Arts & Humanities

Art Fills the Void

Students use 3D-scanning technology to mount senior thesis show.

By Shea Seery ’20 | May 4, 2020

How do artists cope when a disaster shuts down their project? For a group of Reed students whose Renn Fayre installation was canceled by Covid-19, the answer was to pivot, reconceptualize, and begin anew. This year, Reedies help Reedies by designing an online platform to host the Thesis Art Exhibition.

“When school was shut down and Renn Fayre was cancelled we were still hungry to collaborate and make a new project,” said artist Ezra Bergmann ’20. “After brainstorming over Zoom, we felt that one of the groups hurt most by the pandemic was the studio art seniors, as their thesis exhibition was cancelled.” The students came up with a plan to create a 3D virtual world where viewers experience the reimagined exhibition. Translating the complex work of studio art seniors—which included 2-D, 3-D and performance art—into a digital format involved learning new software (Blender and Unity), working with huge file sizes while avoiding paid cloud services, and coordinating everything virtually. The group—Ezra plus Shea Seery ’20, Tatiana Zancajo-Lugo ’20 and Connor Stockton Seymour ’21—met on Zoom daily. 

“I am really proud of the amount of effort we have put into this show,” Tatiana reflects. “We’ve exercised an incredible amount of discipline and dedication to deliver this massive project on time.”

“I was really excited when the project was introduced,” said artist Sophia Farmer ’20, whose planned thesis project was to use ceramic vessels, candles, foodstuffs, performance, photographs and video to simulate bodies’ relationships with the ocean and coral reefs. “I had to realize the virtual show was going to be very different from what I previously imagined, but when I 3D scanned my work, it changed and improved. The pieces looked more like coral than ever before.” 

For Connor, the most rewarding aspect was showing the artists what was possible in a 3D virtual environment. “Sparkles, flowing water, realistic reflections!” they said. “Lots of people weren’t used to working in digital media, so it was really exciting to get to share that with them.”  

Prof. Gerri Ondrizek [art] highlighted how much extra effort the digital show represents. “This exhibition is an entirely new creation on top of what the students were working on all year,” she said. “We’re impressed.”

“Everyone in the art department was extremely supportive and inspired,” said Ezra. “The seniors were grateful for the opportunity to formally show their work, and to do so as a group.” As an art senior himself, Ezra found the experience helped him stay motivated. “It sparked an energy that I desperately needed to complete my thesis under these circumstances. Also, knowing what is possible with digital creations opens a new horizon of opportunities for future artworks.” 

Ezra, Shea, Tatiana, and Connor are already planning future projects to support artists during the COVID-19 pandemic. After the thesis show opens, they are pursuing Reed grant funding to serve local artists this summer.

The 2020 Thesis Art Exhibition will be posted on Friday, May 8, at https://www.reed.edu/art/student-resources/theses/2020/. An opening reception over Zoom will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. PDT so people can talk to the artists and meet each other (check back via link above at 4 p.m. on Friday for dial-in details). Artists represented in the show are Ezra Bergmann ’20, Steven Garcia ’20, Sophia Farmer ’20, Duncan King ’20, Hannah Jensvold ’20, and Maor Shapiro ’20. Sound for the show was created by Ryan Gamblin ’19.

 

Tags: Academics, Campus Life, Cool Projects, Students, Covid-19