By Lara Becker and Alycia Gilb
Managing Editor and Staff Writer
Peeking through the windows of the courtyard at the Art and Interactive Multimedia Building (AIMM), the opening reception to six senior fine arts solo shows took place in person on the College campus on Oct. 28 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. The show was on view from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4.
Senior fine arts majors Lily Gilston, Sarah Valente, Halle Luttrell, Lucia Gardiner, Addison Cooper and Shelly Crooz presented their session one solo exhibitions by shining them through AIMM’s windows for an outdoor event.
Visitors were able to walk through the outdoor space from piece to piece, getting an inside glimpse of the students’ pieces.
The fine arts show was one-third of a BFA capstone course, which began the spring semester of the artists’ junior year. The 14 students who are participating in this class, taught by Liselot Van Der Heijden, have become a tight-knit family. This show precedes their highly anticipated group exhibition, which will open next semester.
A variety of precautions were taken to make this event happen. All visitors were required to wear masks and maintain a six-foot distance from each other, as per CDC guidelines. Prior to arrival, all students from the College had to complete the self check-up form on the Roar app, or through a virtual form that was sent out to all seniors.
Gilston shared in an interview with The Signal that getting clearance to run this event in person took “hard work, persistence and dedication” from her peers and professors. After multiple meetings with Dr. Maurice Hall, the dean of the School of the Arts and Communication, and lots of paperwork, the six seniors got the go-ahead for their show.
“It went off without a hitch, and we even had a bonfire to roast marshmallows,” Gilston said. “It would not have been possible without the help of the TCNJ Art Department and the TCNJ Art Gallery.”
Gilston’s piece, “Emerge, Embrace,” depicts a tree with red weavings and fabric as well as large, swelling growths adorning its branches. Each woven sculpture took approximately six hours to complete, combining natural elements with synthetic materials such as tree branches and fabrics. Alongside the visual piece was a combination of spoken-word prose and ambient noise to provide a meditative background.
“In the past, my installations have required the viewer to experience the work up close, to become immersed in it and interact with it directly in some capacity. This semester, we were tasked with the unique challenge of creating an immersive experience from behind the glass windows of the AIMM galleries,” said Gilston. “I wanted to refer to the feeling one might feel when they’re alone in nature: recentered, grounded, greeted with a sense of familiarity, but still curious.”
“The Male Gaze Interrupts–” by Halle Luttrell was designed to call attention to the nature of the male gaze. The titles for each piece: “F*ck You–,” “Wanna Know What’s Sexy? Intersectional Feminis–” and “What I Wear Doesn’t Give You–,” demonstrate how the male gaze causes disruption in the lives of women, embellished with rhinestones, paints and fabrics.
“Nopalandia” by Shelly Crooz combines digital art and printmaking to represent the artist’s Mexican background. Utilizing indigenous textile designs created with linoleum block prints, it explores femininity and spirituality within Mexican culture, according to Crooz. Nopales are a kind of cactus commonly used in Mexican cuisine, but for Crooz, they are a recurring part of her pieces, holding cultural and personal significance.
“Come See This or Don’t, I Don’t Care Anymore” by Addison Cooper exemplifies a relationship that brought both love and abuse. Paintings hanging in a triptych, or a three-paneled layout, represent Cooper’s interpretation of “Atalanta’s Footrace,” a story from Greek mythology, and depict her personal connection to the story. Cooper invited viewers to take a look into their past experiences and question how far they’ve gone for another person.
In an interview with The Signal, Sarah Valente describes her piece “Living Room” as an expression of her own psychology, exploring her self-perception of experiences that have shaped her. Often using materials in ways other than their intended purpose, Valente implements Elmer’s glue and slime in both her paintings and liquid-like sculptures. The work then asks visitors to explore their own “living room” in order to reflect on what drives their innermost thoughts.
“There is duality in every choice we make — if we live for ourselves or live for others, and what that says about us depending on the way we choose it,” said Valente of her piece, which took two months to complete.
Lucia Gardiner’s “Reap What You Sow” features baby doll heads, a dilapidated rocking chair and an old baby carriage. Perhaps the most standout part of this piece, however, is a cake donning the words “Happy Anniversary” with a knife stabbed into it, and a baby doll arm emerging from its surface. Discussing themes of domestic values and expectations, motherhood and matriarchy, Gardiner highlights the question, “To continue to preserve my family’s lifelines, must I follow in their footsteps?”
The show epitomized the diversity of work in the art program — from photorealistic painters to printmakers, mixed media and performance, Gilston described this as the perfect October night.
“We have put our hearts into our work and putting these shows together,” Gilston said. “What I love about the community of artists I’ve found at TCNJ is that we honor our differences, and we’re able to come together to collaborate on our work. We’re like a family.”