Virtual Exhibits Showcase Fairfield Art Students' Creativity and Ingenuity

Virtual Exhibits Showcase Fairfield Art Students' Creativity and Ingenuity

empty chairs at art gallery

A sample of student artwork featured in the Sophomore Residential Colleges's collaborative "Deconstruct/Reconstruct" virtual exhibit created by Caroline Nowakowski '21.

From digital catalogs and virtual art exhibits to online photo galleries, Fairfield University’s visual and performing arts students are embracing technology to share their creative perspective with the world.

Our students’ accomplishments are always impressive, but they have risen to meet this semester’s challenges in such creative ways, and with such positive attitudes, that they have become role models for us all.

— Marice Rose, PhD, chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department

The coronavirus may have temporarily shuttered museums and galleries across the globe, but like many of the word’s most innovative artists, Fairfield University’s visual and performing arts students are developing new ways to share their creative and curative works using an array of online platforms and digital resources.

“Amidst the disappointment of not being able to come together on campus to share in our art majors’ artistic and curatorial accomplishments, our students are engaged in making virtual public art events to bring comfort and connection to wide audiences beyond the University,” said Marice Rose, PhD, chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department. “Our students’ accomplishments are always impressive, but they have risen to meet this semester’s challenges in such creative ways, and with such positive attitudes, that they have become role models for us all.”

Art history major Matthew Waldemar ’20 epitomizes this spirit of student resiliency and ingenuity. He'd spent months contacting artists across the U.S. in preparation for the University’s first student-curated contemporary art exhibition, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced him to switch gears. Originally planned to open in Loyola Hall’s Lukacs and Experimental Space Galleries after spring break, his exhibit, Bawdy Project: A Study of Masculinity through the Canon of Art, was reevaluated and reconfigured to take on new life as a unique virtual experience.

Scheduled to debut later this month, the opening of Bawdy Project will be announced on the Humanities Seminar senior fellow’s Instagram account, @matthewwaldemar. It will feature a combination of curated works from emerging artists and historical works from the canon of art history, to survey how visual culture has constructed notions of the ideal male form and the culture of masculinity throughout time. 

“Using an art history lens, I wanted to create a visual time travel studying the culture of masculinity and how it has influenced the way men see themselves,” Waldemar said. “I think there are important attributes that we can draw from the canon of art history to create healthier visuals of the masculine, and I am asking viewers to consider how  can we redefine masculinity as a concept and as a practice so that it is inclusive, healthy, and counts for the experiences of all men from every racial, gendered, sexual, and ethnic background.”

Molly Lamendola ‘22 and her classmates from the art history capstone course taught by Philip Eliasoph, PhD, also met the challenge of transitioning a carefully curated art installation into a visually rewarding virtual experience. Created in partnership with Southport, Connecticut's historic Pequot Library, Art of the Book: Evolution of Period Style from 1520-2020 was originally intended as a physical art history exhibition featuring five decades of print and design curated from the library’s Rare Book Collection. But once the pandemic hit and the library closed, Lamendola and her classmates were challenged to rethink their senior seminar project and find a new way to share their research with the greater Fairfield community. 

The result of their efforts was a unique digital catalog and virtual exhibition that examines how print, style, and art history have collectively reflected the world around us for more than 500 years, providing invaluable insight into the zeitgeist of different eras throughout history. In addition to featuring a collection of student essays and vibrant photography analyzing art and media from the Reinaisannce to present day, the virtual collection also features a 16-minute student film, all of which will be available for viewing on the DiMenna-Nyselius Library's Digital Commons website later this month.

“I find it incredibly cool that we were able to put together our own book that, as a digital edition, will provide our children and our children’s children with insight into our own zeitgeist," Lamendola said. “They’ll see for themselves how this era utilized and pushed modern technology to new heights in a time of pandemic.”

While Lamendola and Waldermar were busy curating virtual exhibits to showcase the work of artists around the world, students enrolled in Fairfield’s Sophomore Residential College “Digital Photography” course were finding creative ways to exhibit their own original artwork in the virtual sphere. The course, which integrates the creative goals of an artist with the Residential College’s objective to answer the questions “Who am I?”, “Whose am I?”, and “Who I am called to be?”, encourages students to explore contemporary approaches to photography while examining the many ways in which a photograph “speaks” to its viewers.

The first project to emerge from the course was a joint collaboration with studio art professor Jo Yarrington, PhD’s “Experiments in Drawing” class. As Covid-19 closed creative studios on campus, Dr. Yarrington and visual and performing arts instructor Cheryl Yun asked their students to collect headlines from the front page of The New York Times and use them to create politically and socially engaged artwork inspired by historical and contemporary artists. Using limited supplies, conversing through email, and exchanging work through Google Drive, the students successfully collaborated from a distance to create an engrossing online exhibition titled Decontruct/Reconstruct, which documents this unprecedented time in history from their unique perspectives.

The second project to emerge from the course is called Distance, a moving online gallery that uses digital photography to capture the effect of distance on daily life in a powerful and personal way. More than 15 students brought their unique perspective to the project, using shallow depth of field, forced perspective, the power of words, and empty spaces to encapsulate the mental, emotional, and physical impact that distance can have, especially during a time of social quarantine.

To learn more about Fairfield University’s Visual and Performing Arts Department and student projects, visit www.fairfield.edu/vpa.

Tags:  Top Stories,  College of Arts & Sciences

Last modified: 05-15-20 8:25 AM

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