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Variety and Experimentation at Annual Student Art Exhibition

Variety and Experimentation at Annual Student Art Exhibition

The 2024 Annual NMH Student Art Exhibition is a testament to the value of experimentation. The show, which is at The Gallery at the Rhodes Arts Center through May 10, reflects the array of courses offered through NMH’s visual arts program. It includes photography, illustration, 3D printing, ceramics, graphic design, painting, drawing, sculpture, and multimedia installation. Above all, it highlights students’ willingness to learn new technical skills, work with new materials, and explore creatively. 

Resin self portrait rendered in blue resin liiks like jellyfish in a jar

Kitty Zhang ’24 and Sofiia Tiapkina '24 both exhibited pieces rendered in a medium they had never previously worked with. 

For Zhang, that new medium was oil paint. “I always thought watercolor and gouache were hard,” she said. “But oil painting is so hard, because there's many different techniques you have to use; there’s big brushstrokes and the tendencies of oil are so tricky.” Zhang’s painting, created in Bill Robert’s Painting I class, was rendered with accuracy to scale and an attentiveness to the nuances of shadows and light. In spite of the challenges, Zhang said she would like to continue to work with oil.

Tiapkina worked with clay for the first time, creating a self-portrait sculpture in a cocurricular taught by Visual Arts Department Chair Mona Seno. “I was really excited because this was my first sculpture,” she said. “Some people say there is some semblance of me, some people say not at all, but I am proud that at least it looks like a human being.” 

Alex Tse ’24 worked with Seno in another course, Advanced 3D Portfolio. Tse used her previous experience with sculpture, painting, and drawing as a starting point for an abstract self-portrait in resin. The process required time in the studio and a lot of trial and error with software that transformed the 2D work to 3D. 

Tse explained that she wanted to produce something more “tangible” than her usual 2D work: “I feel like when things are 3D, it gives a space for viewers to interact with the art more.” The sculpture, “Through the Looking Glass,” is a series of translucent faces that appear to be in a process of morphing. Its glass cloche housing suggests a sense of entrapment; the viewer observes Tse’s depictions of herself much like they might view a fish in an aquarium. Tse wrote in an artist statement that the piece is about “how our whole lives and identities are trapped in the glass screen of a phone.” 

Two student look at still life paintings in the annual student art exhibit

Claude Zhang’s multimedia installation "Femininity in Intimate Spaces: A Girl's Bathroom" tied together an interest in visual art and theater. Exhibited in the Green Room of the RAC, it was largely constructed of cardboard and had the feel of a theater set. Depicting a worn corner of a feminine-themed bathroom, it included perfume scents, toiletries, and dreamy video. Zhang wrote that the work explored “modern girlhood as a set of actions and a state of being rather than a gender identity.”

The project was an opportunity for Zhang to flex both creative and technical muscles. “This is the first time I have done a multimedia project of this size and with so many elements,” Zhang said. “I really wanted to involve the audience with my understanding of and feelings towards girlhood and provide them with an experience as one might do in theater through scenic design.”

two students look at 3d mosel architectural designs

The show offers many other opportunities to connect with students’ impressive creative endeavors. For some, it’s their first opportunity to connect with their own work in a gallery setting. That was the case for Tiffany Castruita ’24, whose colorful still life painting depicted a collection of reflective objects.

“NMH has really talented people, especially in the arts, so for my painting to be among those, it was like, ‘Man that just made my day,’” Castruita said. “I saw Mona setting up the exhibition; my painting was on the ground and I did a double take –– I couldn’t believe it! It just felt nice that my painting was being appreciated.” 

The student art exhibition will be on view through Friday, May 10. The Gallery is open to the public Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 8 pm, and Sunday from 1 to 5 pm. Note: Claude Zhang’s "Femininity in Intimate Spaces: A Girl's Bathroom" closed on March 23.

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