Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An LC Alum Reflects on the Senior Art Images Project

Untitled (Thoughts), Hannah Berry, 2012, oil on canvas, 40”x 60”
The Senior Art Project is a capstone for Lewis & Clark College Art majors and a point of pride and celebration for all members of the graduating class. These bodies of work are saved for posterity and are now easily accessible in Lewis & Clark’s very own, homegrown Senior Studio Art Archive!  In the beginning of every studio art major’s senior year, they are set to the task of composing a body of work that culminates on display at the end-of-year Senior Art Exhibition in the Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art on campus. Every Senior Art Exhibition has a different flavor because it is the sum total of each artist’s thoughts and ideas and physical work, poured into one project over two semesters. Just as everyone senses and reacts to the world in a different way, so every Senior Art Project is a beautifully unique visual (and sometimes video and audio and tactile) culmination of the art major’s entire Lewis & Clark career.

As a member of the 2012 graduating class, it is a privilege to witness how my peers’ projects have transformed from sketches to experiments to masterfully created final projects. In most ways it is entirely similar to capstone and thesis projects in other departments, differing only in spatial accessibility. The studio artist is an architect and her final work is a physical object that exists apart from her. It may be seen and viewed and felt by any viewer, without the artist as mediator (except in the case of performance art, where this concept is entirely reversed). Ideas take shape in paint and paper and ink and plaster and wood and plastic and linen and thread and metal and so on. It is therefore crucial that senior studio art projects be preserved in a medium that has the capacity for high image quality, large image format and easy accessibility.

In the years from 1993 - 2005, senior art projects were documented and archived in the form of 35mm slides, and from 2005-2008 on CD. The slides document exhibits in the old Peebles Art Building, which was torn down in 1995. Images were virtually inaccessible to those who were not able to physically visit the archive. From 2008 until recently, all senior art images were transferred to and stored on an online image database called MDID. It was an improvement in accessibility and damage control, as it is much easier to safely store a digital file than to do so for a delicate slide, yet the convoluted process of uploading images remained an unfortunate hindrance to the archival system. Now the html laden "middle man" has been eliminated and the legacy of the Art Department can grow with ease through Lewis & Clark’s archive, created by the Visual Resources Collection team at Aubrey R. Watzek Library!

Untitled from “Age Old” series, Will Steinhardt, 2012, ink on paper. 9” x 12”

Available through Lewis & Clark's Visual Resources Center, anyone with an LC username and password can navigate the multitude of senior projects by class year (1993-2012 and ongoing), creator, or medium (ceramics, sculpture, painting, drawing, multimedia, performance). Projects from the most recent graduating classes are accessible to the general public as the archive’s Featured Collections. All images are viewable in a large format that showcases an impressive level of detail, approaching the quality of preeminent art databases such as ArtStor. The Lewis & Clark Senior Art Archive presents a unique space where every studio art major’s culminating body of work is displayed in honest detail, stored for posterity and is easily accessible to anyone within the Lewis & Clark community.

With the graduation of the class of 2012 just recently behind us, it is fantastic timing for the beginning of this excellent archive. It was inspirational to witness the long awaited, hard-earned completion of my friends’ and peers’ projects, and it made me proud to see their finished work on the white and tall walls of the Hoffman Gallery. Now we are fortunate to be able to return to previous years and witness anew the beautiful and varied senior projects, each one a self-portrait in its own way, a fragment of that person at the time they were creating that work. The
Archive is an invaluable asset to the portfolios of graduating artists and it presents a new, enduring, and incredibly significant resource for the community at Lewis & Clark College.

[The Visual Resources team that created this archive was composed of these smart and wonderful people: Stephanie Beene, Natalie Saing and Hanna White, Visual Resources Center Student Assistants, Anneliese Dehner and Jeremy McWilliams of the Digital Initiatives Dept. @ Watzek Library and the folks at the Lewis & Clark Art Department!]

---Penelope Cottrell-Crawford, Visual Resources Intern and Assistant, 2011-2012 (Lewis & Clark College, 2011, walked with the 2012 graduating class)