12x12x12x12: Student art boxed-in at Adams

October 12, 2017

Wheaton’s annual 12x12x12x12 Student Art Exhibition engages the spectrum of studio art under the theme Routine and boasts the most concentrated display of student art on campus. Each art student was assigned a piece that functions within a square or cubical format of 12 inches to develop a “diverse and cohesive display engaging with the idea of routine,” according to the exhibit description. The exhibit featured a special space to interact with the breadth of creative expression and experience on campus in the Walford galleries on the first floor of Adams Hall from Sept. 18 through Oct. 12.

Some artists found the dimensions constraining, while others felt it helped focus the interpretation of routine and morph the breadth of mediums into a community display. The guidelines were open-ended apart from the size restrictions, and hardly any pair of pieces similarly interacts with routine.

Students joined faculty members in the creation of the exhibit to “smartly demonstrate the number of ways one can communicate a theme,” according to Associate Professor of Art Jeremy Botts, coordinator of the exhibit. In classic liberal arts fashion, each medium of studio art expressed in the galleries interacts cross-functionally to add depth to the overall experience — much like gen-ed courses enrich major material. Exhibitioners engage pottery side-by-side with drawings and painting along the same wall in one of the only opportunities to view the latitude of studio art produced in Wheaton’s art department.

Junior painter and photographer Jacki Olson told the Record, “The variety of 12x12x12x12 ceramics to photography really highlights each piece as incredibly unique, and the variety of mediums makes you appreciate work that other people do that’s so different from your own. The themes every year are also so vague that it’s open to do what you want. For example, rather than engage with the calmness and security of routine, I focused on the breaking down of a routine and developing new routines and new processes.”

The diverse spectrum of art disciplines also highlights the range of interpretive excellence in the art department. Junior Benedict Leung related the idea of routine back to his childhood in Hong Kong with a creative portrayal of the subway system below the bustling city streets. Another student photographed a young schoolgirl playing in the poverty-stricken mountainsides of Peru after a summer abroad. Yet some delved into the more abstract expressions of routine through pencil drawings or community art.

Throughout the last three weeks, the Walford Galleries hosted a number of groups visiting campus. The first “Fridays at Wheaton” program — a day designed by the admissions department for prospective students to visit apart from connection weekend — entertained a booth outside the galleries for high schoolers and their families to gain exposure to Wheaton’s art department. An Artist Series reception for Ray Chen and Julio Elizalde, the virtuoso violinist and pianist duo, filled the first floor of Adams last Friday while hundreds of people admired the exhibit during the hour-long wait for autographs and selfies with the performers.

Apart from the prospective student visits and Artist Series patrons, the display has received little campus-wide exposure. Adams receives little traffic from non-art students. The majority of the student art produced by majors and minors remains tucked away in Adams, the Fireside Room and the library. “This [seclusion from campus] creates an excellent community of creation and fosters strong communication among art students,” Olson said. “But that community of art doesn’t ever get pushed out into campus, and that’s something our community really lacks.”

When asked about the audience of the 12x12x12x12 exhibition, Professor Botts responded, “we like to think of our galleries on campus as an integral part of the education of our art majors … but also certainly for the larger community of the college, and the community beyond. We look forward to expanding into spaces beyond campus so that the works of our hands can be shared with an even broader audience.”

The exhibit ended Thursday, Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. and will make room for the next exhibit in the Walford Galleries of Adams Hall while Joel Sheesley’s “Heaven and Earth” exhibition fills the Fireside Room.

Photos by McKenzie Gallagher

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