Jewett Gallery Demonstrates More than Just Artwork
Anyone who has spent more than two years at Wellesley College might remember the days when the Jewett Art Gallery was nothing more than the empty space that was occasionally occupied by student works. In the past two years, however, that empty space has housed multiple student and non-student exhibitions. The latest show, “Transformations,” is one of the biggest shows to be held in that space so far. So much so that the gallery has had to be locked and specific gallery hours have been assigned. This change in the activities of the gallery has been vital for the art department and the students who have either exhibited work in it or had the luxury of visiting the gallery whenever they pleased to see the work of fellow art students or professional artists.
“Transformations” in the Jewett Art Gallery space.
The past two years have seen the gallery embody different roles; however, it is primarily a “teaching gallery.” As current gallery director and Wellesley College professor Clara Lieu explained, “The gallery is for student shows and hosts two professional shows a year.” The gallery, she explained, “brings the art word to Wellesley…that’s why the gallery being in the art building is significant. It’s not a bus ride away.” Students at Wellesley can visit the gallery briefly for a break from long nights in Pendleton or just to be inspired by work made by artists outside of Wellesley or Boston.
The gallery serves to teach students about how galleries work and what to expect if they become working artists. “The gallery world is a largely closed world,” explained Lieu; the Jewett Art Gallery is a place in which students can ask questions and have them answered by someone who knows how galleries work. It is difficult to obtain this kind of information from gallery owners in New York or Boston. Working with a gallery director and understanding how gallery shows are organized and where ideas for shows come from is important for any aspiring artist. Furthermore, students understand what it means to organize a show along with other art students—how to give and take, compromise and still wind up with a show that satisfies all parties.
Working artists rarely have full reign over how shows are organized and often to yield a lot of decision-making power to gallery owners and curators. Eliza Murphy ’10 wrote about her experience on the Jewett Art Gallery blog and talked about how her experience had taught her about measuring for her pieces as well as hanging and rehanging until everything looked right. Similarly, Eleri Roberts blogged about putting up the Phototography 208 show “Look at Me.” She talked about the fun and frustration of putting up a show—the different conversations the class had to have about themes, organization, and the process of selecting which pieces to include.
Another way the gallery serves to teach students is through looking at the works of contemporary artists. It is important to see the variety of ways in which artists work, as well as the myriad subject matters that they choose to work with. Art is interdisciplinary and is capable of dealing with the most complex ideas. This, according to Lieu, is why she thought that “Transformations” would be a great show to have at Wellesley. “The artists fit into the Wellesley community,” she explained. Their work dealt with science, the weather, religion, psychology, history and even music. The show was organized because of Lieu’s interest in artists who work in 2-D and 3-D in a non-traditional progression. “Traditionally speaking,” she explained, “if you want to make a sculpture, you make drawings, preparatory drawings…the drawings are the beginning and the sculpture is the end.”
Many of the artists in this show make 3-D works as a means to make finished 2-D works. Crudelle-Janello for example, makes sculptures in order to create photographs and Thomas Lyon Mills makes 3-D works in order to create paintings. Ken Takashi Horii’s sculpture, on the other hand, includes both 2-D and 3-D elements with neither taking priority over the other. Other artists in the show, such as Nathalie Miebach, had sculptures that went with her musical scores as well as audio components.
The show opened on Thursday, March 4 and was well received with good attendance from both the Wellesley community as well as those outside Wellesley. Students were able to have conversations with the artists about their work and ideas behind it—some even finding similarities between their academic work at Wellesley and the art itself. The following day students were able to hear Thomas Lyon Mills and Ken Takashi Horii talk about their work in a gallery talk that was attended by both the public as well as art classes that were being held at that time.
“Transformations” is a truly interesting show, with work that is both intellectual as well as beautiful. It will open for viewing through April 10.