Amidst a hectic election cycle and in the wake of a year full of divisive social issues, artists at Bowdoin reflect on how our choices shape who we are in the fourth annual student-led Fall Art Show at Ladd House. Run by the Bowdoin Art Society and curated by Julian Ehrlich ’17, June Lei ’18 and Hugo Hentoff ’19, the exhibition features student art in the yellow and mahogany rooms, as well as a balloon installation in the basement.

According to Lei, the curatorial team constructed the student-led exhibits in an effort to create an atmosphere where art can be heard and impact the way students think. They chose a theme of polarization.

“[This year’s theme was] both in abstract reference to the upcoming election but also regarding the seemingly-arbitrary choices we make at Bowdoin that serve to construct our identities,” Lei wrote in the editorial statement for the show. 

“We were really inspired by the idea of taking a red mint versus a green mint—it’s such a little thing, but people judge you on that,” Lei said.

“[Our choices] are influenced by conscious and unconscious things in the same way choosing a red mint or a green mint is,” Ehrlich added.

According to Ehrlich, the balloon installation in the basement reflects the larger theme of polarization both in regard to the election and culture at Bowdoin. 

“What we liked about polarization was that it was a relevant societal concept and could be represented in a very physical way,” said Ehrlich. 

The installation features 3,000 yellow and blue balloons printed with the words “right” and “wrong.” Initially, the balloons were in separate corners of the room, but as more people interacted with the exhibit, the balloons mixed together. 

“My hope would be to think about how even though the choices we make can feel constricting and create categories, that they are less different than we think,” Ehrlich said.

The main rooms of the exhibit feature artwork by students, with a range of pieces across various media and social circles. 

Evan Stevens ’17 contributed a piece on the neurological phenomenon of synesthesia. His piece was inspired by Dan Flavin, an artist who creates minimalist sculptures with fluorescent light fixtures. Hie piece, entitled “Family Portrait,” weaves together personal and familial experience and is a form of bioart. 

Stevens’ piece features four fluorescent tubes covered in gels that make them orange, red and blue when lit up. Arranged in a rectangle, the piece mimics the structure of DNA. 

“I had to be inspired by something biological, neurological. Basically, my synesthesia causes me to associate myself with the color orange and my parents, my mom and dad, with red and blue respectively,” said Stevens. 

He added that it fits in with the category of polarization since it was largely about him recognizing how his synesthesia affected his experience at Bowdoin. 

“I want people, without even knowing anything about synesthesia, to be let in this different world and experience something transcendental,” said Stevens. 

In her piece, entitled “Circle Xuan Qu Waits to Pick Out Watermelon Slice,” Laura Griffee ’17 tracks people as they walk around Thorne Dining Hall. Intrigued by the webcam in Thorne and the readily accessible video footage online, Griffee intended to meditate on the larger theme of surveillance in her piece. 

“It reflects the culture of having technology be pervasive throughout our lives,” said Griffee. “There is a little bit of polarization in that, whether it be the extremes of it being received very positively or negatively.” 

Griffee hopes that the piece can be part of an active discussion on the personal choice to use technology and how this can influence our future. 

At the opening last night, attendees reflected on both these pieces and how the discussion of polarization and choice influences culture at Bowdoin. 

“It was a very visceral way to represent divides on campus,” said Theodore Christian ’19. 

Natalie Youssef ’19 added that “there have been events in which we’ve had a lot of tension regarding race and discrimination, so it’s an important installation just to open the discussion.”

Sponsored by Student Activities, Residential Life, the Kurtz Fund and Ladd House, the Fall Art Show will be on display through October 23.