Student art adorns the Hill

If you are looking for new, fresh artwork on the Hill, look to the seven student galleries spread across campus. A new artist’s work goes up every two or three weeks outside the Cage, just inside the main doors of Regents Hall of Natural Sciences and elsewhere.

However, despite St. Olaf’s abundance of student exhibition spaces, few students are aware of their peers’ work or that they can exhibit their own art.

“St. Olaf is unique in the number of opportunities available for students to show their work,” said Michon Weeks, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and faculty coordinator for the student gallery spaces.

Most schools have only one or two gallery spaces. With limited space, Weeks explained, the work of studio art majors predominates. St. Olaf differs not only in the number of spaces available, but also in that these spaces often feature non-studio art majors.

Students may display any artwork from a studio course or an independent study in the Department of Art and Art History. With faculty approval, any art student can reserve a spot with Weeks. Weeks encourages students to display their work and discourages students from creating artwork only to “hide it away.” Exhibition, Weeks said, is important for a developing artist to “understand their work, to help artists to see their tendencies and their abiding interests and to help clarify their vision.”

Dance Major Moriah McFarland ’14 is grateful for the opportunity to display the work she created while taking Art 102, Foundation 2-D Media. She just finished her first exhibit, displaying large charcoal self-portraits in the Halvorson Music Library. Weeks, who happened to be McFarland’s professor for the class, suggested that McFarland display her work.

Exhibiting her self-portraits has been therapeutic for McFarland, who created the work to overcome doubts concerning her self-image and self-worth. It was not an easy process. Working from pictures taken by a friend, she often became frustrated when her work did not match the photograph.

“Even if the pictures do not look like me, they are still a part of me because I created them, and they are portraying some part of me,” McFarland said.

She is glad she has shared her work publicly, embracing the vulnerability she has felt. She appreciates the many comments she has received, which have validated the process of coming to see her beautiful physical and spiritual self.

On Sept. 27, in the Virginia and Jennifer C. Groot Gallery in Dittmann Center, a group-made “tape display” will take form. Organizers Mary-Catherine Hartel ’14 and Madeleine Senko ’14 will lead all interested guests in covering the white walls with drawings and designs done in black tape.

Hartel is excited to pool the creativity of students from many disciplines. Hartel and Senko are ready for action and will have 60 rolls of tape and lots of food on hand for visitors between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. If three hours are not enough, Hartel and Senko will host more “taping sessions” starting at noon the next day.

A new display found its way to the Cage hallway this week. The Indian ink and synthetic yupo paper artwork of Laura Begin ’14 now occupies the wall. Begin is excited to share her first exhibit with her friends and the St. Olaf community. She hopes for lots of comments.

“Feedback and constructive criticism [are] invaluable,” she said.

Mallory Undestad ’15, just finished her first exhibit, displayed on the fourth floor of Regents Hall of Natural Sciences. Though curious about the studio art major, Undestad eventually decided on psychology with a media studies concentration.

Undestad was inspired by African art to explore the concept of masks. Some of her brightly painted watercolors show “traditional” masks, but others contain repeated patterns of dots and lines reminiscent of screens and topographic contours.

Undestad spends much of her time in Regents and chose the exhibit space because she thinks science students and faculty appreciate the change of pace. By displaying her artwork among research posters, she was able to add to what she described as “the cool crossing over of different fields and majors.”

After having exhibited, Undestad looks at student art differently.

“I stop more often to actually take a look at it,” she said. “This is a fellow Ole’s work.”

New student work went up this week in all of these spaces, as well as in Kelsey Theater and the Lower Buntrock Galleries.