art piece with colorful paper strung on strings hanging from the ceiling

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Photos by Tara Graves and Matthew McKern

In their senior year, Whitman College’s studio art majors conclude their studies with a final thesis exhibition. The theme of this year’s show, decided by the 11 graduating students, is “STILL LIFE: Senior Thesis 2021.”

Justin Lincoln, associate professor of art, sees the theme of still life as reminiscent of the renowned filmmaker Stan Brakhage’s Metaphors on Vision,” which explores what the world looks like to someone not yet trained by society to interpret it in a specific, predetermined manner. “How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of “green?” asks Brakhage. Art, or more specifically a still life, is an opportunity to “share what we truly value and to look at the world with new eyes,” says Lincoln.

The exhibition itself, located in Sheehan Gallery, was skillfully brought together through the hard work of faculty, staff, students and the Whitman community. Lincoln, along with Maria Lux, assistant professor of art, acted as advisors for the students, who wrote proposals for the installation of their works. Over three weeks in the spring, two students at a time were allowed to put up their sections of the exhibition within pandemic safety protocols.

The installations were coodinated with the assistance of Kynde Kiefel and Daniel Forbes, the gallery's co-directors, along with Sheehan Gallery Assistant Tara Graves.

“We carefully consider the nature of the student’s work, the mediums they are working in and how to break those up space to space, what you’ll see first from the hallway in Olin and what might catch your eye from the entryway, the relationships between the various projects, and the overall story it will tell about this particular group,” says Kiefel.

Enjoy a preview of the works in the exhibition, along with excerpts from these recent graduates’ artist statements. See more at the Sheehan Gallery’s virtual walk-through of the exhibition.

Bailey Flinn
“Precious Whelming”

The work laid out before you is an expression of freedom, femininity, and community. It was inspired by the strong community of women in my life, and women everywhere who strengthen and support one another. This is why they take up space, why they are loud, and why they are unapologetically present.”

Kieran Gallagher “Towers in the Park” sculpture

Kieran Gallagher
“Towers in the Park”

“This tower is both erupting from, and falling back into dirt, from which ivy spreads. The dirt and ivy act as nature reclaiming its space, fighting off urbanism and yet English ivy is incredibly invasive and named after the biggest colonizers in history. As a white person making this for my expensive art degree, this work challenges me to understand my role in propagating colonialism and white saviorism.”

Emma Greenberg
“Secret Forest” 

The images you see are a combination of photographs of water reflections and small plants I’ve attached to the slides. I explore the abstraction of organic shapes—whether through the distortion of the water’s surface or through the shadows created by the plants. In this way of looking, I want to connect back to the imagination and feelings of familiarity and belonging in nature from my childhood.”

View the sideshow film here.

Daniel Hernried
“Man Up | tighty-whiteys”

“The objects were chosen based on past experiences to further discover where masculinity resides within society. Prominently displaying the molds emphasizes the manner by which these objects come into being. These objects relate to masculinity through the processes used to create them, as well as the fact that they hang in tighty-whiteys.”

Hannah Herrgesell

“What is a fox? Is it a wild animal? A pest? A pet? A mythical creature?”

“This work explores human and animal relationships. As an artist pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, I explore the contradictions between facts and assumptions, reality and fantasy, and the contrast between human perceptions and animal behaviors and dispositions.”

Maddy Mellema

“Through my work, I honor the countless Asian immigrants who both survived and lost their lives while seeking refuge in the United States. These wood engravings specifically highlight the stories of individuals that came through Angel Island, an immigration station in San Francisco during 1910-late 1940s.

“In order for us to make significant progress towards combating racism people must educate themselves on the embedded histories of racism in America, and how it presents itself in today’s society; and that begins with you.”

Kylie Pittsinger “Lee and the King of Frogs” artwork

Kylie Pittsinger
“Lee and the King of Frogs”

What I’ve brought here today is not a finished product. It’s what I consider the starting point of a graphic novel that has been brewing in my mind for quite some time now. Alongside prints of my completed pages I felt it important to include my process, such as character sketches, writings, and recorded footage of myself creating my work in order to pull back the curtains and show all the small steps that have led to its culmination.”

Jane Sheehan
“S U S P I R I A : S Y Z Y G Y” 

This work is born from an internal exploration and acceptance of myself as a whole. In these paintings, I aim to capture a moment in flux; where elements, ideas, and forms circulate to create feelings of uncertainty and wonder. Over the past two years, I have struggled with choosing a path as I felt pulled between the worlds of astrophysics and fine art.”

Erin Tyler  
“What If This Is Enough?”

“I am indulging the idea that what I have, what I've done, is enough. It feels like a radical way of being – choosing contentment while being told we must always be demanding more. We’ve gotten so good at creating scarcity that perhaps it’s a question we need to hear – what if this is enough? Just imagine. Let it in, let it steep. See where it takes you.”

Andruw Urdiales
“faneto x happiness”

“My thesis is simply a short film about what it is like to be me, Andruw Urdiales. 

Resembling ‘a day in the life,’ this short film is, ultimately, a collection of self-written poems, memories, and the people that have made up my home for the past four years, contrasting the nostalgia of the past and the dullness of day-to-day life in 2021.”

The full film can be viewed here.