Heimat: Senior Thesis Exhibition
Ali Crank, Angela Huang, Lucia Nhamo, Sarah Shaer
Jewett Art Gallery
Opening reception: Tuesday, May 10, 4:45-6pm
Exhibition Dates: April 27-May 27, 2011
Gallery Hours: Daily 12-5pm
“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, … back home to places in the country, … back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
-Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again (1940)
Voyaging into the unknown triggers feelings of homesickness and longing for the comforts of familiarity. When displaced, many attempt to fill this void by transforming their vision of home to a tangible form. Often, they embody this idealization in the architectural style of the homeland vernacular. In Western history (circa 1920), British colonists built Tudor houses in exotic settlements, recreating their romanticized home in strange lands. The Tudor style retreats to the fantastical past; its architectural dialogue speaks of British familial, historical, and cultural roots. My body of work addresses the notion of home embodied in the Tudor architectural style, a house I developed a strong attachment to as a child. The models are tangible visions of my idealized home, a repository for my dreams, comforts, and desires. The pieces fragility, transparency, and ephemeral nature are treasured displays, glimpses of my imagination that can be projected onto foreign landscapes as an expression of one’s longing to find familiarity within alien environments. Anamorphic perspective, dematerialization, and distortion of the structures themselves through the conventions of transparency, reflections, projections, and shadows silently acknowledge that this is not reality, but an uncanny illusion of home.
Angela Huang: Outside In: Searching for Empathy Through Painting
What is empathy? The dictionary definition of empathy is the act of understanding and identifying with another person’s situation, motives, and feelings. Yet everyone perceives the world differently, even in the same situation, simply because we come from different backgrounds, have seen different things in the past, and have different personalities. To empathize completely would be impossible.
My project began as an attempt to empathize with a person from a different background than my own. I had hour-long conversations with students who had lived in other countries, during which I would paint an abstract portrait of them. It would be too easy to paint people as they are, I thought. Only by painting people not as we physically see them could I reveal the complexity of these people beyond their physical existence. It would be the only way to treat them as people, and not objects.
But who was I to think that I could become another person? The first paintings were meaningless and chaotic to everyone but myself—the person I had been painting would not even recognize it if she had not been present when I painted it. I covered these paintings with a thin layer of color, than a layer of white, to distance myself from the raw experience. In order to make sense out of them, I needed to process and present them in a more organized way.
The objects and images on the topmost layer represent pieces of the conversations I had, or things that come to mind when I think of the person. They are my own decisions—a projection of myself onto that person. In a way, they are self-portraits, since I am an artist who communicates using the objects around me—I needed to paint others in order to paint myself. Perhaps that was the purpose of this project. Only when I realize that I am also a person, and it is impossible for me to fully understand myself, can I begin to truly empathize with others; because we all share the same experience of being human.
Lucia Nhamo: Portrait of a Decade: Zimbabwe 1999-2009
Portrait of a Decade is a retrospective of the day-to-day struggles facing the people of Zimbabwe between 1999 and 2009. Growing up in Zimbabwe for the most part of the last decade made me aware of the inextricable ties between the personal and the political. I am interested in the ways that the repercussions produced by political decisions play out in people’s everyday lives. The line “It’s not politics, it’s life,” from the novel A Grain of Wheat by renowned Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, has been of seminal influence in my work.
The ten year period of socio-economic decline and political turmoil in Zimbabwe was chiefly set into motion by the unlawful seizures of commercially owned farmland. The decade was and characterized by political oppression, state-perpetrated human rights offences and an economic meltdown. This decade also saw the rise of the political opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) that has posed the largest threat to the Mugabe-led Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) since the country’s Independence in 1980. Following a 2008 election period marred by state-perpetrated violence and intimidation, the main political parties formed a government of national unity in 2009. In that year, the government also adopted the U.S. dollar as its official trading currency, abandoning the already largely defunct Zimbabwe dollar and putting an end to hyperinflation.
Through my mother’s personal recollections of life during this time and, using images of everyday scenes and activities shot in Zimbabwe in December 2010 as visual metaphors, Portrait of a Decade explores these experiences and investigates the effect of national politics on personal reality.
Sarah Shaer: Burj Al Arab: Icon and Façade
Dubai has become known globally for its megaprojects. It has the tallest building in the world, the only palm and world shaped man made islands in the world, working towards building the biggest mall in the world and the world is noticing. Dubai, a scholar notes, is “establishing relevance by ‘obsessively building itself into significance’…the only way it can create this significance is by exaggeration, focusing on superlatives (the tallest, the biggest, etc.) (Eleshawy, 138).
My work focuses on this obsessive need to build a city into significance by using Burj Al Arab, the first of Dubai’s spectacles and icons as a lens. Burj Al Arab is one of tallest hotels in the world standing at 321 meters high. The hotel, it’s website informs, is designed to resemble a “billowing sail”. It is an all-suite luxury hotel that “reflects the very finest that the world has to offer.” Apart from its very practical function as a self-described seven star hotel, Burj Al Arab was designed with icon-status in mind. As architect Tom Wright explains in an interview, the building was intended to be iconic, comparable to the Sydney Opera House or the Eiffel Tower. Furthermore the building stands on it’s own island 270 meters off the coast. Through the Burj as a lens, I examine the way in which Dubai’s buildings, and specifically this building serve to create a national identity and image and how this process of creating identity through spectacles has created a façade in the city.