The Lewis Center’s Program in Visual Arts (VIS) celebrates the Class of 2021 with a virtual exhibition of recent work in a wide range of media by 22 graduating seniors in the Program. The exhibition, presented virtually through an online platform designed by VIS alum Eric Li ’18, highlights work by students completed as part of their senior thesis projects. Featured student artists include Manasseh Alexander, William Carpenter, Alex Serna Castillon, Alexander Deland Jr., Ilene E, Brooks Eikner, Kevin Feng, Benji Freeman, Risa Gelles-Watnick, Samantha Grayson, Victor Guan, Ze-Xin Koh, Rachel Mrkaich, Alejandro Roig, Oswald Stocker and Alexander Williams (collectively working as “Beans”), Luke Timm, Sophie Torres, Adia Weaver, Ayame Whitfield, Noa Wollstein, and Zhamoyani McMillan.
Viewers can access the free exhibition online at any time, watching films, browsing images and engaging with interactive content at their own pace.
The work featured in the online galleries includes photography, paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, film, video and multimedia works created by students who are either majoring in visual arts through a collaborative program of the Lewis Center and the Department of Art and Archaeology or are majoring in another area and pursuing a certificate in visual arts. In typical years, each student would present a solo gallery exhibition or a screening of new work as a requirement of the program. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions and Princeton’s hybrid learning program this semester, such in-person events and physical installations of work were not possible.
Seniors who shared information about their work include:
“times not roman: an inquiry into the reconstruction of the self,” a body of work by Manasseh Alexander, is fueled by an indulgence into absurdity. In an effort to make sense of his external world, he projects himself into it. Through his antics, he desires to realize some optimistic epiphany making sense of his existence; thus far, it remains elusive.
In his exhibition, “Midnight Sculptors,” William Carpenter presents a surreal exploration of the quarry as a microcosm, created in memory of John Singer Sargent.
Discover the early story of “The Last Noel,” a short film in progress that is directed, written and edited by Alex Serna Castillon. After a virus decimates humanity, a young man afflicted with severe germophobia must venture through the desert and avoid its ravenous inhabitants to acquire medication for his sickly little brother. Watch a three-minute sample displaying some of the storyboards made in preparation for filming, as COVID travel restrictions limited Castillon’s ability to film on location.
Watch On the Sidewalk, at Night, a short film produced, written, directed and edited by Alexander Deland, Jr. After a string of failed auditions, a disillusioned young dancer goes to a liquor store to drown her sorrows. While waiting for her ride outside the store, her night is interrupted by a chatty stranger. Hope and realism clash under the streetlights.
Filmmaker Ilene E presents the short animated film 小尾巴 | Little Tail, an archive of the relationship between her mother, Hongjun Li, and her aunt, Manjun Li, through childhood, separations, immigration, and reunions.
In the short film POSTAL by Brooks Eikner, a rural postal worker named Dahlia grows suspicious that someone on her route may be a murderer. Is she onto something, or has she just been listening to too many true crime podcasts? Watch the film POSTAL
Kevin Feng, who is studying computer science along with visual arts, presents the show “I-n-t-e-r.” While his work lies primarily in the realm of graphic design, his show explores the crossing of boundaries — including ones of time, space, and media. Feng’s work is inspired by human interaction with technology, formed through both accumulative and reductive approaches.
Benji Freeman presents “bad things are happening: this is my thesis show” as a series of projections (inverse-photographs) onto wall, screen, pile, and suspension, accompanied by synthesized or gathered sounds. Boundaries between letter, word, text, line, etc. become impossible to discern, leaving behind an incomprehensible signaling landscape. Objects of daily life defy gravity, upended; basic physical rules are tested. Outraged voices and structural crumbling interfere with message transmission and reception. Where can you step, so that it doesn’t all come crashing down?
“Misplaced,” a twenty-two minute film written, edited and performed by Risa Gelles-Watnick, analyzes the treatment of race, gender, and the American Midwest in the movies American Honey and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Browse Risa’s project
Samantha Grayson‘s exhibition, “Like a Leaky Bucket,” reflects on the volatility and ephemerality of subjective memory and experience. Distorted images printed on canvas hang from the ceiling, each representing specific times, events, and feelings. However, they are torn apart and repaired using a needle and thread in order to address the inevitable malleability and falsification of memory. The work as a whole serves as a search for self through an abstract reconstruction of the brain.
Victor Guan‘s exhibition, “omg so good,” explores research-based graphic methods that play with information exposure and concealment. He manipulates print and digital mediums to create new readings on often overlooked interactions. Guan’s thesis focuses on the translation between text and image, conflating the physical with digital and 2D with 3D. By converting text into different forms, it gets reinterpreted based on the medium on which it is presented. There lies a grey area between reading words as objects versus text, and Guan exploits that ambiguity with his projects.
In “eggs and ladders,” Ze-Xin Koh explores the constructions of space, fabric, memory, eggs, time, mirrors, and staircases. “Here is what I’m seeing, what I remember, how I understand a box to take up space, how I believe a ladder casts a shadow. Here is space I’m taking up.” View Koh’s artwork
“A Song Inside” is an interactive story by Ayame Whitfield that examines how text, image, and imagination interact. A player is set on one of four possible story paths and discovers who and what they are as they explore an abandoned landscape. The story is also cyclical in nature, allowing the player to choose a new path when they finish the first. Viewers can play the game online in web browsers.
Noa Wollstein directed, filmed, and edited a 16-minute sample from a projected hour-long film. Until Her Last Breath documents the story of Dannielle Brown, a mother who went on a 237-day hunger strike in order to get answers and closure about the death of her son.
Zhamoyani McMillan’s untitled feature-length screenplay follows Roy, a 15-year-old in East New York, who is unhappy about his family situation living with his mother Patsy and his three younger siblings. When Roy hears news of his father being in town, Roy goes to find him despite his mother’s wishes. Read the first act of the work-in-progress screenplay.
Two visual arts students who graduated in January and whose ability to mount a gallery show was also affected by the global pandemic —Diana Chen and Bhavani Srinivas — virtually presented their work earlier this year.
In “Chaff & Light Trash,” Bhavani Srinivas created installations on family, food, and fiber histories made with craft techniques, found objects, ritually significant materials, and industrial materials.
“Performing Healing,” a body of work by Diana Chen, explores the therapeutic role of rituals and repetition during times of crisis and change. Using found objects, personal items and other memorabilia, the work depicts healing as an alchemical performance in which we re-live, re-tell and re-enact through simple repetitions of movement. Drawing inspiration from Buddhism, Jungian psychology and creation myths, Chen’s work seeks to re-trace the symbolic journey from distress and fragmentation to healing and wholeness.
Many of the senior artists plan to continue working in the visual arts field when they graduate, while others will take what they have learned as student artists into a career in another field.
The work will be available to view online throughout the summer of 2021. Viewers in need of access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at LewisCenter@princeton.edu.