Selections from Writing Art Criticism: Senior Show 2019

As participants in Colby’s studio program developed their work for the Senior Art Exhibition this spring, students in my Writing Art Criticism class researched and wrote interpretive essays for the accompanying catalog. In this series of Lantern posts my students explore alternative ways of responding to and telling stories about their peers’ work in the digital realm. Taking advantage of the flexibility of The Lantern’s format, they experiment with video, sound, the art comic, and the photo essay, among other modes. As they do so, they show us some of the rich possibilities offered by digital publications at a time when the art world increasingly conducts its conversations online.

— Daniel Harkett, Associate Professor, Art Department

Bennett Allen on Wiley Holton

Bennett Allen, Untitled, 2019, digitally modified graphite sketchbook drawing

As an artist, I work to convert my thoughts and feelings into a visual language. Creating a written response to Wiley Holton’s Circumferences of the Void was difficult for me; I find it much easier to respond with a work of my own. Dark Matter is an expression of my experience with Wiley’s work.

Wiley Holton, Circumferences of the Void, 2019. Chalk and graphite on panel, 70 x 70 in.


Katie Herzig on Max Guerra

When I first interviewed photographer Max Guerra in order to write an essay on his work for the Senior Exhibition catalog, he spoke about his process of saying goodbye to Colby, a process that has involved photographing some of the more spontaneous moments of his college life. After the catalog piece was complete, Max and I chatted again. As we talked, we returned to the themes of saying goodbye and spontaneity, but with a slight modification; this time, Max spoke about his camera, a Holga Deluxe, and how the camera itself necessitates a departure from expectation—a saying goodbye of sorts. The following is an excerpt from our conversation.

The Holga is very susceptible to light leaks, because it’s a plastic camera. You look through the lens in the back to see the numbers as the film goes in, so you are already letting light in. And the only thing that is holding the back and keeping the film from being exposed is [The verb is singular because the subject is “thing.”] two little metal clips that can be very loose. You just hit them and—voilà!—the back comes out. It’s a very simple camera.

I’ve shot like fifteen, twenty rolls with this camera. And some of the rolls just didn’t come out. And that was because at some point I didn’t fully understand the camera––even though it’s very basic, you still have to build a relationship with it. I feel like my best rolls were my last ones, because I was able to really understand my camera, know the right angles, and know which lens is effective. There is no light meter on the camera to guide me. Typical cameras have multiple apertures and you can judge based on the lighting which aperture you use. This one doesn’t. This one is: it’s sunny or it’s rainy.

Typically, a camera has many different focuses too. But this one, we have: portrait, two people, group of people, and mountain! By making it this simple and by removing some of the technical preciseness of it, you get more uncertainty in what you are actually producing. With a digital camera, you can shoot and see what you have. And you can say, Oh, this is good! Maybe the color is a bit different than I want––that’s fine, I can just put it in Photoshop and fix it. But with this, I am taking the film out, putting it in, shooting, going into a darkroom, and hoping I am rolling it correctly. Then I am going through thirty minutes of developing the actual film, praying that it doesn’t get exposed during the process or I that didn’t mess up the chemicals or anything like that, and then opening the container and holding my breath to see if it actually came out. And sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s part of what I love about it.—Max Guerra

Max Guerra, Max Guerra’s Camera, 2019, digital photograph


Keenan Boscoe and Jane MacKerron on Meg Forelli

In her off-campus apartment, located five minutes away from the Colby campus, Meg Forelli is busy creating. She freely pulls, cuts, and composes from strewn collections of collage materials, pinning things to walls or laying large sheets of paper across the floor. Finding the studios on campus to be a bit too small and organized (as well as a bit too academic), Meg has found creative freedom in her alternative work space: a small fireplace office off the dining room. Its location in the home allows her to blur the line between art and life here. It is accessible for 3:00 a.m. inspiration or a second wind of evening energy. Being away from Colby also gives Meg some critical distance, which is especially important as she grapples with concepts of memory and belonging in her work. She can step back and reflect on the subjects she is drawing and her time at college, all the while fully immersing herself in a creative process.

It does not look like much work gets accomplished here. Tucked into a corner, the desk acts as a storage space, a place to keep stacks of material waiting to be used.

There are minicollages everywhere in Meg’s studio. Layers of images that have hidden and perhaps some still-undiscovered connections. They may never be part of any finished work, but for the moment they exist as tiny compositions.

Through Meg’s work as an editor at The Colby Echo, Colby’s campus newspaper, she has access to an abundance of engaging material. She plays with humor from decontextualized headlines and absurd events that have happened on campus (she jokingly showed us the above article when we talked about her off-campus life). The headlines about campus problems also show just how persistent many of Colby’s issues are. Thanks in part to the Echo, Meg is especially aware of institutional patterns of remembering and forgetting, and she uses her access to Colby’s past to critique the Colby of today.

When we asked about this collage on her wall, Meg told us it was an accumulation of many pieces over time. Some of the images are very recent while others are from her childhood. Her collages often address the fluidity and unpredictability of memory.

Meg’s studio is a comfortable space, although it can take a minute to figure out where to sit. Once you do, you are immersed in her materials.

In the middle of all this, there are intricately and beautifully crafted collages simply lying on the floor. In the safety of her off-campus studio, Meg does not have to worry about putting her materials away or picking up her pieces. She can live with her work, and in doing so bring the work to life.