Six Bennington College seniors display art in vacant storefront downtown


BENNINGTON — After the president urged students to reach out to the community, six Bennington College students arranged a senior visual arts show at a vacant storefront at 447 Main St. in Bennington that ends tomorrow.

The show, "Gallows Humor," includes prints, paintings, cut-up fabric, prototypes and other unique visuals.

"We wanted to include the town," Kevin Mulvey said. "We saw empty storefronts and wanted to show our work. It's just for fun."

Traditionally, the senior art show takes place in the spring, but this group of students will graduate in December, and they wanted to advertise their accomplishments before their final days.

"We had a really good group and wanted to do something that hasn't been done before," Joseph Patrick Chandler (JP) said. "We wanted to involve ourselves with the town."

Mulvey is among the group of seniors displaying art along with Sarah Madden, Cian Costello, JP, Tate Boley and Whitney Davis.

With a wide variety of art forms being displayed, JP and Mulvey described their inspirations.

"My work is more theory oriented," Mulvey said. "It's informed by politics and economics and philosophy. It sort of trolls broader concepts of sovereign power of the body. I make a number of pieces at once and a bunch of different things that represent one idea. Sometimes it's agonizing."

JP primarily wanted to try something he's never done before by creating prototypes for a fashion line, as well as abstract sculptures and paintings. The clothing line incorporates reconstructed outfits using animal fur, plastic, rope and he even welded the structure to hang the pieces.

"I wanted to try sculpture because I did architecture for two years" JP said. "I started making concept shoes because I wanted to do something I didn't know how to do. I didn't know how to sew so I took lessons."

To test his prototypes, JP showcased a video he filmed of women wearing the clothing, positioned next to the pieces.

"I did make sketches for the clothing line, and they're wearable, but quite awkward. It's not completely fashion, and more sculpture," JP said.

For a piece titled "Triangle Food Painting," JP used pincushions on canvas board and a variety of 90's pastel palettes.

Gallows humor is considered unpleasant or serious circumstances and often pertains to death, war, disease and crime in a satirical manner.

"It's kind of a funny story.. We were hanging a lot of pieces and thought about literally killing art, like stringing it up," Mulvey said. "There's a lot of glee, but it's also kind of disturbing."

Mulvey and JP explained that there's a tradition in art history of a genius' painting sitting among a blank, white wall by itself. They said that conceptualism got boring and their joke of a title relates to how exhausted they are from finishing college.

Funding to rent the storefront derived from a grant the students applied for through the college, whom also covered the insurance for the operation. The college's Budget and Events Committee and the Bennington College Student Endowment for the Arts took part in making the show possible.

"We were put through a lot of loops," JP said. "But we were persistent."

Despite figuring out how to get a grant and learning how insurance works, Mulvey and JP said it was a good experience. Because something like this hasn't been done before, the seniors had to start from a blank slate and make connections to obtain funds and a physical location.

"It's kind of like, why isn't there a space down here?" he questioned why students hadn't established an art show downtown prior to "Gallows Humor."

The show opened Tuesday Nov. 1, and will remain from 12-4 p.m. today and Monday.

Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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