A group of students dressed in animal onesies eating Cheez Whiz were listening to the live DJ set, in none other than the The Robert H. and Blythe Bickel Edwards Center for Art and Dance on Monday. Tuesday brought a delectably different event, with vases full of  fresh-cut flowers and platters full of vegetables and hummus. Both nights, however, marked the gallery openings of students’ summer work: the first showcased the work of Cody Stack ’16, the latter opening featured Tess Hamilton ’16.

Both students pursued independent art projects through the visual arts department grants and fellowships this summer. Stack received the Nellie C. Watterson Summer Fellowship in Creative and Performing Arts, while Hamilton received a Kaempfer Summer Art Grant. 

Hamilton’s exhibition is titled “Migration,” and hosts colorful landscapes that starkly contrast the plain, white walls of the Edwards White Box Gallery. Meanwhile, in Stack’s exhibition, “impatient/therapist,” industrial concrete sculptures and abstract paintings fill the Edwards Main Gallery.

The difference between their exhibits is indicative of the contrasting approaches to their work.
“There was never a vision at the start,” said Stack. “I was going to do contemporary abstractions with painting, which was so ambiguous.” 

The open-ended nature of his project allowed Stack to spend 40 hours a week exploring different materials and ideas in his own studio in Edwards.
“I really just enjoyed playing with material—rubbing concrete on things, mixing gorilla glue into a mixture, and then coating it on the surface,” said Stack.

Hamilton entered her summer hoping to execute a plan. After working for a commercial fishery in Alaska last summer and studying in New Zealand this past semester, Hamilton’s initial idea for her summer project revolved around painting the migration flyway of the bar-tailed godwit, a bird species that migrates from Alaska to New Zealand.
“The immediate personal connection was that [the bar-tailed godwit] migrates from Alaska, where I spent last summer, so I had my own geographic perspective on how far it takes to fly a similar distance,” said Hamilton. “I could’ve seen the same individual in such different settings in my own life and such different geographic settings.”
Both students found themselves refining the directions in which their exhibitions would go throughout the summer. 

“I started painting the birds when I got back [from New Zealand] and I was very precious with the paint and the details of the birds,” Hamilton said. “They were anatomically correct but they just seemed dead to me and flat, so I just scratched that and started just painting landscapes and having fun with color.”

Adjusting the theme of her work, Hamilton painted the landscapes of the places that she and the bar-tailed godwit have shared as temporary homes during her four years at Bowdoin. In “Migration,” Alaskan mountain ranges and New Zealand riverbeds are depicted naturalistically, but with color experimentation, like patches of red, pink, and yellow.

Stack’s work began to take shape after he discovered the texture and materiality of concrete. “impatient/therapist” features canvases painted with concrete along with a large, winding sculpture made of tubes painted with cement. Shades of gray make up the entire palette of the show, achieving an austere and minimalist look.

Throughout the summer, Stack regularly met with his advisor, Assistant Professor of Art Jackie Brown, for critiques and advice. 

“I think what was great was seeing Cody be really experimental with what he was doing,” said Brown. “Every time I walked into the studio this summer, it looked different—his commitment to his practice is phenomenal.

Both students said they found spending an entire summer creating art fulfilling.

“Anything I do, I want to be in a creative field," said Stack. “This summer, I approached things more as an artist.”