Arts & Life Editor

At Denison, summer scholars get to explore their interests and direct their studies. This opportunity helped studio art majors Evelyn Kendix ’19 and Uyen (Kat) Tran ’17 develop new attitudes and methods to help them navigate their strengths and interests in their respective fields. Both of their summer research ended with exhibitions displayed on campus.

Kendix’s exhibition “The Last Thing” will be on display at the Bryant Art Gallery until Nov. 10.  Tran’s exhibition “Of Paper & Porcelain” will be on display at the Mulberry Mix Lab also until Nov. 10.

Kendix, an environmental studies and studio art double major, put her interdisciplinary studies to the test this summer. Her interest in nature and sculpting led to an interest in land art. She studied land art collections by artists like Andy Goldworthy, Ana Mendieta, Christo and Jeanne-Claude and Robert Smithson. She created structures using natural elements in the Denison Biological Reserve and recorded her works via photography. The photos were blown-up, printed and then hung in Bryant Arts Center.

In some of the photos, blades of grass were tied around a tree, looking like bandages that could somehow help the tree heal. In another photo she put many pieces of rock in a spiral formation on a tree stump. She also made rock cairns, or tiny stacks of rocks in a natural setting.

To oppose the theme of nature and raise a central question, she wrapped maroon colored twine around a log. “The twine is the contrast to the grass ties. It is the inorganic vs. the organic,” said Kendix. This was her reflection of the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude who put unnatural materials in nature to purposely create a juxtaposition. Kendix grappled with the question of whether it is possible to create natural, organic artwork.

This question stimulated questions of what kinds of mediums of land art can be pursued. Although she used photography for this project, she plans to discover alternatives in conveying land art. “I love the process I did and I love how the work turned out, but I think in the future I would love to pursue land art through painting,” Kendix said.

Her gallery opening had a successful turnout. Her perspectives of the natural and unnatural were well received last Thursday night. “Her collection captured the stillness and isolation of nature and its relation to human creation. Her focus on pattern and natural imperfection was such a stunning dichotomy,” said gallery attendee Emma Harms ’19.

The same night, Tran’s exhibition opened. Tran, who focuses her studies on sculpture, grappled with the challenges of translating material forms in “Of Paper & Porcelain.” As the title implies, the pieces in her exhibition are entirely made of paper and porcelain.

The porcelain sculptures were hung on the wall, looking like crumpled chunks of paper that manage to look sophisticated and elegant. Tran would originally create each piece in paper form.

“I wanted to explore ceramics and origami and the crossover and the ways in which they relate and don’t relate and how you can translate one to the other,” Tran said. 

However, the translation process did not always come out the way she intended.

“What you put it in the kiln and what comes out is not something you can necessarily predict,” Tran said. The more time she spent creating, the more she was able to embrace this unpredictability.

“It became less about perfection and more about seeing what happened…Basically, playing with experiments and being okay with the results,” said Tran.

The porcelain sculptures were imperfect as some portions looked compressed and other portions stuck out. However, gallery attendees saw meaning in Tran’s work.

“I think that the beauty of Kat’s exhibition is the way she made something so delicate appear so strong. The pieces were loud and powerful in spite of their super fragile nature,” Georgica Pettus ’19 said.

Kendix and Tran both faced adversity in their summer studies, but the outcome was a learning experience. Their interests became fully realized, as they can now dive deeper into them in the future. The exhibitions represent their hard work and learning experiences and can now be enjoyed by the public. 

Photo Courtesy of Savannah Delgross/The Denisonian