Senior Project: Exhibition Night

From recreating a rhino habitat to raise awareness about poaching, to bringing a trained hawk into a classroom, to simulating the chaos of civil war through a multi-room installation, this year’s seniors displayed remarkable expertise, talent, and dedication to their Senior Projects during Exhibition Night on January 17. From 5 to 8pm, families, faculty, staff, and students toured the Ross Gallery, Media Building, and Senior Building to view the 68 exhibits on display.

Luna Ye’s detailed hieroglyphs were the first images to greet visitors to the Ross Gallery, followed by Kate Nelson’s charming anatomical illustrations exploring the concept of emergence in the human body and Taylor Cohen’s documentation of accounts by Holocaust survivors. “Taylor did a wonderful job. It’s so amazing to see all of this,” said Judy Sleed, a survivor Taylor interviewed. “It’s weird standing by my work, but it feels good,” said Taylor.

Nearby, Aiyana Jaffe showcased a beautiful series of paintings and drawings; around the corner was Isabel Cassou’s dining room installation examining the workings of family. Also on display in the gallery were professional-quality leatherworks from Sohee Kim, architectural designs from Chauncey Wang, Chinese calligraphy from Candice Liu, and traditional Chinese embroidery and modern interpretations from Tiffany Cao.

Meanwhile, in the Media Building, Denise Mulenga transformed an administrative room into a designer showroom, with handmade dresses representing the northern, southern, eastern, and western regions of Africa. Denise, who is from Zambia, was even modeling a dress she made that represented her own tribe, the Bembas. Studying the impact of colonization on African fashion, she learned about the concepts used in traditional attires and the factors that contributed to their evolution. “I understand why we dress like this and appreciate my culture even more now,” she said.

Adjacent to Denise’s fashions, in the lobby of the Media Building, was the first part of a large installation by Asma Nejem, who created a memorial for the people of her native Bahrain. The atmosphere started off jovial, with music playing and a spread of delicious Middle Eastern snacks, including hummus, dates, olives, stuffed grape leaves, and desserts. This space represented the high spirits of Bahrainis at the start of February 14, 2011, also known as the Arab Spring. However, the mood of that day quickly changed as violence broke out; guests were given a taste of the abrupt switch as they were ushered downstairs and asked to walk through a pitch-black room with the sounds of chaos on the streets playing on a speaker.

The next room featured footage of the violence: people running for their lives, bullets being fired, and medics helping the injured. A fourth, smaller room smelled faintly of tear gas to give people a feeling of being at the scene. The final room was a memorial, where visitors could watch footage of a hospital overwhelmed with patients injured in the riots as a doctor frantically described the scene. On the floor beneath the screen, red and white votive candles illuminated a smattering of red and white flower petals. “Each space uses one of the five senses to physically communicate the ongoing poignant story,” said Asma.

Over in the Senior Building, Nicki Muster’s handmade surfboards welcomed guests at the entrance lobby, along with Serge Merjeevski’s life-sized, hand-welded, metal saber-toothed tiger. The Lecture Hall featured artwork from Min Kim reflecting memory and Clark Hamilton’s plate reverb unit. Just outside the Lecture Hall, Geige Silver displayed her handmade dresses, each of which had social significance: a dress made of condoms to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS; one made of bullets and rifle casings, shedding light on war; and another made of rice bags, invoking the problems of famine.

Down the hallway, Sam Kramer introduced Atlas, the red-tailed hawk he caught and trained, to curious and hypnotized onlookers. At the end of the hallway, Chloe Wan’s outdoor installation showcased 200 small pyramids within a large one, all made out of Plexiglas. “It’s all a first experience and a fresh experience for me,” said Chloe, who wants to be an architect.

In the basement, Graylen Gatewood and Phil Liu displayed their respective photo projects. Graylen created a nonlinear photo essay focusing on the narratives of individuals. “Each image has its own story,” she explained. “The viewer is asked to figure out the before and the after.” Phil’s photo series depicted the Forbidden City in China with an overlay of calligraphy, merging modern and ancient art.

On the second floor was Bank Yuennan’s intricately designed model of a Thai junk, along with Andrew Davis’s beautiful and expansive photographs of Iceland, and Lea Winkler’s photographs of military subjects. At the far end of the hall, Sylvia Laytin recreated the experience of being in the field with a poached rhinoceros, raising awareness of this endemic problem in Africa. Sylvia reports that all five species of rhinoceros will be gone in seven years if action isn’t taken. “The hardest part was working with the rhinos was keeping my composure,” she said. “It was so emotionally strenuous, but it was just such an incredible experience for me.”

The remaining senior projects were on display in the Senior Building Library, including books, videos, music, and process books. Guests mingled, browsed, and sat with the students to learn more about their projects. Overall, the evening proved to be a successful closing chapter in this months-long process.