A Walk through the Williams Room: Reviewing the 2003 HBS Art Show

The Art Appreciation Society organized the second Annual HBS Art Show last week from the 28th to the 30th of October in the Williams Room at Spangler Centre.

According to Aliceson Robinson (OA), Co-President of the Art Appreciation Society, the objectives of the show are two-fold. First, it provides a venue for student artists to showcase their work, thus drawing out into the open the hidden artistic talents of the members of the HBS community.

As I walked around the show, it was quite interesting to hear the surprised exclamations when a wandering visitor would come across a section mate’s creation and suddenly realize that the person he or she had been sitting next to for the past three months had more intriguing depths beyond a predilection for investment banking and an unholy interest in calculating cash flows.

Second, the Art Show’s goal is to expose the HBS community in general to art. According to Robinson, the Society realizes that, due to time constraints, HBS students are hardly able to take advantage of Boston’s rich cultural scene. So, the Art Show is an attempt to bring art into their living room, so to speak.

This year’s Art Show was an even greater success than the inaugural show last year. About 300 people attended the opening day cocktail reception itself, where you could discuss specific works with the artists themselves, to the musical accompaniment of HBS’ very own and very talented Acappella groups – Heard on the Street’s & She-E-Os.

The Art Show itself displayed the work of twenty six artists who created magic using a variety of media – painting, photography, jewelry-making – and on a diversity of topics – animals, children, Marilyn Monroe et al. All the works were excellent but there were a few which drew more attention because of their sheer novelty:

Artist: Adam Frost (RC)
Title: Regeneration

This piece catches your eye from afar because of its unusual coloring coupled with its large size. It is a framed collage of the Phoenix made with autumn leaves of various colors – red, green, brown. The Phoenix is perfect in its dimensions and beautiful in the impression it gives of rising gently through the air. The artist has taken great pains to find leaves which are undamaged and of similar hues within a certain color. This gives the collage very clean cut and striking lines.

The inspiration behind the piece is, in the artist’s own words, “the wonder at seeing New England fall colors for the first time, patchwork quilts, Matthew Ch. 6 verse 28-29, the poetry of Neruda and Gerard Manley and a munificent muse”.

As such, it is interesting to note the apt juxtaposition of the subject and the inspiration – the Phoenix with its legendary regeneration from the ashes and autumn, the season in which the earth – trees, soil, and sky – begins to renew herself.

Artist: Sanghyun Lee (RC)
Title: 10554 Post – Its

This is again a very colorful and striking work. The artist has used 10554 Post-It notes of various colors, pasting them on a plastic base, to recreate Andy Warhol’s famous depiction of Marilyn Monroe’s face. Some of the colors have been created by as many as four differently colored Post-It Notes layered on top of each other. The artist has been working on this piece for the past two years and his penchant for perfection shows through quite clearly. The execution is superb with every note having been placed delicately and smoothly to create a wonderful colorful whole.

The artist’s inspiration to make this, in his own words, is that “it’s cheaper to make one than to buy one”. To clarify that somewhat – the artist got the idea to create this collage when he saw a similar work, though a much smaller one, being sold for two thousand dollars which he thought too expensive.

There is again an ironical aptness in the choice of the subject and the medium – a work by Andy Warhol, who was a self-confessed pop artist, not inclined to tread the beaten paths of traditional art and Post-It Notes, in that sense, as much of a “pop medium” as any can be!

Artist: Heather Harwood Stamper
Title: Energy Game

This is again a very different piece. It is a Caribou which has been sculpted using petroleum products. The artist’s inspiration was the debate surrounding the opening of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for Oil Exploration. The Refuge is a breeding ground for Caribou herds held sacred by the inhabitants of that land and has a rich and vibrant ecosystem which will be threatened by oil exploration activities.

This piece is meant to serve as a physical representation of “the objectification of this creature for the gain of man” and its starkness and simplicity indicate the overriding importance, in the artist’s mind, of the message and content versus the stylization.

Artist: Chaim Motzen
Title: The Jewish Community of Lubumbashi

This work is an unusual series of 400 video stills of 229 gravestones of the Jewish Community of Lubumbashi, situated in the Congo. The artist was traveling in Congo when he heard about this community which had only two living members remaining. He visited the community’s cemetery and found it in a state of extreme disrepair. Moved by this and the poignant story of a line coming to an end, he decided to video tape the gravestones in the cemetery, more for the purposes of record than for artistic effect.

He hopes it will be of help in the future to other indirect descendants who may want to track their heritage.

The stills are capable of giving rise to endless speculation about the possible stories behind them. For example, one of the headstones depicts a woman’s face and a swastika symbol, which point to the existence of Nazi-ism even there. It is an intensely moving piece – a slice of history captured on film – and one can spend hours scrutinizing its nuances and speculating about past eras.

Although I’ve described only a very few of the many exquisite works in the Show, they have hopefully given you an idea of the extremely high level of creativity and workmanship displayed by the artists. All in all, it was a great experience to see such beauty, especially as the people who created it are part of our own HBS community.