The Summer Experience in the Arts (SEA) Awards have funded student explorations and projects in the arts for the past three years. Here’s a look back at them. The text is taken from students’ own writing for their SEA 2014 final presentations.

SEA 2014

David Connor PO’15 Neuroscience
Air and Empty Space from the Southwest
I am a senior at Pomona College and interested in considering empty space as a nonphysical agent that moves the physical world. I am interested in empty space, specifically empty space as a manifestation of absence/loss – and additionally as ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ matter. My desire with the SEA grant has been to explore spaces of emptiness in the Southwestern United States. My project uses sound recordings and various stuff-containing boxes to recreate specific locations in the Southwest. I hope that the project develops ideas and feelings of loss, specifically as they relate to the land and the people. But I also hope the project explores the ghosts and fantasies that have formed from this loss/absence. I traveled for a month through California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. I spent most of my time in Marfa, TX, where I stayed for ~3 weeks.

Kulsum Ebrahim PO‘15 Studio Art and International Relations
Stories from a Pakistani art classroom: The role of the visual arts in primary and secondary education
I’m from Karachi, Pakistan and I’m interested in visual language and storytelling. I like to explore conversations, memories, and play. I spent the summer in Pakistan researching the role of the arts in primary and secondary education. I focused on the visual arts and was interested in what an arts education means in a developing urban city in South Asia and the perceptions that different people have about the arts. What does an art classroom in Karachi look like? I spoke with art educators, art students, and art critics about their personal stories and opinions about art and education.

Elicia Epstein PO’15 Studio Art
In There Out Here
I am interested in social art practice, often involving photography or sculpture. Most recently my work has revolved around our relationship with the land. This summer I travelled around the United States, using digital photograph to explore different spiritual traditions and peoples’ relationship with their environment. Leaving Claremont in late May, I biked up to the Oregon border, and then caught rides to the east coast, where I continued to travel out of my car. I was initially drawn to the sacred spaces, objects and rituals of established spiritual traditions, however, my interest also grew around the idea of aspirituality– a sense of the natural world around us as separate, random and other. The tension between these two outlooks proved to be the central inspiration for my photographic and personal work.

Nidhi Gandhi PO’15 Neuroscience
My Dearest Mind: The View From Here
Nidhi Gandhi is a senior who looks ​to apply creative and interdisciplinary thinking to her work in both neuroscience and art. An aspiring educator, she seeks ways art can be used instead of standard educational materials to explain scientific enquiries and human experiences. This project began as a way to show the beauty of the brain, despite what are commonly defined as malfunctions – mental disorders. But through studying the effects and the day-to-day reality of someone with a mental disorder, I realized that it was impossible to hold myself at a distance and think simply in neurological terms. As I began to interview people with mental disorders and to attend group therapy, I found that their problems are familiar to all of us – amplified due to uncontrollable circumstances, and without the absolute certainty that what they perceive is real. Mental disorders distort and change perceptions, and the dissonance between our versions of reality cause frustration, confusion, and insecurities for those people affected. For my project, instead of allowing the audience to maintain a distance, I’m depositing them in the middle of the experience – the meeting with friends that emphasizes your difference and loneliness, the moment alone on a street corner that reveals the beauty and menace of the world and people around you, and the chaos caused by a few aberrant neurons, a self-consciousness that comes with the knowledge that you see the world differently. We can’t slap a diagnosis on a life and move on – their reality has to become ours. We have to see from the inside, make the perception personal.

Nissa Gustafson PO’15 Studio Art
Bread and Puppet Theater Company
I find artistic inspiration in the use of multi-media creations to gather people together and communicate stories and events in a manner that actively invites the viewer into the spectacle. I am interested in the ways in which the barrier between the viewer and a performance/presentation can be dissolved, and spaces in which “art” blends into experience. My summer SEA consisted of a ten-week apprenticeship with the Bread and Puppet Theater Company, a political theater group founded in the 1960s, based in Glover, VT. During my ten weeks at Bread and Puppet, I helped in the construction of large-scale, multi-person, paper mache puppets, participated in the creations and performances of five productions, worked in the Bread and Puppet print shop (all wood-cut prints), and played music in various performance settings. I was involved in all stages of production for the company’s shows and parades. I also participated in various street performances and actions made in response to different political situations that were of relevance and importance this summer. While at Bread and Puppet, I was able to explore puppetry and mixed-media performance as an inclusive and engaging art form while being part of a community of inspiring individuals from various backgrounds and areas of interest/know-how.

Karen Alejandra Herrera PO’15 Studio Art
Karen is a Southern California native who grew up in the city of La Puente. The daughter of two Mexican immigrants, Karen works to reclaim the narrative of the immigrant family by inserting the personal into the visual and literary canons. Karen recently divorced her primary medium and is exploring multi-media art forms. In dialogue with Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands text, the photo series depicts in-between-ness. Mujeres in transition. Mujeres in their borderlands. The photos are manipulated in order to locate the borderlands in the everyday, in an effort to have the borderlands manifest themselves. The borderland, an in-between space of neither here nor there, lends itself to the clashing of political, cultural, and personal margins. It is a place where those who inhabit the margins dwell. A place where those who act as bridges between worlds find a settling place. The manipulations work to confuse space and evoke the tension of the borderlands.



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