Highlights Exhibition Review

Community and Memory in Slogan 13: Be Grateful to Everyone

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by Mckenna meskan

Slogan 13: Be Grateful to Everyone is the name of Fordham’s Senior Seminar Art show this year, and this aptly ties in with the themes of memory and community that the artists focus on. They highlight the contents of their own memories and the very nature of memory, addressing personal histories in the contexts of comfort, despair, and family – including chosen families. Caitlin Bury and Mateo Solis Prada aim to preserve memories from their family histories. Bury’s large collage concerns music and, according to her, the stories her family doesn’t tell. On a large, vertical, pink background, she combines text, images, and an interactive sound element, which allows visitors to experience years of her family history in a condensed, comforting multisensory environment. 

Bury addresses her personal connections to her family history, exploring links between music, femininity, family relationships, and identity. Similarly, Prada deals with memory and the comfort that arises from recognizing one’s own part in a vibrant community. His interactive sculpture features ceramic food made with craft materials such as sequins, googly eyes, beads, and pipe cleaners. This is part of a larger project in which he explores his family history through family recipes. Prada wrote letters recommending certain recipes to people close to him, invited them to a meal in which he made these recipes to eat together, and recorded the conversation over these meals. In order to recreate this experience, he placed his sculpted food on a table with chairs and headphones that observers can wear to listen to these conversations while sitting at the table. In this work, Prada allows observers to share the familial, community environment that can be created by food.

Mateo Prada, 2021. Photographer Stephen Apicella-Hitchcock.

Lenah Barge also utilizes documents from her family history in her work. Black-and white photographs of family members form the core of her graphic posters, reminiscent of those used in protests. Barge’s many posters fill the viewer’s field of vision, each one emblazoned with the words “More Than a Monolith.” These black and white photos are framed with flowers and eye-catching reds and blues. Using intimate, engaging images of the artist’s family, these posters demonstrate that monolithic stereotypes are unproductive, harmful ideas that ignore the multifaceted communities and individuality of people of color.

Sarah Hujber and Lara Foley both focus on their own personal memories, approaching them with a quiet, meditative perspective. Hujber’s photographs depict abandoned buildings that she encountered while on a road trip. In these images, she focuses on intriguing interplays between light and perspective, making mundane scenes look alien in their intense emptiness.  While memorializing an experience in her own life, Hujber also captures the strange feeling of solemnity that one can only get by witnessing buildings that humans once inhabited, and no longer do.

Lara Foley, 2021. Photographer Stephen Apicella-Hitchcock.
Caitlin Bury, 2021. Photographer Stephen Apicella-Hitchcock.
Lenah Barge, 2021. Photographer Stephen Apicella-Hitchcock.
Sarah Hujber, 2021. Photographer Stephen Apicella-Hitchcock.

Foley’s small watercolor paintings are based on photographs she has taken over the years, each focusing on a single, everyday object or detail, and arranged on a large sheet of white paper. She deals with the very nature of memory, as each one of these small images acts as a reminder of a certain event or place, and may represent a different memory for each person who sees it.

Nicole Perkins similarly focuses on memory, drawing from her own environment and those of the people close to her. She states that her photographs are meant to be peaceful as a respite from a chaotic year, and peace is exactly what she communicates in these images, often depicting her friends in familiar spaces such as beds and cars. Perkins uses dramatic lighting and color to give her photographs a dreamlike atmosphere as they evoke nostalgia, intimacy, comfort, and leisure.

Addressing the emotional duress many of us have experienced during the pandemic, Kaila Cordova’s portraits express the thoughts and feelings of their anonymous subjects using personal, private methods. Her colorful paintings feature flowers alongside the subjects’ faces, each one depicting a unique interaction between its subject and the flowers surrounding them. Cordova uses the meanings coded by different types of flowers to communicate information about her subjects’ internal lives using the aesthetically pleasing, often comforting, presence of flowers. Here, Cordova respectfully depicts individual difficulty while also suggesting the potential for healing.

Kaila Cordova, 2021. Photographer Stephen Apicella-Hitchcock.
View of Lipani Gallery, 2021.
Nicole Perkins, 2021. Photographer Stephen Apicella-Hitchcock.

These works are interspersed with each other throughout the gallery, lending it a feeling of community and collaboration, and this seems to be consistent with this group of artists’ creative process. Some include images of their peers in their work, and many have mentioned a sense of working as part of a supportive community. Communities can help us deal with the difficult times that we are currently facing, and that is evident in Slogan 13: Be Grateful to Everyone. In their emotionally potent work, Senior Seminar students emphasize the importance of both individual and collective memory, depicting remembering as a path to healing.

View of Lipani Gallery, 2021.