Art Show Evokes Junior High Memories

by Danielle Vanaman '06

The only traditional thing about the classroom setting is the neatly arranged rows of desks. Jagged pieces of painted Plexiglas hang from the ceiling, suspended by threads. The walls are beige, accented by a single line of painted white text. If you look closely, you can pick out an individual thought from the string of words: "From eight years of being watched, three things I've always had: imagination and at least two appetites."

This isn't a scene from a strange dream brought on by too many hours spent studying for midterms. It's an art exhibit, created by James Hake '04. The exhibit, titled "7th Grade", was open October 20-24 in Art Gallery West.

"I choose seventh Grade as the focus of my art show because it was such an influential and defining time for me," said Hake. "A lot of the things shown here are just humorous memories, but they also point out the exaggerated oddities in the way we think during that period of our lives. It was a time that really set the stage for my outlook on life. In some ways, I don't think I've changed much since then."

Hake gives these memories a tangible form by capturing scenes from his junior high years on the 10 pieces of Plexiglas that hang from the ceiling of the gallery. To help clarify his message, Hake chose to include captions on each piece, visible only from the back side. "I liked the initial impression you get from the images, and then the depth you see from the back," said Emily Boehr '06. "There's a very personal aspect that it brings across, because it lets you know that the pictures portray real events in James' life."

Hake also purposely allowed the back of each piece to reveal the process of sketching and outlining that took place before it reached completion. "There's an under layer that isn't all that pleasing visually, but it eventually becomes the foundation for the finished product. Showing this allows you to see the process of my thinking," said Hake. For additional insights into the painted pieces, Hake expands on each memory through the corresponding text that circles the walls of the room.

"I'm very excited about this," said Guy Kinnear, assistant proffesor of art. "I think James has created a wonderful blend of personal expression and strong craftsmanship, presented in a contemporary way. It's something you don't see very often."

The display starts out on the lighter side, with images that evoke the tumultuous social structure of junior high. A piece shaped like an inverted pyramid depicts a play ground, and the corresponding text on the wall reads: "That's just how it is - a pyramid, by population, by athletics, by coolness." The pieces then gradually move on to deeper subjects, and several focus on adolescent struggles with romantic and family relationships.

By sharing experiences like these, Hake hopes to encourage others to reflect upon the lasting effects of their own junior high experience, and how the thought processes adopted during that time remain influential. "Hopefully, people will be able to see into my life through my art and get something out of it by catching a glimpse of themselves," said Hake.