“Recontextualized” puts student art in a professional museum
This Saturday, Oct. 13, undergraduate and graduate students have their work showcased in a pop-up art exhibit titled “Recontextualized” at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM). The opportunity for student work to be displayed in a professional, off-campus setting does not come often, especially in a space as distinguished and well-respected as the museum in downtown St. Louis known for showcasing the influential visual art and artists of today. The event, which includes student paintings, prints, photos and sculptures, was made possible thanks to the work of Residential Area Real Art (RARA), Wash. U.’s student-run arts initiative, as well as Bazaar Boy, Kuumba and Art Council.
As co-chair of RARA, junior Vanessa Gravenor and her colleagues started planning “Recontextualized” over the summer by communicating with the CAM, fellow artists and other clubs. “This has been very different from other shows I’ve done because they’re usually by artists for artists,” she said. “But because we’re working with Kuumba and Bazaar Boy, it’s not just from the artists’ point of view—a lot of the people involved aren’t artists. This time it was more about publicizing and working in alternative ways to get people to come to the show.” One of these “alternative” methods of hyping up the event was a video made by Kuumba highlighting the work of senior Marisa Adesman, whose art will appear in the CAM show.
The title Recontextualized” comes from the idea that this show is giving students a chance to put their artwork in a new context: off-campus, in a museum setting, surrounded by various mediums and experiences. The poster for the event is appropriately all white and gray. “We were thinking about how the general context of art museums is white walls, and so people think that the proper context for artwork is a white room,” said junior Julie Safferstein, who designed the poster and worked with all of the involved clubs to publicize the event. “We went for a really minimal poster that sort of looked like a museum setting,” she said. Safferstein will also have her artwork showcased in the exhibit on Saturday. Although she’s a communications design major, her series, “The Hearth Trap,” is six photographs—all spin-offs of a performative piece she did during her semester abroad in Florence.
“I was thinking about my homesickness while I was abroad, and I represented it as this mass that I was carrying around with me, which I created out of balloons and plastic bags. I was photographed carrying it around Florence to represent the way I was functioning with this homesickness and how it caused unnecessary detours and difficulties,” she explained.
Safferstein’s performance piece was turned into an aesthetically sequenced series of photographs so that she could document it in a more familiar way, making it fitting for the CAM show’s theme. “This work was originally contextualized in Italy, but I sort of shifted what the art was so that I could take it home with me—and now it’s ‘recontextualized’ in America,” she said.
Another student whose work will be featured in the CAM show is senior Melissa Gollance. She described her sculpture, “Opt,” as a large crop tool like the one in Photoshop. “It’s on a hinge so you can actually crop the space as you look through it and edit what you’re looking at,” she said.
Gollance’s work focuses on merging physical and technological space and finding where that intersection lies. “We have identity in social media and identity in real life, and they really do overlap, but they can be different because we can control them in different ways. I’ve been experimenting with visual signifiers in technological space, putting them in real time and real space, and seeing how people interact with them,” Gollance said.
Like many students participating in the CAM exhibition, Gollance is grateful for the chance to have her work showcased in an off-campus space with a strong reputation and appreciates all of RARA’s hard work. “People really need to believe in organizing these shows because not enough people in the art world know how or have the motivation to do it. It’s the only way artists are going to get recognition and get their names out there,” she said.
To see all the talent and ingenuity poured into this show both by student-run clubs and student artists, catch the pop-up exhibition at the CAM this Saturday from 8 p.m. to midnight. There will be buses shuttling from Brookings Hall starting at 7:45 p.m. With refreshments, entertainment by Upside Sounds and an exhibit filled with work by your classmates, it’s sure to be a worthwhile, novel experience.