Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Alfred University Senior Thesis Shows 2013

ALFRED:  Once again the Senior Thesis Shows were a thousand experiences in a hundred rooms. One never knows what one will see, hear, feel, notice, remember or, if early and lucky, taste. The snacks go quickly but the ideas seep in slowly and last. For me, the lasting ideas will be those of Ben Hoagland.

            Ben made his way to Alfred University from Southern Tennessee.  Ceramics drew him to Alfred but the foundations program nudged him into glass. Apparently not one to stay in a comfort zone, Ben set aside clay and glass both to create a show with found objects – tiny thing, bits of trash that he elevated to art. He had people pointing, laughing, whispering, twittering, talking, photographing and grabbing strangers to say, “Look at this one.”

            Ben hoped that his work would be seen as slightly humorous. That it was.

            He created an array of items, each vignette on a small block of wood, most with a caption. One was a group of 4 burned out fuses - little black, wire legs stretched out useless beyond charred glass bodies. One new fuse was positioned running from them on its wire-feet saying, “I am NOT going in there.”

            Another showed 3 push pin tacks. One had wire arms bent upward muscle-man style while 2 others stood to look at it. The caption: “I’ think I’m going to start working out.”

            Ben collected the objects for about a year and spent months working out the captions. He focused on the nature of the objects and how they are used. He tried, and many thought succeeded, in forcing an aspect of humanity on the objects. 

            Many of the objects are used for specific tasks by workers. The world of work is a topic of conversation among many students at this point in their lives so it seemed a natural area to explore. (see more images below)

            Donald Van Winkle also focused on work but on workers and not the objects around them and not the humor that might be found. He spent a year in school and then took time off to work for UPS where he was more or less an intelligent machine used to move packages from place to place.

            Donald’s show was about railroad workers. He grew up in Arkport where the sound and sight of trains was common. The figures in his show had large hands and large feet but no mouths. They were muscle without voice. A larger overseer did have a mouth and a voice but no hands or feet.

            Donald’s vision of work was about the physical aspect of work that dominates many lives. He said that he portrayed the workers as lower beings because working at UPS he felt that he lacked a voice but he said that his piece doesn’t take a stand on that. He’s not saying that workers should have a voice in their workplace or that it’s right for them to be voiceless. Simply, he says, that is how it is.

            Ashley Goodwyn’s show was about self awareness and stress. “Self Help” was a sculpture of 2 figures holding hands. The clay of the bodies represented the connection between life and the earth while cast glass hands represented a moment of hope. She was trying to show how people work to pull themselves out of stressful situations.

            Ashley had created a 5 foot tall sculpture for her show but it broke, as clay so easily does. In thinking about this small personal disaster, she considered desire and the human ability to stretch and reach for a new goal. From that came these two smaller figures and their clasped hands.

            Krystal Crabb presented ceramic tableware for her show. She made pieces with hollow rims or feet to increase the sense of volume.

            She said that she wanted her tableware to call to people, to ask people to pick them up and feel them. Krystal had some older pieces of dinnerware that were not included in her show and several people who touched them decided that they had to take them home.

            Krystal will leave Alfred to design ceramic lamps and make the molds for her designs as well as to develop glazes for the lamps.

            If you missed the Senior Thesis Shows this year, make a note to see them next year. It’s a campus-wide party and it’s always fun, free and open to the public.


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