January 7, 2008

Students Collaborate to Create Art

Sculpture as Poetry exhibit runs in Skillman Library through Jan. 25

Last semester students of English and art joined together on a creative endeavor. Students from the Advanced Creative Writing course, taught by Lee Upton, professor of English and writer-in-residence, and the Fundamentals in Sculpture course, taught by Alastair Noble, assistant professor of art,teamed up to create the exhibit Sculpture as Poetry as Sculpture as Poetry.

Through a circle of creating art and responding to it, the students worked with each other on the interdisciplinary project, demonstrating the ways in which the written and visual worlds collide. The results of their projects are on display along the lower stairwell in Skillman Library until Jan. 25.

The idea for the collaborative project resulted from Nobel’s BABEL sculpture. Inspired by the short story “The Library of Babel” by Jorge Luis Borges, Noble created BABEL which was shown at the Juan Pardo Heeren Gallery in Lima, Peru, from May to June 2007.

Upton then wrote a poem entitled In Defense of Babel in response to Noble’s work. A model of the structure and a copy of the poem can be found in the library. This professorial interaction served to spark the idea for the collaboration between classes.

In the first project of the semester, the sculpture students constructed a simple crystalline form based on a structure drawn in nature, such as a cell, insect nest, plant, or molecular structure. Each sculpture was produced in bamboo and plastic wrap.

The writing class viewed these structures and produced poems that were inspired by the pieces and the general theme of the project.

The poems were then submitted back to the sculpture students who in turn interpreted these texts back into sculptures. Using plywood, the students created more sculptures. The resulting forms include selected words or phrases from the poetry that inspired the works.

The project also came about because of the exhibition The Poetic Dimensions of a Country by Chilean artist Jose Balcells, in which he used his late brother’s poetry about sperm whales as the inspiration for works. The exhibition was held last semester at the David A. Portlock Black Cultural Center.

“Although the students never met, they were aware of each others’ work,” says Noble. “The collaboration shows the chain of responses that can occur between art and poetry during the creative process.”

The sculptures were created by Stephanie Artigliere ’11 (Kensington, N.H.), Lauren Brown ’11 (Port Washington, N.Y.), engineering studies major Kristen Burris ’08 (Hillsborough, Calif.), Jon Canter ’11 (New York, N.Y.), government & law major Kelley Dodds ’08 (Brandamore, Pa.), economics & business major Natalie Fabian ’10 (San Jose, Calif.), government & law major Kristyn Holmes ’08 (Gwynedd Valley, Pa.), English major Matthew Magrini ’09 (Montclair, N.J.), anthropology & sociology major Lindsay Majno ’10 (Sudbury, Mass.), and Barbara Pennington ’10 (New Canaan, Conn.).

The students in Upton’s creative writing class were English majors Ross Burlingame ’09 (Lancaster, Pa.), Megan Kaesshaefer ’08 (Philadelphia, Pa.), Michael Mariani ’08 (Westport, Conn.), Carolyn Paul ’09 (Hawthorne, N.J.), Daniel Reynolds ’08 (Randolph, N.J.), Edward Suczewski ’09 (Chatham, N.J.), English and economics & business double major Emily Garner ’09 (Fairfax Station, Va.), English and chemical engineering double major Nganga Muchiri ’09 (Nairobi, Kenya), English and biology double major Erin Murray ’09 (Hockessin, Del.), mathematics major Courtney Dixon ’08 (Riverside, Conn.), art major Allison Thompson ’08 (Saddle River, N.J.), and Cara Brumfield ’10 (Brooklyn, N.Y.).

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