On Friday, April 6, the 2018 Senior Thesis Exhibition opened to the public. Every year, the show is one of the most well-attended events at the Bates College Museum of Art, and for good reason. The show is the product of a full year of preparation for 14 splendid graduating seniors. It has been 211 days since the first day of this academic year and the beginning of their projects, but the show unveils much more than that — it unveils deep passion and sense of place. The works speak more than my words ever could.
There is an array of media in this exhibition: drawing, painting, sculptures, hand-drawn animations, photography, and ceramics — and behind every medium a couple of familiar names. For me, part of the punch of this show comes from seeing that the artists are my friends, classmates, and acquaintances. They are the person who held the door for me last Tuesday, or that course mate who was always sketching during class. The Senior Thesis Exhibition reminds me of how incredibly talented and fortunate Bates is. This show is inevitably permeated by a sense of place and community, which were visible in the curiosity of the visitors who flooded the museum on April 6.
Leading to the show, the 14 exhibiting artists worked closely with Robert Feintuch, Senior Lecturer in Art and Visual Culture. Feintuch, who is leaving Bates this year, has been organizing and installing the Senior Thesis Exhibition shows ever since he joined Bates in 1976. In an email interview, he told me the first show he organized took place in Chase Hall, prior to the opening of the Olin Arts Center in 1986! “He has done it many times before, and so, I felt that I was working with a professional who knows how to make his voice known, while also balancing the voices and options of all the artists. He is a true mentor,” Sophie Olmstead ’18, one of the exhibiting artists, revealed.
“I think, for me, the best part of it has been seeing what happens when smart students make working the center of their lives,” Feintuch revealed. In a number of exchanges we had, Feintuch always seemed passionate about working with seniors, often mentioning the intimacy that comes with teaching art. Feintuch helped to select, organize, and place the over 150 artworks at the museum. “I enjoy the challenge of working out an installation that makes individual students’ work look strong and that, at its best, also makes interesting juxtapositions and connections,” he added.
In the relationship between Feintuch and the 14 seniors, I found one example of the close relationships that make Bates the place it is. Community seems visibly important in the 2018 Senior Thesis Exhibition, even if not always intentionally. If there is one thing that this show reminded me of, it is that an art piece is not a self-contained end goal, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Art has an impact in the world. No wonder the show seem like the product of much more than 211 days of work — the pieces are the product of a lifetime of learning and sharing.
Max Breschi ’18, an exhibiting potter, found a concrete example of what I feel in regards to this show. The artist created an installation of utilitarian pottery as a way to give back to the L/A community for his years at Bates College. The installation asks that the viewer choose a pot that speaks to them. Every day, a person can leave with a piece from his installation. Since seeing the 2018 Senior Thesis Exhibition, I feel like I have been walking around with my hands full of “metaphorical pottery” that I carry around.
More than a celebration of talent, the show makes me thankful for the friendship and collaboration I’ve learned to cultivate at Bates since arriving here. If there is a connecting thread that runs through an exhibition as diverse as this one, it would be that art is exchange.
The show is free and open until May 26, 2018. All are welcome.