By Bridie Strowe-Bolger ’24
Whether we realize it or not, the FGS community revolves around the arts. Our school meetings take place in the Tisch Auditorium, home of our theatre program; our music departments sustain three ensembles, one band, and countless individual musicians. Our newspaper is brought together using graphic design, and our library’s walls are adorned by alumni works. Our arts building (TPACC) even has an entire room dedicated to the exhibition of art, and right now, that art was made by our students.
The Artistry and Technique program, headed by the wonderful Andrew Richards, is a fantastic Gunn tradition for student artists. It takes the place of a co-curricular, meaning it provides the space, resources, and (most importantly) time for students to simply create. In an East Coast boarding school, students can easily get overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of school work, athletics, and community activities; however amazing and fun they may be, these activities still make us very tired! One of the best ways to unwind and process the stress we take on from our daily lives is to channel it into artistic expression to heal both our minds and our hearts.
With the importance of this program established, let’s move on to the present! We have all walked into the lobby of TPACC and had our eyes caught by the room on the left. I’m sure most of us have even taken a stroll through. But if anyone hasn’t done so this year, I hope this article will convince you to take that leap into the world of FGS Arts. Fall trimester, 2022, what’s in that room?
When you open the tall glass doors to the Exhibition room (Perakos Family Cares Gallery) you’re immediately met with art of all mediums. Perhaps most eye-catching, the center of the main wall is occupied by “Why?,” a large acrylic painting by Jenny Shen (‘23). Meant to capture the intensity of modern injustice, the painting combines ideas from the movies Dying to Survive and Dead Poets Society, which both deal with the theme of the struggle for freedom and justice.
On either side of the wall, “Why?” is joined by two three-by-three canvases by Bridie Strowe-Bolger (‘24); one, “Noah,” a portrait of a classmate in black and white acrylic with gold leaf background, and the other, “Suaimhneas” (“peace” in Gaelic, pronounced ‘soo-wave-nah-s’), a mixed media surrealist piece depicting a snowy mountain with a biblically accurate angel and gold sky. “I wanted to work with foreground textures, I wanted to almost force the viewer to decide what the white was- a desert, an ocean, a wooden texture, etc. I really had fun layering the paint,” stated the artist.
Across from this wall, a separator wall contains pieces by Mairin Hoffman, Averi Zhong, Jade Vu, Tommy Li, Thea Howe, and Giovanna Liu. Averi Zhong’s two pieces on opposite sides of this wall work with watercolor and animal life, a colorful piece depicting three differently patterned Koi fish in bright oxide blue water and a gray, neutral-toned cat.
Possibly the boldest piece in this year’s fall exhibition, a large contemporary canvas by Logan Crompton immediately draws the visitor to its wall. A backdrop of sectioned color and skull patterning serves almost as context for the loud, black subject of the skull outline and underlines. If the viewer looks closely enough, they can spot the artist’s signature in the blue sector on the top right corner. Next to ‘LC’s’ piece is another more abstract contemporary piece by Sisy Pei. Although Sisy likes to work with oils, her painting on the far side of the gallery uses acrylics to perfectly demonstrate a harmonic battle between warring colors. The beautiful thing about some of these pieces (like “Suaimhneas”, Sisy’s piece, and LC’s piece) is that they leave the viewer pondering the meaning; they make the art linger even after our fine visitors have left the gallery to continue their day.
You can find pottery and sculpture in literally every corner of the gallery this fall. Some pieces are from the pottery classes, also bravely headed by Mr. Richards, and some are from Art and Technique. There are currently three sculptures in the gallery, one by Jenny Shen, and the other two by Bridie Mae. A small white bust, the inside adorned in gold leaf, occupies the corner next to “Noah;” the expression of the muscles and tendons of the neck and shoulders serve to create a ‘straining’ effect for the viewer to admire. On the other end of the room, almost hidden from the world outside, is the end of the gallery. Towards the window, Jenny Shen’s sculpture of a ladder atop a world watched by an owl prompts a surrealist feeling from the viewer and shows them the true size and significance of humanity on our little rock. Another bold piece, a mannequin, stands at the near center of the room at the end of the separator wall, light blue, white, and pleated. Does this remind you of anything? It certainly should – pandemic masks! The cocktail dress is sculpted from masks and bound by straps; the artist uses the pleats and built-in wires to create an armor-like corset, and those same sculpting abilities give the waist volume before the further form-fitting hem.
The truly wonderful thing is that we’re not even close to done! We’ve only just broken the midterm mark; we still have months of painting, sculpting, playing, and perfecting to do, and we can’t wait to share what’s next with our community.