Last month, the Delta Sigma Alumni Corporation held its twenty-second annual Delta Sigma/Delta Upsilon art competition, which celebrates visual art created by Bowdoin students. Out of 29 submissions, the panel of judges selected pieces from five winning artists: Abby Wang ’23, Camille Amezcua ’22, Bradford Dudley ’23, Lily Poppen ’22, and Aadhya Ramineni ’23.
While student artists have historically provided publicity for the competition themselves, this year’s entirely remote programming forced Assistant Director of Student Activities Miriam Fraga ’18, who has organized the competition since 2018, to take on this responsibility herself.
“We haven’t been able to work with interns,” Fraga said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It’s a lot of me reaching out to the different art faculty and student artists that I know—students that have submitted to the show in the past—and encouraging them to submit to the art show.”
Fraga said that one of the greatest obstacles to the remote format of this year’s competition is the judges’ inability to see the submissions in person.
“When we switched to this format, the judges get all of the submissions virtually…and that’s great for 2D media like photography and painting,” Fraga said. “I think it’s more challenging for things like sculpture and ceramics, where it would be easier to see things in a 3D format.”
Competition winner Lily Poppen ’22 noted another unique aspect of this year’s competition: due to the virtual format, none of the contestants knew the identity of the judges.
“You want to look up your judges and see what type of work they gravitate toward and put your best foot forward within the style you think might be a good contender,” Poppen said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “I think there’s a benefit of this year—we didn’t know who the judges were at all, so it was less transparent, but it also allowed full creativity.”
As was the case with many of the other winners, Poppen drew inspiration from the pandemic for her submission. While she was studying remotely from her home in Iowa, Poppen went on daily nature walks and began bringing her camera along once she became familiar with the geography.
“As I was walking, I learned the landscape intimately,” Poppen said. “I titled the piece ‘Traces’ because, in every single one, there is some subject that’s really small in comparison to the landscape and feels almost swallowed by it—but at the same time, it’s indicating that there is movement toward something.”
While she photographed many of her walks, one of her favorite photos came out of a drive home: much like the stationary semi-truck in her photograph, Poppen yearned for movement during the height of the pandemic.
“[The photo] has this sense of stillness and movement,” Poppen said. “That’s what I wanted—this longing toward moving again, having more community and dynamic, but also existing and loving this landscape that was so stable and seemed pretty quiet and always there.”
Like Poppen, competition winner Camille Amezcua ’22 was also influenced by the pandemic, although her submission centered around one of her newfound interests: listening to jazz music.
“During the pandemic, I got very into jazz and played a lot of Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Archie Shepp … it really imbued everything I was doing,” Amezcua said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “All of my sketches were of people playing jazz instruments, and I really wanted to see if I could take that a step further.”
In addition to jazz, Amezcua used her piece to pay homage to her Mexican heritage as well as her home, New York City.
“My dad is from Mexico City, so the flowers in the background … are very indigenous—you see them all in the Mexican markets,” Amezcua said. “And then the Birdland, that’s a really old jazz club in New York … it was a lot of symbolism.”
While it was difficult for Amezcua to create the large piece in her small bedroom, she is proud that she was able to produce award-winning art in a nontraditional workspace.
“My mom was like, ‘You can’t do painting anywhere in the house,’ so I had a whole tarp in my small bedroom,” Amezcua said. “But it was a really good moment of recognizing that you don’t need to be in the studio to still make and be proud of what you’re doing.”
Amezcua also learned animation in order to bring her artwork to life. After carefully constructing the jazz players with wire and plaster, Amezcua made the figures “perform” against her pastel backdrop, which she accomplished with animation software on her iPad.
“The wired hands…were super delicate, so having to do each little movement was really hard, and that was my first time [working with animation],” Amezcua said. “On the piece it says ‘an experiment with animation’ because I don’t think I’m really able to call myself an animator yet, but it was a good way to open that up for myself.”
Competition winner Abby Wang ‘23 was also deeply and personally connected to the content of her artwork— her submission ‘Why is this so wrong?’ addressed a lack of diverse representation of LGBTQ couples in the media through a series of digital drawings.
“A lot of times in the media when LGBT groups are portrayed, it’s always kind of sad or heavy, so I wanted something that was a little more personal,” Wang said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “One of them is a little sad, but the other two are brighter and happier, and I wanted to show love between people to humanize [them], in a way.”
Like Amezcua, Wang used her iPad to create her submission and illustrated the theme of physical connection through deliberate shading. While it was her first time making art with her iPad and Apple Pencil, Wang enjoyed the opportunity to explore new drawing and shading techniques.
Despite the virtual format of this year’s competition, Wang found it especially fulfilling to be recognized for her success by the Bowdoin community.
“It was cool because I had some friends who graduated or are still on campus that I haven’t talked to in a bit… [who] saw the post that Bowdoin did about it and they reached out,” said Wang. “That was cool, because I got to reconnect briefly with them.”
While she has entertained the possibility of a future hybrid model for the competition with the Delta Sigma alumni corporation, Fraga primarily plans to bring back the competition’s in-person gallery showing in Smith Union.
“I know we have students who love to see their artwork hang, especially in such a public space,” Fraga said. “[To] be able to celebrate that and also get to meet the Delta Sigma alumni corporation is a great opportunity for our students to connect with [local] alumni.”
Aadhya Ramineni ’23 is a member of the Orient staff.