The Nature of Art

IMG_6471 edEvery so often, and this time of year actually quite often, I see a student’s Plan work and it literally blows my mind. I mean, not in the way black holes, metaphysics, jazz, restaurants that advertise “home-style cooking,” and other things I just don’t understand “blow my mind.” I’m talking about students that show so much more intellectual curiosity and integrity and maturity in their little pinky than I can muster with all my cerebral cylinders firing—certainly way more than I ever exhibited as a college student. This time it was two students who had particularly perceptive little pinkies exhibiting their art in Drury Gallery at the very same time, hence the blustered brain.

IMG_6478 edKatie Lyon did her Plan in biology and visual arts, especially exploring biomimicry and ecological design. She approaches art exactly like a brilliant scientist, with an attention to method that would make Francis Bacon do backflips, and the result is beautiful. Like, she did 100 awesome little sketches of zooplankton (above) collected as part of a semester at sea program. The object of the collection was to index species diversity, but Katie lovingly turned the result into something so much more colorful and rewarding. She also documented the first 36 galaxies in Charles Messier’s catalog (left), and then created, I’m not kidding, 36 bright colored cards that represented the numbers in the New General Catalog for each of these galaxies. I mean, I can hear my neurons boggling just thinking about it, and that’s before looking up at Katie’s ethereal, light-catching, sculptures hanging above, or her grid of paintings demonstrating a multivariate analysis of art movements, media, and seasons, oh my!

IMG_6494Ayla Mullen did her Plan in politics, especially environmental political thought, and ceramics. Her installation of a table set with finely crafted plates, each depicting beautiful vegetables, resting on a bed of green seedlings, was somewhere between Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party and Thoreau’s vegan dining room in heaven (right). Each setting was complemented with a “seed pot” a ceramic vessel with a tiny hole for safely storing seeds until the next season, when it is broken open like Mother Nature’s piggy bank. Ayla’s work is all about reconnecting with nature, and her own intimate understanding of this connection, displayed in eye-popping etchings, trunk-like ceramics, and delicate drawings of branches and leaves and pinecones on porcelain sconce lights, is enviable. Like Katie, Ayla has found a truly bodacious, artistic way to complement her other academic interests, in this case the challenges and rewards of ecological citizenship. With mind-blowing students like these, who needs black holes?

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