[Author's Note: The following review will appear in Friday's edition of the Wooster Voice.]
As I write this, I'm sitting on someone's senior I.S.—a piece of it, at least. Alexandra Cotter's “Collages: Exploration of Furniture Design Using Found Objects” is one of three senior exhibits currently on display at Ebert Art Gallery. The space is, as always, like none other on campus—a room abuzz with ideas, speaking through the breathtaking achievements of the featured student artists.
Cotter's furniture, constructed entirely of discarded materials, is beautiful both in concept and execution. Each of the five sets emphasizes the role of chance in art, the interaction between deliberate intent and serendipity. Relics of the materials in their past lives lend the furniture many of its most striking qualities.
“Each piece I incorporated into the collage has its own story,” she writes in her abstract. “All of these smaller stories are pieced together to create a new entity, which I find fascinating.”
Evidence of these stories are everywhere, in patterns which might connote lamps or crates reincarnated as stools or tables, raising countless questions about the way commercial or functional cues inform our understanding of art, or the way our interaction with materials shapes their destinies.
While “Collages” necessarily blends with the gallery itself, stepping into Dana Bustamante's “Imagorium for 'the Prince'” is like stepping into another world. Bustamante drew on the traditional imagorium, a Mouridiyya Senegalese space for images and objects both secular and sacred, and a single photograph of this “Prince,” a homeless man in Lamu, Kenya, whom Bustamante encountered during her study there. With almost fugal imitation, her iconic portrait of the man in profile is transposed seamlessly onto nearly every corner of the exhibit and explored in countless variations of medium, style, and implication.
More than an intense reflection on a single character, however, the Imagorium is a panorama of life, vibrantly captured, as Bustamante witnessed it in Kenya and Tanzania. The exhibit manages to be a testament to both the individual and the collective, and the fact that the two are not at war here contributes to the Imagorium's intended spiritual resonance.
The diversity of the work she displays, from patterned cloths and photographic collages to paintings and simple sketches, reveals the full spectrum of her processing her experience and the range of possibility that emerges from a single spark—an apt expression of the non-definitiveness of art.
Adrienne B. Livingston's “Clusters & Constellations: Music and Mixed Media” takes on another wholly distinct style set and visual language, at once sparse and provocative. In her abstract, she proclaims, “I believe that people's lives are political lives,” and she draws on the words of some of the sharpest and most unsparing musicians and poets as the framework for her examination of contemporary society.
Livingston's images are as big and bold as the lines with which they're paired. Ani DiFranco's snarling “My country 'tis of thee / to take shots at each other on primetime TV” is captured in a graffiti-like piece incorporating an angry Muslim face, the McDonald's “i'm lovin' it” slogan, and drooping, blood-red flowers. Next to it, DiFranco's “Just remember you were there / you were always there” is simply and memorably rendered as an elephant.
Each piece is mounted on formations of overlapping black circles, suggesting clouds or, ingeniously, LPs, reinforcing the centrality of pop culture to the language we use to render modern times.
All three exhibits are endlessly thought-provoking and transformative. Wooster students, particularly those who don't often get to see peers' artwork, owe themselves this experience.