The making of “The Mess We’ve Made”

5 senior art majors prepare their final exhibit at Trinity

Trinity’s graduating class of 2023 includes five art majors: Isa Keene, Jessica Oskam, Ava Sommer, Ruby Walker and Sally Wyma. Together, they are displaying their work in the Michael and Noemi Neidorff Art Gallery inside the Dicke-Smith Art building for a show they’ve been working on since the start of this academic year — the Senior Art Major Exhibition. Entitled “The Mess We’ve Made,” the exhibition opened on April 27 with a commemorative reception at 5 p.m. and will be up until May 13.

According to Ruby Walker, the seniors are responsible not just for the art in the exhibition, but also for logistics of advertising, planning the reception and almost every other organizational detail of the event.

“The purpose of the senior exhibition is kind of like a crash training exercise for all the other stuff that you have to do to put a show together,” Walker said. “You’re writing press releases, you’re making posters, you have to order catering.”

Logistics aside, the seniors have spent a significant amount of time preparing their art for this exhibition. Keene estimates that she spends 10 – 15 hours a week in the painting studio as of late, and she’s not the only one working overtime.

Jessica Oskam, art and business double-major, includes details in her art that take considerable time to both execute and plan.

“I did this one piece of the Chapman atrium, which is my favorite place on campus, and that was an oil painting. I took piping bags, like ones for frosting, and I piped on oil paint like a cake. … That one took all of last semester,” Oskam said.

She added that her use of piping bags is one of the ways she challenges how crafts fit into academic concepts of “high art” and “low art,” which is a theme much of her work explores.

Traditionally, people have drawn separations between art’s multitudinous styles, mediums, techniques and purposes, debating what can be considered “high art” and what should be called “low art.” Needlework, quiltmaking, ceramics and other forms of art historically associated with the domestic sphere, and thus created mainly by women, have traditionally been seen as “low art,” and have been further delegitimized by the fact that, unlike paintings or sculptures (which have historically been viewed as “high art”), they have utilitarian functions. As a result, according to Oskam, many art forms that originated from women in the domestic sphere have grown into the definition of “craft,” a diminutive synonym for “low art” that still excludes many women and people of color today.

“My goal is to elevate craft into the high art world, so a lot of my art has to do with the subject of craft or using craft as a medium,” Oskam said.

Walker also spoke about themes they’ve included in their work, which celebrates the present by portraying scenes and people from their everyday life.

“I’ve been doing a lot of paintings of places around campus that I’ve seen, people that I care about, my friends and my partner,” Walker said. “Basically the message of all my pieces is to look at where you are and be where you are, because it’s really easy to live inside your head and not notice what’s around you.”

As Oskam explained, each featured artist has a message that’s specific to their collection of art in the show, but preparing a show with pieces from multiple, separate creators introduces the factor of overall cohesion that must be considered.

“We get to think about how our art interacts with one another because we’re sharing this space, and I think that’s really valuable,” Oskam said.

With everything that has gone into preparing the show, Keene said she considers it somewhat of a celebration.

“I’m treating this more as a graduation event,” Keene said. “I’m having family and friends come to see my art. This is what I’ve worked toward for the past four years, I want to show it off.”

“The Mess We’ve Made” is an opportunity for this group of seniors to formally display fruits of the often unseen labor that has gone into their major. “Everybody’s been working really hard on their stuff — it’s gonna be really awesome,” Walker said.

The gallery’s opening reception is a great opportunity for those who wish to appreciate the senior art majors’ work, as well as those who wish to grab a free snack.

“There’s going to be wine at the exhibition,” Walker said. “We got drinks, we got fancy cheeses. Pull up.”