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Monmouth students ‘collaborate’ with artists to create ‘Under the Influence’ exhibit

Barry McNamara
12/14/2016
A painting by Carolyn Scherpe ’17

It was only on display for a few days, but a student exhibit in the Everett Gallery showcased the rich creative talents of Monmouth College art majors.

Students in art professor Brian Baugh’s “Contemporary Art” class were completely responsible for the “Under the Influence” exhibit in the gallery, which was on display from Dec. 9-13. They hung the exhibit, provided the food for the opening reception and removed the exhibit, in addition to making the art. Each student created one work of art while “under the influence” of an accomplished artist. 

“They had to earn this,” Baugh said of the privilege of having the exhibit in the Everett Gallery. “Judgment day was two weeks ago. They’ve had the whole semester to work on their piece, and on that day, I determined that the pieces were strong enough for an exhibit.”

Rubi Nogueron ’18 of Chicago created the largest piece in the exhibit – a painting of the late Aaron Fry ’16, who died of cancer in August.

“I was inspired by Jenny Saville’s idea of the ‘anti-beauty,’” Nogueron wrote. “What (Saville) considered anti-beauty was actually a feminist standpoint against those who found women’s bodies (to be) ugly or not to be seen naked in public.”

Nogueron used that idea, and also Saville’s painting style, to depict the once hefty Fry as he “slowly disintegrated to a very narrow, skinny frail man.”

“Throughout chemo, he continued to be positive, and that was something I tried hard to show in this painting,” she wrote. “Painting this, however, was very hard for me. His death has taken a toll on my mental well-being, but somehow I found happiness by creating this. Painting Aaron helped me cope with his death. I wanted to paint the beauty that is my trauma and show the world the Aaron I knew quite well.”

Mickayla Valenzuela ’18 of Chicago “collaborated” with sculptor Antony Gormley, taking special note of his work Fields For The British Isles, which consists of about 40,000 “little clay figures.”

“For my clay figures, I wanted them to become more than what Gormley had made from his,” she wrote. “I wanted my ‘clay babies’ to represent emotion and that they are individuals. I want people to see themselves within my clay babies, and I ended up putting a lot of myself into each figure. I needed to make sure I stepped away from just copying Gormley and that I put myself into this project.”

The class is essentially about art history, Baugh said, so creating the art was just one facet. The students also wrote papers and took exams.

“It’s a big, ambitious project,” Baugh said of the exhibit, while surrounded by the students’ artworks and by a large group of students and faculty who attended the opening. “I think it turned out pretty good.”