Studio Art in the South Pacific: Student Art Show opens in Boliou Hall

Selected works from students offer insight into their off-campus studies in the South Pacific.

Mileana Borowski '25 17 April 2023 Posted In:
student drawing on rocks in front of sunset
Students draw the sunset on Mount Oberon in Wilsons Promontory National Park. Photo by program assistant Isabel Arevalo '21.Photo:
Student pulling print
Hsar Sar Lwin ‘24 pulls a print for her edition at the Australian Print Workshop. Photo by Isabel Arevalo ’21.

Students coming back from the bright beaches of the South Pacific brought their sunny sketches to campus this term, timing their exhibit perfectly with the return of sunshine to Carleton during the second week of spring term. April 4 marked the opening of the Studio Art in the South Pacific: Student Art Show, which will run until April 21 in Boliou Hall’s East Gallery.

In the exhibit, Carleton art students share the visual manifestation of their experiences after a winter term abroad. Spread out on display tables and hung on gallery walls are the sketches and finished works of Katrin Birk ’25, Miriam Chasnov ’25, Tyler Chodera ’25, Tonushree Chowdhury ’24, Luisa Cichowski ’24, Ethan Cline-Cole ’25, Seven Delgado ’24, Eunice Gao ’24, Eve Gorman ’23, Grace Hanson ’24, Maya Jable ’25, Riaz Kelly ’24, Anna Klein ’23, Kira Kunzman ’24, Joella Lai ’23, Hsar Sar Lwin ’24, Kaija Maier ’25, Grace Malooly ’25, Ruby Mead ’24, Elena Parkerson ’25, Sophie Rast ’24, Alex Tananbaum ’25, Isabella Vazquez ’24, Abbi Vosen ’25, Hannah Ward ’24 and Ellie Weston ’24.

students hiking
Daily hikes through the Gorge gave students a chance to learn about and connect with the place’s history, ecology and ongoing cultural significance. Photo by Isabel Arevalo ’21.

For Eleanor Jensen ’01, visiting assistant professor of art, this trip was both familiar and new. While she participated in this off-campus studies (OCS) program as a student and later assisted Professor Fred Hagstrom—who ran the program biannually from the late 1990s until his recent retirement—for many years, Jensen only recently took on the role as faculty director of the program. Jensen was the instructor for all courses as well, assisted by guest lecturers and visiting artists.

Reflecting upon the various perspectives with which she engaged on this trip, Jensen shared how “throughout that evolution, this trip continues to be incredibly influential to me and how I think about drawing as a tool for observation, connecting to the natural environment, teaching outside the classroom, learning the story of a place, telling a story through artwork, being a thoughtful traveler and deepening relationships with students.”

students at workshop looking at prints
Australian Print Workshop’s Simon White looks on with students at the array of final works. Photo by Isabel Arevalo ’21.

Sketchbooks are splayed open in the East Gallery to offer glimpses into the three month-long artistic journey the students went on as they “created a visual journal—through drawing and printmaking—of their experiences abroad.” Watercolor landscapes mingle with pen-and-ink portraits, some labeled, others’ identities left a mystery. Quick studies capturing the setting sun sit side-by-side with agonizingly detailed two-page spreads of sun-soaked hills and bubbling brooks, with sailboats rendered in incredibly thin brush strokes.

Scrawled between sketches, short notes from the artists can be found breathing life into the drawings. Peppered throughout the books are notes such as an enthusiastic “Wombat spotting! Feb ’23” or the more informational “A bluff near the fossil cliffs,” “still life of shells from Triabunna Jan ’23” and “Malooly and button grass at the top of the twelve trees track, Jan 21, 2023.” Some “notes” are really full journal entries, with one student’s cursive lettering framing detailed sketches of a mushroom-covered log and a worn-down skull.

Katrin Birk ‘25 and Ethan Cline-Cole ‘25 prepare their intaglio plates to run through the printing press. Photo by Isabel Arevalo ’21.

The finished work hung on the gallery walls provide a different window into the OCS trip for visitors to peer through. These more refined slivers are the culmination of hours spent tackling new printmaking skills at the Australian Print Workshop in Melbourne.

In a piece titled “Return” by Katrin Birk ’25, hatch-marks layer upon each other to create the voluminous, rippling trunk of a sprawling tree in a stunning intaglio print. Ellie Weston ’24 showcased a variety of skills in her double depiction of expansive architecture framed by foliage. Her abstract watercolor captures the vivid hues of a blue sky serving as a background for splashes of glittering green trees and inviting archways shadowed with purple. Hanging above, her black and white intaglio print titled “In Fitzroy” portrays the very same scene, evoking a much more formal tone of the terraces with mysterious passages, their destinations now cast in deep black shadows.

student poses with sketchbook in front of sunset
Miriam Chasnov ‘25 poses with her sunset watercolor from the top of Mount Oberon in Wilsons Promontory. Photo by Isabel Arevalo ’21.

“Cicada” offers a playful spin on the print assignment, showing a sepia-toned cicada flying through a star-speckled night sky carrying a wicker basket. In a nearby print, “The Showdown,” knights ride a wing-clad bug and mouse respectively, extending jousting sticks toward each other.

Portraits and landscapes dominate the subjects found in the intaglio prints framing the exhibit, but diversity is still everywhere in the prints. Seven Delgado ’24 conveyed rich emotion in their piece “Glutton,” with a black background starkly contrasting the light-gray face—eyes scrunched tight—buried into fisted hands in the foreground. “Last Potato Peeling at 54 Holly” by Anna Klein ’23 captures a bright, domestic scene of a dog patiently laying at the feet of someone peeling potatoes, perhaps hoping for scraps. Using strong light and dark tones, “Bus” by Sophie Rast ’24 draws the viewer into a scene of three people walking along a road framed by dense trees toward an oncoming bus. Weighty black lines trail the figures as their dramatized shadows extend to the end of the page and medium-tone trees fade into a soft-gray mountain upon a faint-gray sky.

Students enter the Amphitheater, a rock formation and important sites of reflection for the Karingbal and Bidjara people. Photo by Isabel Arevalo ’21.

The contrast between gray washes and linework is prominent throughout the exhibit. In “St. Patrick’s Cathedral” by Kira Kunzman ’24, bold lines capture the sturdy architectural lines of a steeple. Similar techniques occur in a picturesque portrayal of iconic Carleton landmarks: Goodsell Observatory, the Chapel, Sayles and Anderson. Another intaglio print titled “A Car that I Used to Know” features graphic lines distinctly marking the structure of a car, layering multiple angles of the same car over each other to create a dimensional print.

The diversity of subject, style and medium found in the exhibit demonstrates the goal of the Studio Art in the South Pacific program, which is for students to “learn to draw from nature in a new environment, produce narrative artwork in response to travel, study environmental and cultural issues in context” and ultimately “bring together a studio art practice with the experiential learning of off-campus study.”

“I am grateful for these program experiences,” Jensen said, “and to have so much work in this space as tangible proof of these efforts.”