Scripps Seniors Refract Body Images in Art

As seniors across the 5Cs celebrate the conclusion of their yearlong written theses, seven Scripps College students are preparing to display their final art projects at Re/Fractions, this year’s incarnation of the senior art show held at the college’s Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery.

Re/Fractions features paintings, photography, sculpture, installation, and mixed-media works, all of which focus on the theme of the body and how it can change, move, and often break before restoring itself. In addition, all their projects were developed from a blending of their personal interests and studies over the past four years.

The culminating event of a full year of work, Re/Fractions was conceptualized, created, and installed by senior art majors Sara Chun SC ’13, Sophie Forman SC ’13, Devin Grenley SC ’13, Diana Orihuela SC ’13, Camille Robins SC ’13, Avantika Saraogi SC ’13, and Denise Tupper SC ’13. These students had to present and defend their initial body of work at the end of the fall semester to the Scripps art faculty in order to be accepted to show their work in the spring.

Re/Fractions is a play on the word “refractions”: Refraction is the change in direction of a wave due to a change in its medium; it is essentially a surface phenomenon. And Re: fractions (regarding fractions), because much of our work contains elements of division of multiple parts,” Forman said.

Forman, an art major with an emphasis in painting, created an installation titled “Chromophilia (2012-13).” Her work is comprised of six seven-foot-high panels of paintings of abstract space and large figures.

“My work specifically is based in dual interests in color and the body. I’m working to explore the nexus of these two topics through the concept of empathy in a philosophical framework,” Forman said.

In addition to their art major, the women have other educational interests, and their art is a combination of these curiosities.

“Most of us are very interdisciplinary—one of us is starting medical school next year, another is interested in family therapy and counseling, another urban planning and ecology—and I think this comes out in our art. I’m personally not sure of my path yet, but I’d like to work in an arts-related position for the next few years while continuing to make work and then apply for my MFA in painting,” Forman said.

Saraogi is a dance and art double major. Originally from India, she took a series of still images of dancers covered in the colored powder used during Holi, the Indian festival of color.

“Initially I didn’t know my work would be so influenced by dance, but it turned out to be all about it. It was exhilarating to capture movement through a medium that was so still,” Saraogi said. “The powder helped capture entire trajectories of movement in a 125th of a second, so it was even more interesting to me in that sense. I loved playing around with the dichotomy. The ‘wow’ moment becomes quite important.”

Chun, an art major with a minor in biology, titled her work “The Sun Through My Hair: A Response to (Un) Romantic Imaginations of Asian-American Women.”

Her photographs were taken from her perspective, with the camera looking out through her hair at the sun.

“My inspiration came from sitting on the lawn at Scripps with my crappy camera phone, taking pictures of my hair and the sky, and my experiences as an Asian-American woman, particularly in relation with men and in predominantly white spaces,” Chun said.

Both Chun and Forman brought up the fact that their work has a feminist tone.

Forman believes that the work displayed in the gallery is a “pretty feminist mode of expression,” as they are using the body as a lens and as a representation for identity. She said that in addition to tackling topics such as environmental issues, alienation, ethnic and racial identity, illness, family, and sexuality, many of the women are engaging in work about the body in order to express themselves or their views of the world.

“Initially, I wasn’t aiming to make a distinctly feminist work, but because the female body is my subject, I had to wrestle with the art-historical context of the female nude as an objectified art object intended for the male gaze,” Forman said. “I think a lot of us had to deal with these types of issues, because we’re all hyperaware of how our work fits into existing canons and how interpretations can be problematic.”

“It’s an honor to be a part of the show,” Saraogi said. “It’s also a great chance to exhibit our work on a platform this big; the Williamson is a very reputable gallery.”

Chun hopes that viewers are respectful of the fact that her artwork is very personal.

“I know that when I listen to music (particularly Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’) and look at the photographs of the lights and colors that the sun filtering through my hair has created, I get really, really happy, so I hope that others do as well,” Chun said.

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