Easy Does it For VES Students

Senior theses debut in visually enticing show at Carpenter Center

So reads the description of the upcoming senior thesis exhibition at the Carpenter Center. The seemingly enigmatic title of the the senior thesis exhibition at VES, “Easy,” was coined by the thesis students and “is open to many interpretations,” according to Carlin E. Wing ’02. The word possibly refers to the production of the work—which students may have found easy to complete—or it could refer to the students themselves, who are easygoing undergraduates.

“It’s not that we don’t take our work seriously, it’s just that we can’t take ourselves too seriously,” Wing said. In any case, the title evokes youth and its accompanying carefree attitude, alluded to explicitly with the Barbie-like font used to print the title.

Although the show is called “easy,” it includes work that should be taken seriously. The show not only marks a milestone for the students, it represents a breadth of work rarely seen in Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies (VES) department. This year’s show continues to show growth in the number of artists—topping off at 11, not including the film students (whose work runs May 9-12 in the Carpenter Center). The exhibit, because of its size and number, will also be displayed in the Sert Gallery on the third floor of the Carpenter Center. “We try to get as much of the work that they [the students] feel is imperative to be in the show,” exhibition designer Chris Frost said.

The number of artists is matched by the wide breadth of their work. Not only do the pieces vary between different media—ranging from painting and sculpture to photography—but they also display a multitude of unique styles within each category. “The show includes really different work. None of the paintings are the same, none of the photos are the same,” photography student Jeff Sheng ’02 said.

Sheng’s work, previewed from February through March in a pre-thesis show at the Gallery at Green Street, revolves around ideas of masculine beauty. Sheng places a stereotypically handsome man in different places around the country, giving the work a road trip-like feel. The tall, blonde and blue-eyed man reclines by a waterfall, walks joyously along the beach and reclines in hotel bedrooms. The prints, in 35 millimeter format and printed in large scale, hearken to large ad campaigns such as Calvin Klein or Abercrombie and Fitch. The Adonis figure is prominent, and the work betrays an intimacy between the model, the photographer and the camera. “The show includes smarter work than in the Green Street Gallery,” Sheng said. “They’re similar to the ones in the show but include more ideas.”


Sheng’s work is accompanied by a small, leather-bound photo album containing around 60 images. “The works duplicate themselves in the album,” Sheng said. The album enhances the road trip feel of the work and adds to the intimacy of the photographs and the trip on which they were taken. Here the photos seem commonplace, whereas with the large prints they serve a more inclusive aesthetic purpose.

Sheng’s work is one of five photographic theses, including the work of Wing. Her photographs are of corporate interiors that are adorned with artwork. They depict hallways, waiting rooms and other spaces that would normally be overlooked. Using the 4-by-5 inch format—a type of negative that captures great detail—Wing was able to expose every aspect of such areas, magnifying the overlooked and placing it in deep focus.

Wing, who joined the VES and Social Anthropology concentrations, will include a copy of her written thesis in the show. The work serves as somewhat of an anthropological artifact, documenting the subject of the written thesis. “Anthropology is a good process and crucial, but making photos is more fun,” Wing said. “Anthropology is the theory and the photos are the actual anthropology.”

Also present in the show is the work of Efrat Kussell ’02, whose paintings deal with person-to-person confrontation at the most basic level. Kussell’s works depict the heads and faces of her peers on 12- by-18 inch canvases. Her style is realistic, and the faces are made only slightly larger than actual size, allowing for the illusion of a real-life confrontation. “The size was a formal decision and one appropriate to the project. The subjects are life-size and fill the frame,” Kussell said.

The work, although meant to be in-your-face, is also strikingly beautiful. The models Kussell chose to paint are largely attractive people, made more appealing through the medium of painting, in which their skin and features become preternaturally perfect. The work is then confrontational both through scale and aesthetic features.

The show’s intended audience is as varied as the work itself. Although the thesis students may appreciate potential buyers at the show, it is by no means their goal. “Some university people and random alumni may show up, but these are more academic theses; the purpose is not to sell the work,” Sheng said.