Harvey Mudd’s Sprague Gallery features ‘Accounts of Their Times’ student show

Photographs in a variety of colors are on white walls within an exhibit.
The HMC exhibition “Accounts of Their Times” presents student artwork from art professor Ken Fandell’s course “Photography.” (Anna Horne • The Student Life)

What do a stack of beer cans, crushed lipstick and peeling paint on a car have in common? 

In Harvey Mudd College’s latest student art show, all are used to illustrate the perspective of a student.

Mudd’s Sprague Gallery opened the student art exhibit “Accounts of Their Times” last Thursday, Jan. 30. The first exhibit in the recently renovated gallery, this show features a wide variety of photographs from art professor Ken Fandell’s course “Photography.” 

The exhibition was an unexpected surprise for the student artists — the art from the class was not created to hang in a gallery, and the decision to hold the exhibition was made later, Fandell said.

The show held an opening reception Jan. 30, featuring a spoken word performance by poet Mary Jessie Celestin HM ’21. The crowd consisted of 5C students, as well as visiting junior high students, who appeared engaged in the themes of her poems and interpreting the art.

“People were interested in the artwork and trying to find the theme of it all, because it was a lot of diverse ideas,” she said. “But [they] enjoyed getting these sneak-peeks into people’s lives whether [they were] snapshots of dorm culture or aesthetic photos of friends or trips.”

The exhibit’s one common denominator was the prominence of each student’s personal life in each of the pieces. The photographs on the walls displayed a wide-array of subjective moments the artists had captured throughout the semester, from peeling paint to students playing beer pong.

A handout at the entrance to the exhibit explained that “There is no hesitance about these accounts. The artist’s gazes remain simple as they tell thoughts and memories.” 

Fandell emphasized the unique perspective and experience of each student.

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“I always think it’s good to give the students a chance to exhibit their art outside of the classroom environment [and] see how it does out in the world,” he said. “I think [the pieces] are really exciting on their own outside of the context of assignments … No art is typical. Every class is different. Each student is different.”

The exhibit was curated by HMC arts administrator Julia Hong. Fandell explained her importance in selecting the pieces as an unbiased outsider from the class.

“[She] is given free range to look for the work produced for the class and pick out work that she thinks is the most interesting,” he said.

Hong further explained her thought process while deciding what would be displayed: “My role as the curator of the show … [was] to select works based on the visual and conceptual impact they each make [and] draw a conceptual thread amongst the selected works.”

For class member Kaveh Pezeshki HM ’21 the exhibit was an added bonus — his photos weren’t taken with the intention of being exhibited.

“I feel like it’s an affirmation of the work that me and my classmates put into the class over the semester,” Pezeshki said. “Just seeing it here is really cool because it gives other people the chance to see the work that we’ve done.”

Fellow classmate Rikki Walters HM ’20 photographed a piece featuring two nude figures. 

“I think it’s weird to know that all 5C staff and faculty and students can see it … It’s obviously the most scandalous piece I did,” Walters said. “However, I think [the piece] fits my personality in a way, so people shouldn’t be all that surprised.”

The original concept for her photoshoot centered around infidelity and making what could be seen as ugly look beautiful.

“The ugly thing was … that they actually weren’t supposed to be together,” Walters said. “It was hard to capture that, but that was the original intent, to make infidelity look beautiful.”

Art students from Mudd appreciated the physical representation of art on a stereotypically STEM campus.

“One of the key [ideologies] of Mudd is this idea of blending the humanities with these technical concepts that we are hammered with every day,” Pezeshki said. “Having displays — really well put together professional displays — is important to allow that distinction to show.” 

“Accounts of Their Times” will be displayed in the Sprague Gallery in the lower level of the Shanahan Center until March 9.

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