‘Artist Conversations’ brings together art history and visual arts students

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“Artist Conversations” is an ongoing collaborative project that came to fruition at Fordham in the fall semester of 2019. The project offers art history students the opportunity to interview visual arts students about their graduation thesis work.

Students had one-on-one conversations, creating spaces for artists to describe their practice, process, and inspiration. Each art history student produced a report following the interview which highlighted the senior seminar project, highlighting the artists and their work. These reviews are published on Artistic walks, alongside the collective exhibition of the higher visual arts seminar held at the end of the fall semester.

“Artist Conversations” aims to facilitate and encourage students of all disciplines to engage with one another, exploring issues of artistic production and criticism and celebrating the vibrant, distinctive and creative voices of our community.

“Slogan 13: Be Grateful to Everyone,” the title of Fordham’s Senior Visual Arts Seminar exhibition this year, fits rightly into the themes of memory and community that the artists focus on.

The “Highlights from Senior Seminar” exhibit is now in place at Lincoln Center’s Lipani Gallery and will be on view through January. Artist Conversations reviews are available on the art history department’s blog, Art Ramblings. The following is a review of the group show written for the project.

Review of “Conversations of artists”

“Slogan 13: Be Grateful to Everyone,” the title of Fordham’s Senior Visual Arts Seminar exhibition this year, fits rightly into the themes of memory and community that the artists focus on.

Artists shine a light on the content of their own memories and the very nature of memory, addressing personal stories in contexts of comfort, despair, and family – including chosen families.

Mateo Solis Prada’s interactive sculpture shows his relationship and bond with family. (Courtesy of STEPHEN APICELLA HITCHCOCK)

Caitlin Bury, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’22, and Mateo Solis Prada, FCLC ’22, aim to preserve the memories of their family histories. Bury’s big collage involves music and, she says, the stories her family doesn’t tell. On a large vertical pink background, she combines text, images and an interactive sound element, which allow visitors to experience years of her family history in a condensed and comforting multi-sensory environment. Bury addresses her personal connections to her family history, exploring the connections between music, femininity, family relationships and identity.

Similarly, Prada deals with memory and the comfort that comes from recognizing one’s own part in a vibrant community. Her interactive sculpture features ceramic foods made with craft materials such as glitter, googly eyes, beads and pipe cleaners. This installation is part of a larger project in which he explores his family history through family recipes.

Prada wrote letters recommending certain recipes to people close to him, invited them to a meal during which he prepared the dishes from the recipes, and recorded the group’s conversation during the meal. In order to recreate this experience, he placed his sculpted food on a table with chairs and headphones that observers can wear to listen to these conversations while seated at the table. In this work, Prada allows viewers to share the family and community environment that can be created by food.

Lenah Barge, FCLC ’22, also uses family history documents in her work. Black and white photographs of family members form the core of his graphic posters, reminiscent of those used in protests. Barge’s many posters fill the viewer’s field of vision, each emblazoned with the words “More than a monolith”. These black and white photos are framed with flowers and eye-catching reds and blues. Using intimate and engaging images of the artist’s family, these posters demonstrate that monolithic stereotypes are unproductive and harmful ideas that ignore the multifaceted communities and individualities of people of color.

Sarah Hujber, FCLC ’22, and Lara Foley, FCLC ’22, both focus on their own personal memories, approaching them from a calm, meditative perspective. Hujber’s photographs depict abandoned buildings she encountered on a road trip. In these images, she focuses on intriguing interactions between light and perspective, making mundane scenes seem alien in their intense emptiness. While commemorating an experience from his own life, Hujber also captures the strange sense of solemnity one can only feel when seeing buildings that humans once inhabited and no longer do.

Foley’s small watercolors are based on photographs she has taken over the years, each focusing on a single everyday object or detail and arranged on a large sheet of white paper. It deals with the very nature of memory, as each of these small images acts as a reminder of a certain event or place and can represent a different memory for each person who sees it.

lenah barge art exhibit at artist conversations
Lenah Barge frames black and white family photos with red and blue flowers and pictures. (Courtesy of STEPHEN APICELLA HITCHCOCK)

Nicole Perkins, FCLC ’22, also focuses on memory, drawing from her own environment and that of those close to her. She states that her photographs are meant to be peaceful and a respite from a chaotic year, and peace is exactly what she communicates in these images. They often depict his friends in familiar spaces such as beds and cars. Perkins uses dramatic lighting and color to give his photographs a dreamlike atmosphere, evoking nostalgia, intimacy, comfort and leisure.

Addressing the emotional strain many of us have experienced during the pandemic, the portraits by Kaila Cordova, FCLC ’22, express the thoughts and feelings of their anonymous subjects using personal and private methods. Her colorful paintings feature flowers alongside the subjects’ faces, each depicting a unique interaction between her subject and the flowers around them. Cordova uses the meanings coded by different types of aesthetic and often comforting flowers to communicate information about the inner life of her subjects. Here, Cordova respectfully portrays individual struggles while hinting at the potential for healing.

These works intertwine throughout the gallery, giving the exhibition a sense of community and collaboration, which is consistent with the creative process of this group of artists.

Some include images of their peers in their work, and many mentioned the feeling of working within a supportive community. Communities can help us cope with the difficult times we are currently facing, and this is evident in “Slogan 13: Be grateful to everyone”. In their emotionally powerful work, senior seminary students emphasize the importance of individual and collective memory, describing memory as a path to healing.

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