Art and science will collide tonight as the Visual Arts Center hosts an exhibition of artwork from the Kent Island Artist in Residency program, showcasing the work of Carina Sandoval '10 and Colin Matthews '10. Both students spent the summer on Kent Island living in a small scientific community of 15 to 20 people, immersed in the distinctive landscape and breathtaking imagery of the site.
Located in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada, about 12 hours from the College, Kent Island is home to the Bowdoin Scientific Station (BSS), which features solar powered electricity and has little running water. It was established in 1935 as a research facility and seabird sanctuary.
The Artist in Residency program at Kent Island has been running fairly consistently for a decade in conjunction with the BSS summer staff. Over the summer, undergraduates and researchers form a small community on the island in which people with a wide variety of visions of the environment come together and learn from each other. BSS director Damon Gannon described the group as "tightly knit."
Kent Island brings together people of many different academic backgrounds and personal histories. Sandoval came to the island shortly after a semester abroad in Italy, and described it as an "isolated, constrained environment."
Once there, she found that she could focus on her work "without the constraints of the modern world" and gain independence as an artist.
Matthews characterized the island as a place "that enables the creation of art with no strings attached"—an idyllic setting to appreciate nature.
Sandoval’s work consists mainly of a series of skull drawings, a subject she became fascinated with after finding a seal skeleton on the East beach of Kent Island. Some of her pieces play with abstraction of natural subjects, making for particularly intriguing artwork.
Gannon described Sandoval's work as "interesting both artistically and biologically," equating some of her drawings to those in the "very highest quality anatomy textbooks." Sandoval plans to continue her work in a senior arts seminar.
Matthews worked on photography while on the island, taking over 2,600 photographs during his time there. As subjects he mostly used rocks, dying trees, and island buildings in an effort to challenge himself "to use the raw power of Kent Island's scenery in an original, interesting way." He also worked with woodcut printmaking, which led him to consider important questions of artistic perspective and intention. Matthews will also be continuing his summer work in a senior seminar this year.
Artists in residence at Kent Island occasionally help out with scientific field research, giving them an opportunity to learn from the resident scientists and to contribute in a vastly different way to the island's productivity.
Gannon described the interaction of artists and researchers as a sort of "cross-fertilization very helpful to the Kent Island community."
A symbiotic relationship has developed between artists and scientists on the island over the many years of the program. Mary Helen Miller '09, a 2008 Artist in Residence, returned to Kent Island this summer to continue her work and also acted as a part-time chef.
When not doing artwork, artists contribute to scientific research but also enjoy the slow-paced, rustic way of life on the island.
Sandoval said she "loved learning how to live life more simply and acquiring new skills such as bread baking" in her free time.
The unique landscape and environment of Kent Island is truly a haven for scientists and artists alike, a well-conserved escape from the technological torments of modern life. The site is often used during the academic year for field trips, multi-disciplinary retreats, Pre-Orientation trips, and, of course, scientific research.
The Artist in Residence program is open to all majors, and Gannon strongly encourages that all artists "interested in immersing themselves in nature, in the rugged surreal landscape, and in the close, rustic quarters" of Kent Island to apply. The uniquely inspiring environment has proven to produce breathtaking artwork and meaningful experiences for members of its community.
The opening of Sandoval's and Matthews's work will be held tonight from 7-9 p.m. in the Visual Arts Center. The exhibition will be open for viewing until Friday, September 18.