The class that begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night in Fort Andross is not likely to resemble any  course you’re taking. Members of the Visual Arts Senior Seminar frantically buzz around the empty space, hard at work setting up a gallery in time for their Senior Exhibition on Friday. The Seminar consists of 15 visual arts majors, each with a distinct style and talent.

Unlike most visual arts courses at the College, the seminar has no assignments. Instead, students were encouraged to explore art individually in whatever manner they wish, an experience culminating in projects that will be exhibited tonight.

“This class has been a lot about trying out different things and figuring out what makes sense to us,” says Audrey Blood ’13. “It’s a lot about process.”
Blood’s final project is a seven-by-seven foot piece of chipboard, stuck with silk sewing needles. Around the needles, Blood has wound red thread and incorporated dyed-red sand. She estimates she has used 5,000 needles in the creation of her surprisingly haunting piece.

The Seminar emphasizes individuality, but classmates often work together and shape one another’s creative process. Students brought a comfortable slew of advice and critical feedback with them as they moved their work into the space on Wednesday.

“Ben [Livingston ’13] working on the wall is what got me started on the wall in the first place,” says Theresa Merchant ’13.

Merchant faced a unique challenge in presenting her artwork. The piece she has been working on for the last several months is directly incorporated with the wall of the studios in the College’s McLellan building. A show at Fort Andross meant starting over almost entirely.

“I started doing these boards that I could move when I found out the show would be here,” said Merchant. “But the real work is right on the wall.”

Last week Merchant took over one corner of the Fort’s gallery space and has been painting ever since. The walls and her panels are covered in black lines, words and phrases—only sometimes intelligible—that deal with “everything that is darkness,” according to Merchant.

Jay Greene ’13 sits on the floor near Merchant’s corner, surrounded by roughly 400 loose folded playing cards. In front of her is her final project, a 20-inch thick sphere of about 600 of these cards glued together into a solid mass.

Greene says her project began with the idea of taking everyday objects and transforming them into something stronger.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge because we’ve seen beautiful things made out of them before. We’ve seen card houses,” says Greene. “I needed to make something unexpected.”

Because the class is two semesters long, Greene sees time to expand on her current project. She hopes to eventually suspend her sphere from the ceiling and surround it with individual playing cards hanging from strings to give the impression that it is exploding.

A saber tooth cat sculpture made by Ignatia Chen ’13 currently dangles from the ceiling. Chen’s project seeks to investigate human and animal forms, and she says that she hung her cat from above to give it a sense of vulnerability.

Chen constructed the piece on a cardboard frame that she stuffed with garbage bags. She then covered the frame with cloth rags used in printmaking, stained with a wide spectrum of colored inks.

Wednesday night, Chen is busy hashing out the details of how to display her piece. Up on a ladder, she rips at the piece with a razor, exposing the garbage bags inside.

“I want to open it up a bit,” she says.

Chen is currently looking to apprentice in a boat-building community after leaving the College. If not, she says she will “just go home and make art.”

The seminar is team-taught by Sculptor-in-Residence John Bisbee in the fall and Professor of Art Mark Wethli in the spring. Though each technically teaches for only one semester, they try to maintain a presence throughout the year to ensure a sense of continuity between semesters. Both acknowledge that they play a limited role as advisors in a class so focused on individual creation. As the students bustled around Fort Andross on Wednesday night, Wethli quietly makes his way from person to person as Bisbee’s trademark sarcasm filled the hectic room with a buzzing energy.

The show will be held in Fort Andross on Friday September 7, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will also feature work by the class’s other 11 members: Amilia Campbell, Rachel Canas, Louisa Cannell, Ben Livingston, Josh Gutierrez, Hugo Barajas, Devin Hardy, Linda Alvarez, Becky Rosen, Ursula Moreno-VanderLaan, and Nicole Fossi, all class of ’13.