Carney Hall has always assumed a mysterious air. The looming, dismal exterior paired with the half-empty, expansive network of classrooms and offices always fills visitors with a quiet sort of loneliness when they pass by or have to venture in. Maybe you set foot in the gloomy hallways during the chaos of finals, following the advice of a random acquaintance that suggested you might happen upon an empty classroom to study in. The well-intentioned step into Carney’s halls, for me, quickly became an extensive exploration fueled by procrastination and fascination with the dusty, abandoned feeling of the place. Carney is an unexpectedly creative place—the mystique could inspire thoughts of experimental movies, or narratives including a haunting, or even cold, lonely photographs.
A love of Carney is uncommon. It’s consistently written off by the student population as the ugliest building, a place where you don’t go unless you absolutely have to. But beautiful things are happening in Carney, despite public opinion. The unpopularity of Carney makes it an accessible place for artists and musicians to develop and display their creative efforts. The current gallery space in Carney 203 is a prime example of this.
Carney 203 is a repurposed classroom turned art gallery that is currently hosting a magnificent exhibit called Silver and Ink: A Photographic Exhibition. The exhibit showcases the work of five extremely talented undergraduate photographers from Professor Muldowney’s Photography II Class, and it will be presented until the end of January. Silver and Ink features the work of five students: Yiting Chen’s Identity, Andres Gonzales’ Imaginary Objects, Jackson Rettig’s The Boredom Complex, Yiwei Wang’s Self-portrait, and Liam Weir’s The Devlin Herald.
The course that inspired the Silver and Ink gallery aimed to have each photographer create a strong body of work, going beyond the technical focus of a Photography I class to have the students develop a cohesive aesthetic and personal photographic vision using the skills they have previously learned. It pushed the students to fully explore the relationships between the technical aspects, such as exposure, film development, camera, and the aesthetic results. It required each student to have a thesis or theme to govern their collection of images, which made the course function very well in a gallery setting.
The gallery is stunning. The three stark white walls are brightly illuminated with typical gallery spotlights that give the prints a lively glow. The minimalistic presentation follows the design of your typical art museum, giving the work the power to stand out against the plain walls. When first you enter the room, there is a split second where you don’t know where to go first, leaving you stuck in the middle noticing only the diverse arrangements of the works and taking them in as a series of 2-dimensional shapes. For instance, Self-portrait spans the entire wall on left, arranged randomly with prints of varying sizes that draws the eye on a fluid, very haphazard journey across the wall. Similarly, Imaginary Objects is arranged freely and spaced widely, with the sharp contrast of the images standing out on the white wall. This stands in contrast with the highly organized, uniformly sized presentations of The Boredom Complex and Identity that gives an impression of an understood sequence.
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They all stand in contrast with Weir’s exhibit on the far right, The Devlin Herald, which presents one image displayed through disconnected pieces of newsprint that overlap to form a larger street scene on the wall as an example. The other images folded in the classic newspaper format that are intended to be interactive were casually laid out on a white bench, the only object in the room. The print text offered a commentary on the legitimacy of news media in the world we live in, where the truth can be pieced together like his multi-paged photographs that required the “reader” to disassemble the newspaper booklets and puzzle-piece them together on the rug floor.
Each exhibition draws you in in its own way, and requires a focused, analytical glance. When you get closer, the shapes become photographic works of art that all sprung from an incredibly unique theme or idea. For example, Boredom Complex explored how several students coped with being isolated in a completely dark room for several hours. The subjects were photographed periodically, without knowledge or sense of the passage of time, using a remote controlled by Jackson on the other side of the door in order to preserve the goal to catch the subjects off guard, in their natural state of boredom. The images were organized like a grid, plotting the passage of time on the top and the names of the students on the left, giving a pretty interesting comparison of the subjects in various states of boredom at the same time. The collection included over 80 photographs, and due to the unplanned exposures, they gave a very human and vulnerable face to the subjects in their various states of disarray and utter boredom.
Identity was the only collection that appeared in color. Her fiercely vibrant, yet soft, images featured stunning portraits in which the subject’s face is obscured by blur through the use of a longer exposure, giving the images a dynamic, moving quality. If the faces had been shown, they would have taken on the form of extremely elegant fashion portraiture as they made use of beautiful studio lighting and intricate, artful clothing. The artistic choice to blur the images, however, gave the collection a universal feel, as if the model could be anyone, anywhere, an extremely interesting concept given that the series is titled Identity.
On the adjacent wall to Identity, Imaginary Objects was similarly insightful. The aim of Imaginary Objects was to depict what one would codify as more cliche images on campus and in the city of Boston uniquely through the distortion of the film negatives. The use of a candle to burn, melt, fold, and buckle the negatives after developing transformed the photographs of cliche places, like Gasson Hall and Boston Common, into new worlds that dissolved and swirled into large black spots where the data on the film was ruined.
Self-portrait also utilized film, but focused instead on the intricacies and abstract shapes of the things in the realm of the everyday. Her gallery was certainly the most extensive in the context of how many diverse technical skills were used to make unique exposures, and the range of subjects that her images depicted. Her use of light and blur was also extremely striking, and her photographs show a real talent at capturing geometry and light with a unique eye. The inclusion of very small, contact sheet-sized images interspersed throughout the larger format more geometric images created a dialogue between the things she chose to shrink and the ones she printed full size. The display was visually interesting, enhancing her already artful images.
Silver and Ink does not disappoint, strong and beautiful enough to rival even the aesthetic goals of the bathrooms in Carney. And if you do find yourself in the supposed wasteland of Carney one day, you’ll find a stunning display of student creativity.
Featured Image By Yiting Chen