Visual Arts major Tala Glass ’20 held up a watermelon-sized model of the final project she had in mind for her advanced studio class. It’s a wood frame structure of a room she intends to make life-size, so that viewers can walk in or around it. However, since the project’s conception, Glass’ plans have changed a bit, exemplifying her creative philosophy that it’s important to question your own work.
“At the start of this I was so set on making [the structure into] real life, but that to me now seems a little bit too [literal]. So I’m playing with putting the model on the wall or on an axis or making it out of something else other than wood. I’m thinking about casting concrete, or I was thinking about getting some foam insulation and putting foam in here and having it burst out the sides,” Glass said.
Glass wants the work to make the viewer question their environment. While her project immediately reads as a house or home—a space which holds meaning for many people—she wants to challenge what it means for the space of a home to be unfinished. Glass also hopes that the final product will evoke questions surrounding issues of perspective.
“I’m also interested in … making viewers think about the experience of their body when viewing the work,” she said. “So if [the house] is on an axis you have to climb through or under [it] to be a part of it.”
Glass points to Italian artist Monica Bonvicini’s sculpture work as one the main sources of inspiration for the project. Another common theme that runs through all of Glass’ work is rediscovering the mundane.
“Last semester I had a sculpture of a brick wall that I had pressed in clay,” said Glass. “It’s [one of] these things that we see everyday but we don’t actually see them because they are so regular that we don’t think twice about them.”
Glass has been taking classes in the visual arts department since her freshman fall when she enrolled in photography. It was her favorite class that semester, but things didn’t really “click” for her until she took sculpture, which is the main medium she works in now. In alignment with her focus on sculpture, she is primarily interested in exploring materiality.
“My artistic process is to pick materials and forms that I find interesting, and then explore from there,” she said. “A lot of the times [I] derive meaning afterwards instead of beforehand.”
Associate Professor of Art James Mullen teaches Glass’s advanced studio course, and noted her interest in a wide range of materials.
“She understands the importance of discovery through the physical engagement with a material’s inherent qualities rather than enlisting it to illustrate a conceptual concern,” Mullen said. “There is a type of discovery that can only be understood by the process of making, and Tala gets that.”
There are only eight students in the advanced studio course, and each chooses an independent project to carry out throughout the course of the semester. Students are encouraged to experiment, and for Glass, this means exploring different materials. She dabbled in painting as an attempt to branch off from sculpture, but in the end came back to sculpture.
“It’s daunting to have complete freedom—and one thing we talk a lot about in our class is setting up limits for yourself, that way you can be creative within them and then start to break those limits,” Glass said. “I think a really nice thing about the art department is you take other 3000-level classes before you take senior studio, so you’ve had a chance to work with any medium that you want before [you have] complete freedom to do what you want.”
Even with this freedom, the students in senior studio are faced with the time constraint of having a set date for the final show at the end of the semester. Nonetheless, Glass has found time to reflect on her past artistic experience and growth while at Bowdoin.
“In high school it was about the physical making process and gaining skills,” Glass said. “But here it’s so much more than that. It’s about what the art is about and why, and not just how.”