A new exhibit of artwork by Vassar students, “Beyond Recognition,” opened this past Thursday, Dec. 1 in the Palmer Gallery. Any studio art major not doing a senior project this semester was invited to participate in this exhibit, and six students ended up taking part. They all worked independently to create their art, so there was no one unified focus of the project. Despite this, many of the same themes seemed to emerge from the exhibit as a whole, and the pieces fit together very well. Phoebe Kinder ’24 explained, “We all had seen each other’s art before putting it up, and then it was a very collaborative process of bringing our work in here and talking about how we wanted to show it in relation to one another.” The result is that the colors, textures and styles used by the different students transition seamlessly into one another as you walk around the gallery. Each artist’s work is unmistakably unique, but the group clearly worked together with intentionality to arrange the space.
In one of Kinder’s pieces, “Road Trip,” a family road trip becomes the stage for important questions about relationships. The work is made up of three pieces of paper that all depict parts of a big yellow car, arranged in such a way that space is left between the paper. From far away, the image looks like a simple depiction of a car, but closer up you can see the people that are on the trip—a hand reaching out a window, a figure in the driver’s seat. “They’re all sharing a space, but each person is kind of in their own world and experiencing something very different,” Kinder explained. The disjointed body parts, beautifully drawn, emphasize the emotional distance that the piece emulates.
“I think my work this semester has been about people and people interacting, and learning how to show the body on a piece of paper while kind of disrupting expectations of how bodies look,” Kinder told me. While this wasn’t an explicit theme of the exhibit, many other artists also found varied and interesting ways to depict bodies through their work. In “Vampire L O/U V/S E/T,” Haley Whetstone ’23’s photographs of a vampiric couple, showcase physical intimacy in a way that is playful but profound. In Leaf Quilty ’23’s “Boy Tits,” the subject’s naked chest is literally centered and uplifted through the figure’s position and the colorful, textured frame. Jordyn Panzer ’24’s drawings of figures use color and different stylistic choices to emphasize particular features—many are black and white faces with red lips, and their expressions are varied but never smiling, leaving the viewer to consider the body as a physical site of emotion.
Other artists also used color in interesting ways. In Anna Kaufman ’23’s “Autumn Bark; Autumn Hands,” the artist creates a scene that is abstract but very methodical. On two pieces of paper next to each other, detailed patterns outline a cheerful landscape. From one piece of paper to the next, the patterns are continuous, but the color scheme changes.
Anne Goldsmith ’24 uses fabric with a variety of media—fabric, thumbtacks, patchwork pieces and ink—to create beautifully intricate pieces that are at once practical and eye-catching. As the caption of one piece describes, Goldsmith aims to explore how fiber arts have historically been looked down on due to their traditional association with femininity: “Questioning the differences between art and craft, the work either focuses on character, tradition, or limitation,” she writes. In one work, what looks like a paper napkin is stitched into the piece and transformed—I was struck by how such a simple material could be elevated so much.
“Beyond Recognition” showcases the talent and creativity of the artists and is an engaging and captivating exhibit. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the work of Vassar artists through visiting the gallery, and I highly recommend visiting the show this winter.