In the middle of the Grove House gallery, students sit on a purple mattress, their gazes drift over a collection of dreamy artwork and poetry. To their right lies a journal and a note inviting them to add their favorite dreams to it. The atmosphere is whimsical but peaceful: it’s a space for reflection, creativity, and conversation.
Danielle New, PZ’19, a double major in Anthropology and Psychology, is responsible for envisioning and creating this imaginative space. New is utterly transfixed by museum culture, and this fascination led her to dive into the world of multidisciplinary curatorial work for her senior project. This project, Surreal, featured a variety of student submissions focused loosely on “dreams and the subconscious,” and was the culmination of six months of research and organizing.
New’s inspiration for this show stemmed in part from her personal practice of keeping a dream journal, a routine she’s maintained for over 5 years. New feels a sense of urgency about recording her dreams, and sees these records as means of peering into her subconscious to study what she is (or isn’t) thinking about. While New maintains that she is unsure of whether or not these dreams mean anything, she sees them as an important reflection of the human psyche and experience. New’s curiosity regarding the connection between subjective human experience and dreaming led her to seek out a wide array of interpretations about dreams and the subconscious for the exhibit.
To New, dreams are common human experiences that hold worlds of interpretative possibilities. As New states, she has “always thought that [dreams] are really interesting and related to a lot of disciplines; neuroscience has a lot to say about them, so does psychology–don’t get me started on Freud–and, of course, art.” Keeping the breadth of knowledge about dreaming in mind, New’s exhibit sought to capture the universality of dreaming through a variety of different material representations.
To compile this set of multimedia works, New reached out to students across the 5Cs for submissions. “My primary goal was to curate the show. Not being much of an artist myself, I really wanted to showcase [other] student[s’] art” said New. The breadth of student pieces and New’s careful arrangement of them within an engaging space resulted in an exhibit that highlighted individual expression, while also emphasizing the communal nature of the dream space. The show featured student submissions ranging from tasteful nude photography to a search engine that produced a count of Billboard Top 100 songs with the word “dream” in them for a given year. New hoped that by offering her audience such a broad range of works she could provide a variety of lenses through which to view the topic of dreaming.
Community appears to have guided New’s curatorial process, not only while working with student creators but also while working alongside Pitzer staff. New is especially grateful to her advisor, Paul Faulstich, and the Grove House Caretaker, Saleck Tikande, for their support throughout the process. “Paul really came in as a hero…I had never met him before, but I came in a week before [independent study forms] were due and he was very helpful,” she said. Similarly, Tikande helped New to repaint the Grove House gallery room, and she worked with him “pretty much constantly” during the six months prior to the show.
Pitzer’s greater community also helped New make her vision for the exhibit into a reality by providing financial support. New was denied academic funding due to an unexpectedly high number of student research applicants this year. Fortunately, she was able to access $300 from Pitzer’s Events Board, and pull off the show with a low-budget thanks to plenty of hands-on support from community contributors.
After months of preparation, the day of the opening arrived. New’s exhibit was held in the Grove House gallery. The room was arranged to look and feel like a bedroom, complete with a mattress in the center of the floor on which students could lounge, observe the artwork from different angles, or (theoretically) doze off into their own dreamscapes.
Artwork was displayed along the gallery walls and on pedestals, complemented by purple accents and small reminders of the show’s overarching surrealist theme. These carefully placed reminders included a set of wooden letters arranged in an anagram of the word “surreal” and a collaborative dream journal. Each letter was treated differently: “one was coated in melatonin, another was covered with words from a word count analysis of [New’s] dream journal.” The collaborative dream journal was meant to immerse viewers more fully into the exhibit, allowing them to add their voices to a work in progress and to contribute dreams for future audiences to read as if they were in a guest book.
In attempts to further conversation between artists and the audience, New compiled catalogs featuring each piece with a corresponding artist statement, which detailed student contributors’ conceptions of the Surrealist-dream theme and how relates to their work. These catalogs were also showcased at Zine Fest, an event at which student and community artists were able to share (or sell) their small homemade magazines, known as zines.
Overall, New considers the show a success. After working at 5C art galleries for a while, having curated her own museum exhibit featuring student work is a fulfillment of her long-standing aspirations. Her interactions with the Pitzer community while planning and hosting this event reminded her of the kindness of Pitzer staff and students. While reflecting upon Pitzer’s support of her exhibit, New stated, “What I feel Pitzer is great at is that individual students can approach individual faculty members and make whatever ideas they’re thinking of happen.”
As a graduating senior, New wants current Pitzer students to know that they have an abundance of resources at their fingertips. “There is lots of room for individual expression at this school,” she says, “All it takes is a little initiative, which Pitzer students have.” New feels sustained by the support of Pitzer’s administration, the guidance of her faculty mentors, and the aid of fellow students who have helped her to pursue this project.
Natasha Wong, PZ ‘22, is a dancer and a new addition to the Outback Staff. She’s from Utah which is unfortunate given her feelings regarding Mormons.
Chloe Frelinghuysen Artist Statement and Works
“To me, dreams are a combination of the surreal and the emotional. In my works, I explore relationships between surreal colors in portraiture to create emotional meaning. What I aspire to capture is the essence of my dreams, their fluidity of shapes, and their emotional content.”
Shay Lari-Hosain Artist Statement and Works
“…A new process lends these scenes a different and distinct rendition. By capturing up to a hundred shorter exposures and mathematically averaging each frame, I assume direct control over the effective duration of the exposure in post-production, as well as the ability to turn on and off stoplights and illuminated windows whose state changed during capture using only information recorded by the camera. This process also nearly eliminates photographic shot noise, imparting skies with a near-perfect gradient ramp from color to color and vivid hues…”
Marisa Branco Artist Statement and Works