Honors art students present works in progress at Spencer

Last week, The Wilde Gallery in the Spencer Art Center was filled with an eclectic mix of art projects from honors work done over Winter Study. The space looked in many ways like an artist’s studio, as many of the works on display were senior thesis projects in progress. The artists whose work was displayed at the exhibit were Sarah Sweeney, Margaret Tedeshi, Andy Kyle, Tyson Phipps and Nick Zammuto, all seniors.

With her piece, Sweeney conducts what she calls “a visual study of memory” specifically concerned with the death of her father. She takes about 50 black and white family photographs and physically removed her father from them, leaving a white space. The photos, arranged in three rows, depict events such as family graduations and vacations. The collective effect of the work is an eerie one; in this unpolished state it is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s unsettling black and white films. In some pictures it is hard to notice the missing figure; in others the absence creates a ghost-like image in which people appear to be leaning against nothing or hugging open air. Accompanying the display are written family-related documents such as letters, wedding announcements and checkbook receipts. It is a powerfully personal project that also speaks to universal feelings of loss and memory.

Margaret Tedeshi’s work is conceptually fascinating. Identifying the creation story as told in Genesis as the “Fall of Man,” the point at which physicality and shame are realized, she hopes to explore questions of identity today. She juxtaposes this text with elements of modernity: sites on the Internet, places where one is able to shed all physical descriptions and limitations, thus putting into question the relevance of the creation story’s essential tenets in today’s world. She plans to combine these two concepts in a book, the left side composed of Bible passages with some significant passages, the right side a listing of Internet sites which comprise their own virtual reality.

Andy Kyle displayed the story board for a video he created, “The Way-Out Room,” which was available for viewing in the Art Center’s video room. The video is, according to Kyle, “cornball sci-fi” done in the style of the “Dr. Who” series. The film is refreshing in its pop-culture nature and playful jokiness. Unlike the other work in the gallery, it is a finished product. Kyle says that in the future he will focus on other small works rather than continuing to add onto this one.

Tyson Phipps’ work is less specifically motivated than the others. It is a continually mutating installation located both in the gallery and the hall space outside. It is a unique collection of mixed media – alarm clocks, plastic drop cloth, burlap, mirrors, sand and various other elements – that plays with questions of dimensionality, religion, philosophy, and life in general. Since the work is undergoes major changes daily, it has taken on a quality as an almost ritualistic site. Although the final product may look confusing or scattered at any given time, Phipps’ work is as much about process as result.

Nick Zammuto presented a large and varied body of work that included visual images and a sound installation. The sound component is comprised of a body-length cushion that one lies on while music is piped in through three plastic tubes of varying thickness. The music, recorded by Zammuto, combines tribal beats with ambient and electronic sounds. The beat is felt through reverberations in the tubes; depending upon the track the resulting experience can be meditative or energetic. Accompanying this is a collection of computer generated images saturated with color, playful and almost childlike in their sense of inhibition: recognizable pop culture images and personal icons also work their way into the graphic presentation. The work forms a brilliant whole that is almost as religious as it is artistic.

The show offered a fine cross-section of the diverse independent work that seniors are given freedom to undertake. It also provided a chance to catch a behind the scenes look at ongoing projects, actually letting the viewer into the head of the artist in ways a finished project could not. It should be very interesting to see how these works in process change and develop before the final show in May.