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ISSUE 119 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/28/2006

Final look: Senior Art Show

By Clare Kennedy
Arts Editor

Friday, April 28, 2006

On Sunday, Flaten Museum staffers stuggled to keep the refreshments stocked as students, professors and art enthusiasts flooded in to Dittmann's first floor for first half of the annual Senior Art Show. Always the biggest draw of the year, the show broke new records with 570 attendees, nearly twice the expected number.

The show was crowded, but the mob did not go home disappointed. This year's show is one of the most impressive yet: The work shown is polished and inspired.

“I think the best part is the variety of creativity that comes from people our own age,” Jacob Fitzpatrick '07 said.

The show was surprising in its diversity and freshness. Although some of the work was familiar, much of it had never been displayed before.

A large contingent had a decidedly naturalist bent, from Sarah Anderson's study of skulls to Sung Geon Chung’s spare ink drawings of plant life. Most notable were Esther Weeks' wine-colored prints of organic objects with the corresponding wooden plates.

However, the organic theme was best exemplified by the sculpture, the highlight of an already fantastic show.

I would advise anyone to go and see Sara Van Essendelft's gorgeous plaster sculptures as soon as they can. Her casts of women's torsos and hands, coated with bark, feathers and moss, are sublime.

Equally appealing are Mary Coffey's crustacean-like creations made of animated earthenware jugs, and Mary Schmidt's finely crafted hand-thrown ceramic chess pieces in lovely, muted glazes.

Much of the show emphasized organic form, but there were several artists who focused on man-made grime. Justin Fleck's ink drawings depicting a dirty, urban landscape grafted to human form, had a demented energy.

As usual, there were many good abstract drawings. Shannon Johnson dramatized her meticulous, linear drawings with music, an interesting innovation. Also notable were Amy Aaron's ink prints of warped, naked bodies, which were so subtly shaded that it was easy to mistake them for photographs.

Another significant feature of this show was the high amount of video and digital art.

“There's a trend toward technology,” Museum Director Jill Ewald said.

The pieces that most explicitly mirrored this trend came from Christine Saari and Paul Anderson.

In addition, there were many fascinating installations. Best of all was an installation by Laura Schwartz which sought to answer the question, “What's it like to be a bovine in America?” with toy farm animals in a series of trippy environments and a projector strip of the animals close up.

Many of the installations and less traditional pieces dealt with issues of women's identity, like Chelsea Reigle's quilted piece which incorporated stained underwear, lace and baby doll parts.

Emily Dahl's silhouette prints of women in various poses, often bearing martini glasses, had style, swagger and great titles that seemed to be take from women's magazines like “These Shoes Say 'I'm Fun! Dance with Me!'” or “Team Aniston.”

The success was bittersweet. It is a shame that a show this good will only be up for a week, and it is even sadder that these talented artists will soon be leaving the St. Olaf art community.

Nevertheless, the senior class has given the community reason to believe in the rising generation. The art world, at least, will be in good hands.

“They really rose to the occasion,” Ewald said. “Some, I think, even astonished themselves. They definitely astonished their professors.”

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