Williamson Gallery Showcases Faculty Perspectives

With works shown from Tokyo to Paris, the Scripps College art faculty are major contributors to the international art scene. Yet their achievements have never before been shown together.

On display at Scripps’ Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, the “Faculty Exhibition” does just that, giving Claremont the opportunity to observe the perspectives of each diverse artist under one roof. The exhibition launched Nov. 1, with a free opening reception and live music. The night was well attended by both the distinguished faculty of the Claremont colleges and many eager students. 

Nine artists contributed to the exhibition, including Associate Professor of Art Adam Davis, Professor of Art Ken Gonzales-Day, Lincoln Visiting Artist in Ceramics Julia Haft-Candell, Visiting Profesor of Art Phung Huynh, Professor of Art Nancy Macko, Visiting Lecturer in Art Elana Mann, Assistant Professor of Art Kitty Maryatt, Fletcher Jones Chair in Studio Art Susan Rankaitis and Professor of Art T. Kim-Trang Tran. 

“The art faculty, in basic words, displayed to people what they had seen in their surrounding[s] in [the] most aesthetic way possible,” said David Hayman, a resident of Los Angeles who made the trip to Claremont for the opening. 

Each artist crafted their work in different ways, with mediums including ceramic sculptures, photographs, prints, books, mixed-media, motion graphics and paintings. While each piece was distinct, the faculty’s art seemed to fit together cohesively by intertwining traditional and modern forms. 

In her “Landless in Second Life,” Kim-Trang Tan created a visual presentation exploring the life of immigrants, specifically her mother’s. A single parent of six, her mother made under $16,000 a year and couldn’t afford luxuries. Kim-Trang Tan designed her a home in the virtual world of “Second Life,” a house filled with avatars of her children beside an all-giving tree. 

“It took me about 10 months to complete the three videos for the installation,” Kim-Trang Tan wrote in an email to TSL. “Most challenging was learning how to navigate the avatars within the ‘Second Life’ environment, such as learning to “fly,” and choreographing, recording their activities, across seven computers, for the videos. This also turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the process.”

Maryatt, who is also Director of the Scripps College Press, made a visual book telling a story through artful script. 

“My inspiration for this book and my
work comes from my interest in letterforms and calligraphy which I’ve done for
a very long time,” Maryatt wrote in an email to TSL. “Writing letterforms with edge tools and brushes takes a
lifetime to perfect and to develop personal style, so for this book I wanted to
focus on the raw stroke made by the tools I normally use for calligraphy, but I
wanted to be free from making a particular shape.”

“I wanted to see where the
tools would take me as if the strokes existed before characters were
recognizable,” she added. 

While the exhibition was rewarding, it was yet another commitment for faculty members to take on. The job of an artist is much different than the work of an art professor. While artists can focus on their own work, professors must work on their own art as well as the projects of their many students. 

“The main obstacles in making any kind of book when you’re a
professor at a college is that you don’t have enough time to work because
you’re always making up lesson plans for students and planning what they need
to get done,” Maryatt said. “So I had to squeeze in as much as I could in the summer and then
continue working even today.”

Likewise, having the work of many Scripps faculty on display in one exhibition is unique and exciting, but the Williamson Gallery is not the most effective viewing venue for some of the pieces. 

“The viewing condition for video in the gallery is inadequate,” Kim-Trang Tan said. “My work needs to be shown in a black room or on a large monitor because it’s very hard to see it now with the many light sources and a small projection.”

While the exhibition depicted various themes, the concept of reality was emphasized in many pieces. The artwork was easily relatable and made even the most isolated viewer feel connected. 

“I love making trips to the art galleries as I always feel that each gallery and each piece of artwork has a story to tell, and it is great that the students of the Claremont colleges don’t have to travel far to witness great talent,” Hayman said. “The ambience, people and artwork made the evening wonderful, and I definitely will make more trips to see what is new here.”

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