“Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together,” wrote celebrated Victorian-era art critic John Ruskin in an 1859 lecture. Though he defended many modern European artists, Ruskin would of course be shocked at Vassar’s very 21st-century social climate and art scene. However, if it was heart that he wished to emphasize in the creative process, he would certainly not be disappointed here.
In January and February, Vassar hosted the wide-ranging Modfest series, which showcased student artwork and brought in lecturers and performers from many disciplines to explore art in the contemporary world. The months-long festival is one of Vassar’s biggest art celebrations. Now comes Post-Modfest, an exhibition in the Mug of work by students who may not have a chance to exhibit elsewhere. Post-Modfest, which was organized by Loeb Multimedia Assistant Delphine Douglas ’18 and Colby Byrne ’18 of the pre-org Crafts not Bombs, will kick off with an opening-night event on Friday, April 15.
Douglas explained that the idea for Post-Modfest came out of a desire to open up exhibition space to all students. “Some friends and I thought it would be fun to help set up an art show for student work,” she explained, “because there wasn’t an official one [or] space to do so aside from shows associated with classes and the Art Department.”
The spirit of freedom that Post-Modfest adopted—there were no criteria for submitting work and almost everyone who entered was accepted—is reflected in the art that will be on display. As Byrne stated, “From interpretive dance to musical performances to video games to painting, Post-Modfest has been open to submissions of any kind, and so you can expect a lot of unique works.”
Two participating artists, Dakota Peterson ’19 and Saskia Globig ’19, may overlap somewhat regarding media, but their inspirations and creativity express themselves very differently.
Peterson submitted graphic, doodle-type pieces, such as multimedia caricatures and collages, as well as a figure drawing reworked with pastel.
Peterson’s artistic background lies mostly in graphite and charcoal drawing. She also has experience working with terra-cotta sculpture. However, she explained, “In high school, I took figure drawing classes…which helped me appreciate the process of drawing versus the final project.”
The knowledge she gained in learning about the progression of a piece from observation to sketch to final product was very humbling, making her appreciate not only the skill one needs to refine in order to draw, but also the creativity that the process can express.
Her interest in and reflection on this process will be visible in her art at Post-Modfest. As she stated, “I’d want visitors to take away the idea that anyone can make art and display it. The art I have up was partly created from doodles I made in class that I reworked. So it can be a very casual process. I’d also want visitors to walk away with new ideas to make their own art.”
Peterson’s description of her work harkens back to work such as early Picasso multimedia collages and Surrealist automatic drawing that attempted to unlock the inner workings of the mind. For Peterson, clearly, a sense of exploration, whimsy and pure creativity shine through in both her process and her final artworks.
Globig is also very interested in collage, having previously explored many media such as watercolor as well as charcoal figure drawing. She has experimented with both in the introductory Drawing I course at Vassar.
Her pieces in Post-Modfest, however, take a more sociological stance, considering in different ways the concept of identity. As she summed up, “I submitted two collages that explore different aspects of race in American empire-building, as well as a photographic self-portrait which doesn’t actually include an image of myself.” By viewing her work, visitors will be able to ponder if and how a faceless portrait can really portray a person, as well as how distorted and discriminatory views of America’s past contaminate the present and future.
Globig embodies a different side of art than Peterson does, one with an equal amount of passion, but that probes human realities rather than the creative process itself.
“Looking at my pieces,” Globig explained, “I hope people will be reminded that art is a viable means of social activism, and that students are very capable of wielding it … I [also] think it will prove that students’ endeavors outside structured classes are valued.”
Peterson and Globig are just two examples of the many students who submitted to Post-Modfest. Such variety, the organizers hope, will fill in some of the gaps that can be left in Art Department-sponsored events, which often showcase coursework that, by necessity, suspend unbridled individuality and creativity for the sake of perfecting technical skills.
As Douglas put it simply, “We just want it to be a fun event for everyone to enjoy each other’s art.” To this point, Byrne added that he hopes visitors will experience “…that there is a lot of talent and a lot of different kinds of talent on this campus, and that we should take more advantage of this opportunity in college to display our own work.”
Overall, Post-Modfest provides an open opportunity for the myriad artistic students on campus to be able to submit their work freely, letting their creativity speak for itself.
Globig affirmed, “There was never any sense of competition. The coordinators were just excited to see what people would bring, and that’s really fantastic.”
From collage and drawing to music and video, the experimental to the socially conscious, the combination of themes and media at Post-Modfest may be unconventional, but the sheer creativity they demonstrate are anything but devoid of traces of the hand, the head and especially the heart.