I Know What You Did Last Summer

Student artists spearhead the first of many

The dazzling white walls of the Adams House Art Space were dressed with student work last weekend in “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” the inaugural exhibition of the newly formed Sylvester Initiative.

The Initiative is the brainchild of Efrat Kussell ’02 and Julie S. Wecsler ’03. The two curated a successful exhibition of student work last spring and founded the Initiative to give students more opportunities to show their art. They hope to curate four or five student shows this year, creating a rotating gallery of a consistently high caliber that will “invigorate an interest in the visual arts.” Kussell and Wecsler are working closely with Adams House art tutor Jennifer Mergel ’98 to secure funding for the project, primarily through the Office for the Arts.

“I Know What You Did Last Summer” features work in media ranging from pencil to pastel to paint to faux-fur, and as its name suggests, consists of work created or researched over the summer. Many students rendered their work in preparation for senior theses and say they are grateful that the show required they begin working early.

Liz Glynn ’03 says that her creation in faux-fur, “Nausea,” which consists of nine yards of white plush fabric draped over chicken wire, is a condemnation of “sickeningly excessive sentimentality.” The column, which resembles a pile of vomited intestines, is more likely to revolt the viewer than evoke the “warm and fuzzy” emotions associated with its fabric.

In her thesis, Claire W. Lehmann ’03 raises questions about what sort of ideals are represented by mass-produced miniatures like parts of model train sets and cake-decorating figures. In the show, Claire’s charcoal and pastel compositions—one a barnyard scene replete with barn, silo, tractor, cow, pig and rabbits and the other a forest scene with model trees, deer, squirrels and a Boy Scout—are ominously dark and shadowy. The mix of static and lively toy-like figures creates a kind of grotesque fairy-tale scene that is oddly delightful, the most evocative work in the show.

Curator Wecsler showed some of her own works, the result of a trip funded by the Harvard College Research Program (HCRP) over the summer. Her small and vivid colored-pencil and ink drawings will become part of her senior thesis in East Asian Studies and VES on urbanization in Shanghai and Hong Kong. While their small size limited their ability to represent the vitality of the cityscape, the drawings will be more effective when accompanied by animation and an essay in their final form.

Armed with another HCRP grant and a 35mm camera, Tim A. Szetela ’03, who is also a Crimson editor, spent his summer “brainstorming” for an animation thesis. He ventured to the ends of the Blue and Red lines and back photographing patterns and forms on both constructed and natural surfaces. The resulting 35-photo, untitled composition includes shots ranging from the hard-packed sand at Revere Beach to the gritty sidewalks of Cambridge in neutral colors and close-ups that force the viewer to consider what each is and how it adds up to the whole, lovely montage.

Another kind of nature exists in “Girl With a Green Curtain,” part of a thesis research project by Susan E. Bell ’03. The wide and deliberate strokes in bold colors and the familiar subject matter—a friend taking a gulp from a blue Solo plastic cup—give the work a beautiful liveliness such that the viewer expects the girl to, at any moment, put the cup down and walk out of the painting to the next party. Perhaps the “psychological insight” that Bell feels for the friends she paints adds to the dynamism of the painting, which is a precursor to a thesis on coupled figures and their relationship to one another.

Kussell, now a graduate, showed a single, small portrait whose subdued colors and soft rendering emanated innocence and freshness. David Ording, of the Fogg Museum’s Mongan Center, contributed a checkerboard of pencil thumbnail drawings of everyday objects seemingly inspired by Chardin’s “The Smoker’s Case,” which is depicted in the upper right corner.

The summertime photography of Adams House Residents will appear in the Adams House Arts Space from Thursday, Oct. 24 through Sunday, Oct. 27. The Sylvester Initiative is currently planning shows for later in the fall and periodically throughout the winter and spring.

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