The guests in the Sert Gallery huddled over a wooden shipping crate, champagne flutes perched on the edge, piecing together a jigsaw puzzle of an Amazonian panorama. Across the room, visitors laughed as they frantically picked miniature paper stars off the ground, and wondered aloud if they might take them as souvenirs.
The guests crowded into the Carpenter Center on April 27 for the opening of “Attached,” this year’s exhibition of theses by graduating seniors in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies (VES). Their works, which are characterized by their diversity of materials and methods, will be on display through May 24.
The impulse to touch is nearly overwhelming in Daniel Yavuzkurt’s installation, which recasts one corner of the gallery as a 19th-century naturalist’s cabin. The walls of the gallery are stained a warm brown, the bottom like tree trunks and the top like vines, reminding Yavuzkurt of his summer in the jungle of Peru, “where the sky is a real black with stars, not the awful orange night of the city.” The artist angled a desk lamp at a drawing of a turtle, showing ripples across the paper. The machete he cleared brush with is probably off-limits, as is the whiskey, but the rest of the exhibit invites visitors to feel.
Scott Roben is the sole representative of oil on canvas, but his “reverse rubbing” technique is hardly traditional. He covered his enormous canvases in paint, laid them against textured surfaces, then began the labor-intensive process of scraping away excess paint to reveal dimpled turquoise asphalt or lavender corrugated metal.
Roben and good friend Rebecca Levitan shared studio space over the past year, and now their theses share a central wall in the exhibition. Levitan’s work provides a foil to Roben’s, allowing the texture of the canvas to show through overlapping layers of silkscreens that came from a vacation snapshot.
“The effort that went into these works was tremendous,” said Levitan, speaking about everyone’s work in the show. “The Carpenter Center is a very flattering place to show them.”
On the opposite wall, Chappell Sargent’s black-and-white oils of mannequins do exactly what the artist claims in her statement: capture the experience of late-night window shopping. The eerie smoothness of the Masonite adds to the voyeur’s discomfort — look, but don’t touch.
Nearby, Sara Stern’s work is an exercise in identity construction. She presents herself as Facebook’s first artist-in-residence, displaying a fabricated correspondence with founder Mark Zuckerberg complete with Facebook messages, a telephone conversation, and videos for Zuckerberg. There is Stern on video, talking to Mark or to the viewer, pausing to chew or smirk.
A line of shoes outside Ingrid Pierre’s installation betrays a group of visitors escaping the bustle of the opening to find solace in her version of a Buddhist tearoom. Pierre’s take on identity is perhaps less mischievous than Stern’s, but her approach is no less eclectic. She recreated 16th-century robes with U.S. Army uniform fabric and kitschy patterns of sushi and cartoonish cowboys. An iPad with a calligraphy app (created by Pierre) sits beside a more traditional desk and brush.
Upstairs, Juliet Macchi seeks to wow viewers and to find peace through joyfully mindless repetition. The artist’s investment and effort is clear from the scale and number of components: a few thousand hand-folded paper stars no bigger than fingernails, an arch about 7 feet tall covered in push-pins, and a massive doodle with an uncountable number of pen strokes. Macchi calculates that she has spent two hours working on her art for every visitor to the exhibition — or upwards of 1,500 hours.
Although others haven’t counted their hours, it is clear everything in the exhibition is a labor of love. See “Attached” and feel the investment: “It’s been four days since I stopped doodling, and I still have a numb thumb.”