"You Must Not Know" Scripps and CMC Seniors Display Thesis Artworks

By Sasha Rivera ‘19
Staff Writer

On April 29th, the new Scripps College and Claremont Mckenna College senior art show, You Must Not Know, opened at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery. There, eight art majors — Noor Asif, Chrysanna Daley, Chelsea Fusco, Tiffany Gonçalves, Jessica Jin, Grace Poole, Caroline Thomas, and Emily Wages — displayed their thesis artworks for all so see in a reception filled with music, food, and artistic appreciation.

“I was initially inspired to make these performative photographs from my time in Ireland,” Grace Poole ‘16 said. “I studied abroad in a very small village in the west of Ireland with only around a 100 total population. I loved studying there but it did bring about feelings of isolation and dissociation. I created one character, Grass, while there in order to perform through feelings of loneliness and give myself anonymity in an unfamiliar landscape. I decided to expand on this project for my senior work, creating four new characters under the same conceptual framework.”

For her thesis project, Poole created large-scale black and white photographs. The content of these pieces includes self-portraiture that is obscured by the use of performative masks and costumes. In the series of photographs she created four characters called Grass, Insides, Rope, and Fur that all come together in one work called Family Portrait. Each character and mask is made of materials that invoke for Poole certain memories of different experiences and feelings in which she seeks refuge from loneliness and isolation. She sketches her initial ideas, makes the masks, and then photographs them using film in medium format like the square Hasselblad camera.

Emily Wages ’16 also displayed her installation in the gallery. For the show, her art consists of oil paintings of the details of the inside of her mouth. She focuses on the small spaces of the body at a large, on a three by five foot scale so that the work becomes abstract, yet retains a visceral quality. The intention of this closeness is to create a disorienting, borderless, and fragmented view of the body that comments on the misrepresentation of the female body in history, art, and media. Wages says that she chose the mouth because it is often sexualized, yet functions primarily for speech and consumption. She wants to do away with the sexual objectification by focusing on the “grotesque” aspects of the body that are both powerful and necessary. The purpose of the series is to open up discussion about the creation of beauty standards, as well as determine whether beauty is even a valuable concept when judging the female form.

“My work was fairly straightforward to install, but it was fun playing around with various placements of pieces,” Wages said. “It has been very exciting watching everyone’s work come together. The gallery really adds a whole new life to the work. It is going to be a great show — we have such a talented, thoughtful senior artists this year.”

Chelsea Fusco’s ’16 piece was a cut paper installation that acts as a response to A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes. Barthes defines the image repertoire as a series of observations and fantasies taken out of life’s context and stored within each person to later pull from so that the repertoire becomes restrictive and personal. The installation utilizes text from Barthes as its point of departure so that the work challenges the viewers deciphering abilities as it physically layers and distorts the appropriated text. Splinters of text are carved into a drape of paper, and the distorted text confuses and redirects the viewer by traveling forwards, backwards, and eventually collapsing in on itself. In addition, the overlaid forms create shadows that function to further obscure the system. Fusco drew curves that resemble brushstrokes, clocks, and the human body so that she could systematically construct and refine the silhouettes. She then used an X-ACTO knife for precision to create imagery from organic lines that play with temporal qualities and reflect feelings of anxiety and anticipation.

Jessica Jin’s CMC ’16 acrylic and oil paintings explore the delicate balance between individual and collective identities. She asked her friends to fill out a questionnaire about their perceptions of themselves, how others perceive them, and instances where they had to accept or reject external norms. Then, she asked her friends to send her selfies, which she then manipulated in Photoshop based on the questionnaire responses. After this was done, she painted the Photoshop creation onto a canvas, creating a portrayal of her subjects that is both abstracted and intimate. The final products appear to work with the theme of the four elements: water, earth, air, and fire.

Tiffany Gonçalves ‘16 also discussed her thesis project displayed in the gallery. 

“The process was really long, but I’ve always wanted to do a project on being of mixed race and that was my inspiration as well,” Gonçalves said. “I didn’t know quite how to come up with the artistic process but I really enjoy photography and drawing; it’s my strong suit, I’d say. I decided to combine both through a series of photograms. I took my initial drawings and I created a final piece of black and white prints…I never imagined my work would be in a gallery. Coming in as a first year and declaring my major, it was always a dream for me but I never thought I’d be able to make it this far. The process of installing took forever; I had to do a lot of measuring to figure out the proportions. Being completely finished and seeing it in this space is incredible and surreal, but it’s a huge relief. I’m very proud of it right now.” 

Gonçalves’ installation consists of a series of 96 dark-room developed prints that explore her mixed race identity and the microaggressions she faces. Her senior thesis both celebrates the cultural aspects of her heritage, as well as explores the ambiguity of appearance that mixed race people experience. In her colored sketches she combined images from Mexican, American, Portuguese, and Argentinian cultures that she personally relates to. In the prints, she put the images in a grey scale to show how there is no one way to represent a culture; one does not have to look or act in a certain way to identify as a certain culture.

Noor Asif ’16 created a series of paintings about her experience in Lahore, Pakistan and focused on the fact that the city was once the center of the Mughal Empire, but now exists in a state of deterioration. Her paintings seek to reflect the state of being that occurs when the electricity would go out during the day. The temporary darkness would leave her and her family in mental disarray and helplessness. Asif uses self-portraiture to express this emotional sickness that masks confusion during these daily occurrences. With her artworks, she captures the heartbreak that the Lahori people experience due to the deterioration of their beloved city.

Chrysanna Daley’s ’16  work examines the depictions of nature as feminine, as well as the similarities in how women and the environment are treated in terms of violence. The installation contains two figures that present a narrative in which the standing figure is rising from the crumbling remains of her former self with a new strength. The injuries suffered by the broken figure are reflected in the standing figure via a method similar to the Japanese Kintsugi, where pottery is repaired with gold lacquer. This way, past experiences are celebrated and become valuable to the object’s history. The overall work prompts viewers to challenge stereotypical depictions of “Mother Nature” as well as recognize that the injuries women and nature sustain are results of current sociopolitical systems and institutions.

The final artist in the show is Caroline Thomas ’16. Her thesis project focuses on the tradition of self-portraiture, as well how it and alternative process photography can be combined to create the uncanny. Thomas uses this intersection to distort formalistic images of her own body through a series of polaroids and prints. She explores the alternative processes with instant film, cross processing, color film, and multiple exposures. The series functions not only as a performance but also as an exploration of self, giving Thomas a “new sense of agency” with her work.