A Walk Through the Senior Thesis Art Exhibition: Shift + Ground

In Shift + Ground, Pitzer College’s senior thesis art exhibition, students explore humanity, identity, and the environment while constructing (or deconstructing) the world as they know it. Presented by the Pitzer College Art Galleries in several locations around the campus, these students’ artwork touches every sense through a myriad of mediums that immerse the viewer in a new perspective that is both transformative and evocative.

Upon first entering Pitzer’s Nichols Gallery, one may not immediately notice the faint crowing from Through the Eyes of the Crow, a new piece by Lily Fillwalk ’22. The sound comes from a small speaker between two silicone masks—one of a wrinkled, freckled old man and one of a stark black crow—that are both featured in a photo series of an “old man” casting a crow to the ground through the perspective of the crow. Around the corner, a video centers two people in crow masks as they discuss what to do next after witnessing one of their own be abused by a human. Through this work, Fillwalk is “exploring how the species might perceive fear and loss.”

In an untitled piece, Claire Manning ’22 manifests a strong passion for healthy food access and community building through several mediums, from a table filled with ceramic dinnerware, to photos documenting the cooking process, to a “Short Supply Chain Dinner Cookbook” with “recipes contributed by everyone!” This cookbook features recipes from a variety of people and cultures, with occasional stories about what the meal means to the person sharing it.

Where Creeks Go to Die by Max Otake ’22 documents fragmented landscapes in the San Antonio Creek and Dam through black-and-white photos scattered across the wall. The centerpiece is the same photograph posted in the middle of the wall and on the floor beneath, pinned down by gray stones: a portal of light at the end of a pitch-black tunnel leading to a place too bright to see or know. According to Otake, “through a process of abstracting the landscape, the boundaries between the natural and built environment become blurred.”

The next exhibit requires stepping outside to the Academic Quad, where Infestation: Shadows of the System by Julia Duran Stewart ’22 may not be immediately obvious. Only upon looking down does the viewer discover a trail of insects crawling along the ground and onto a column. On the back of each insect is a QR code with a dollar sign in the middle. These QR codes lead the viewer to “re-educational websites that serve to disrupt the hegemony of digital media.”

In Scott Hall, Jack Contreras ’22 has constructed Let Me Let You Go, an altarpiece of found artifacts that is a sculptural collage of the written word and elements of nature in a reclamation of beauty, love, and self-worth. Contreras beckons the viewer to interact with the artwork by presenting an array of Sharpie pens, colored paper, tissue paper, glitter, and dried plants and flowers. A framed invitation reads: “I invite you, gentle, growing souls, to release what no longer serves you for what deserves you. All emotional proceeds will be shredded, soaked, and blended into something beautiful.”

In the Lenzner Gallery, Olivia Meehan ’22 explores “the interpersonal, environmental, and economic histories within familial heirlooms” in Picturing the Colonial Trace. Meehan reframes these objects to “unlearn familial narratives of a benevolent British Empire.” A pile of gray wood ash sits in the center of the room. On one wall is a photo of Meehan’s ancestors as an Indian woman holds a parasol over their heads. On the opposite wall is the same photo with Meehan’s ancestors blurred out and with the unnamed Indian woman as the center of attention. A video shows Meehan trading places with their mother and grandfather to rub perfume on each other’s faces as they hold a carved sandalwood box from India—a family heirloom that testifies to the British imperialism woven into their lineage. The sandalwood box itself is present, available to open and experience the aroma.

Behind a curtain, Zoe Storz’s video, the perilous body: an interruption, layers spoken poetry with black-and-white photographs, giving fragmented views that are further obscured with marks and scratches. Storz tours the audience through flickering, broken imagery with haunting verses on history, family, and “the embodied experience of the feminine Asian American subject.” Storz offers an alternative translation of the project through a book printed on rice paper that shares the same photos and poetry in a different format that allows the viewer to dwell longer on the images and words.

Shift + Ground will be available for viewing through May 14 at 2 p.m. Pitzer College Art Galleries is open for groups of up to six people for 1-hour visits. Appointments are offered Tuesday through Saturday on the half-hour from 1–4:30 p.m. Make a reservation to visit the exhibition and complete the online health check form on the day of your visit, prior to arriving.