject of the first mural is the school’s core ethical values: courage, kindness, respect, honesty, and responsibility,” says Ms. TenEyck. “Phil had his students do writings about these values, and they came up with all sorts of wonderful ideas that ranged from very straightforward—‘courage is getting up in front of people and performing’ or ‘responsibility is cleaning up after yourself’—to very abstract.”
Ms. TenEyck gave a lesson on how visual representation can communicate meaning. As examples, she showed the students a painting by Pieter Bruegel, a print by Kathe Kollwitz, and a sculpture by Tom Otterness. The students then set about drawing their ideas on Lyman’s core values. Their images, like their writings, ranged from straightforward to abstract.
One fourth grader came up with the image of a killer whale to represent honesty. Another drew rays of sunshine illuminating a tree and field of grass.
“When you’re in fourth grade you’re not quite at the point where you’re trying to draw realistically, so you draw more symbolically,” says Ms. TenEyck. “And your motor skills aren’t quite there yet, so between those two things the images tend to be really fabulous and engaging.”
The Wesleyan students scanned all the images and, using graphic design technology, cut and pasted a landscape based on the drawings. This composite landscape was taken back to Lyman and projected onto a smart board in Mr. Moriarty’s class. Students could go up to the board and physically trace the figures, change their size, and move them around. What the students created became the final composition for the mural.
“The idea is that the kids really are doing it,” says Ms. TenEyck. “Not that they do something and then some professional comes in and does it all fancy.”
Next, Ms. TenEyck and the Wesleyan students brought in the white boards of the mural, which together measure six feet high by twelve feet wide. They projected the new composition onto the boards and let students trace the images. With the composition outlined, students began painting the mural just last week.
After this mural is complete, Ms. TenEyck and the Wesleyan students will team up with a different class of either third or fourth graders to make a second mural on the topic of math and computation.
Lyman’s ultimate goal is to have the majority of its hallways house student-painted murals. The idea is for the building itself to reflect the integration of the arts that is central to Lyman’s educational philosophy and school community. The hope is that Wesleyan students, under the direction of Ms. TenEyck or another faculty advisor, will return to Lyman each year to make new murals with new classes.
“There’s definitely a sense of pride over the mural,” says Ms. TenEyck. “My favorite part was when we brought in the digital version that combined their drawings, and we put it up on the screen. All of a sudden they were just so excited about it, saying: ‘That’s my killer whale!’ and ‘There’s my tree!’”
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks with Assistant Professor of Art Sasha Rudensky about the “Picture/Thing” exhibition, which opens in the Main Gallery of Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery on Thursday, January 29, 2015. Admission to the gallery is free.
These ten artists create hybrid objects that challenge and expand traditional definitions of photography and sculpture. The objects in the exhibition take myriad forms, as each artist has a unique approach to material, technology, and presentation.
Upon entering the gallery, one is greeted by the work of Erin Shirreff. “Hers are digital prints that have been placed in somewhat traditional frames,” says co-curator Ms. Rudensky. “But when you look closer you discover this whole other reality. For one thing the paper is not flat. It’s three dimensional, and what she’s capturing are sculptures, or forms that are very reminiscent of mid-century sculpture, so she’s playing with this lateral movement back and forth between photography and sculpture.”
Turning around one sees a free-standing “picture/thing” by Anouk Kruithof. Its styrofoam blocks and iridescent glass glisten. “It’s a very mysterious piece,” says Ms. Rudensky. “In part because as you walk around it, the view and the content change dramatically. Because of the play of light that happens with the reflectedness of the materials she’s using, there’s this revelatory experience that continues as you circumnavigate the piece.”
Venturing further into the gallery, one encounters the work of Mariah Robertson. “She’s someone who works with traditional photographic processes,” says Ms. Rudensky. “She makes darkroom prints in a time when very few people are making darkroom prints, but then does these wild things with them by making 164 foot photographs that are suspended in space.”
Picture/Thing transforms the gallery into a world of rare objects. Each artist’s work is stunningly different from the next.
While most of the artists hail from Brooklyn and Harlem, their work speaks to a far-reaching trend in contemporary art.
“The idea for the exhibition came together rather quickly, in part because the phenomenon is very much there and present,” says Ms. Rudensky. “Artists are looking for new ways of dealing with traditional media.”
Picture/Thing will be on display in the Main Gallery of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery through Sunday, March 1, 2015.
Interested to hear Ms. Rudensky speak in more detail about the exhibition? She and co-curator Jeffrey Schiff will give a talk at 5:30pm this Thursday, January 29 as part of the exhibition’s opening reception.
Wesleyan University is a center for creativity and innovation, and one of the best places for our community to come together to participate in that energy is at the Center for the Arts. Our year-long exploration of Muslim Women’s Voices in performance continues on February 27 with a rare opportunity to see a dance company coming to Middletown from the northernmost tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. The dances of Tari Aceh! feature quick, highly-coordinated movements of hands, heads, and torsos, punctuated by lively body percussion. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. And on April 17 and 18, you can get a first look at a theatrical work-in-progress by playwright and actress Leila Buck ’99 that was commissioned for Muslim Women’s Voices.
In April and May, we present “The Connecticut Meets the Nile,” a two-part happening that will highlight two great rivers. On April 10, Crowell Concert Hall hosts The Nile Project, an all-star gathering of musicians who live in the countries that border the Nile River and have come together to create music that draws attention to the environmental issues of a historic river that sustains millions of people. Then on May 9, at Middletown’s Harbor Park, Wesleyan and regional partner organizations present Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter, an afternoon of music performances, visual art, and kid’s activities that will engage our community with our own beautiful river.
And throughout the winter and spring, you can put your finger on the pulse of what’s inspiring our newest artists by visiting the Senior Thesis Exhibitions in Zilkha Gallery, or by attending thesis performances by music, dance, and theater students performed throughout the CFA.