This year’s Studio Honors Exhibition launched with a gallery opening on April 26. The Exhibition, being held in the Eli Marsh Gallery in Fayerweather Hall, features the thesis work of several senior art majors, including pieces by Tess Banta ’16 and Zoe Vayer ’16.
Banta presents her original story, “It Girl,” in the form of a 120-page script, accompanied by 17 pages of illustration. Vayer’s work is a series of photographs, titled “Soil & Salt,” which focuses on the town of North Fork, New York. I had the chance to visit the gallery and to speak to Banta and Vayer about their work.
Banta’s illustrations are displayed on the walls of the gallery, with five printed copies of the story on a table next to the entrance. The originality of her work is apparent from the instant you walk into the gallery. Not sure what to expect, I was struck most by Banta’s photo-shopped illustrations. The images are large-scale, fully detailed, textured, colored, shaded — the aesthetics of these comics are captivating.
Within these illustrations is a story of Beatrice, an artificially-intelligent life form who’s been cast away to “make [her] way in the world.” As a character, Bea is far from the traditional robot. Her emotions are complex and fluctuate from suicidal to exuberant.
Bea is “kind of representative of any graduating senior, in that she’s very hesitant about the future and often mires herself in her own memories and nostalgia,” Banta said. Her character is inscrutable at times, just like any college student can be when facing times of high stress and insecurity.
There is never a moment in “It Girl” where a reader feels excluded from Beatrice because of her artificial intelligence. Instead, underneath her robotism is a complicated reflection of the emotions that any college student can immediately relate to.
One very distinct aspect of Banta’s feature is the format of writing. The story is written as a script: It has the feel of a screenplay, but as Banta states, “unlike a screenplay, they occasionally break a scene down into individual shots and the emotions of the characters are always specified.” Being able to control the script’s emotions, for Banta, is what made the script format so appealing for her as a writer, and what works to enthrall us as readers.
With the impressive illustrations and a relatable narrative, Banta brings this futuristic setting to life through sentiments of familiarity for any student on campus. As for the future of the project, Banta is hopeful that she can continue to refine “It Girl”:
“Since comics are a long-term commitment, I’d like to complete a second draft of the script before I go forward with the art,” she said. “If I finish reviewing, rewriting and editing the script and find that it’s not where I want it to be, I might have to move on to a new project. Illustrating a comic the size of “It Girl” would probably take around five years at minimum.”
In Vayer’s “Soil & Salt,” she explores the town of North Fork through photography. The display features her book of 60 photographs as well as a few large-scale prints hung up on the wall. Her subjects vary from landscape shots of the uninterrupted nature, to action shots of the townspeople of North Fork — all of which function to capture the ambience of North Fork, New York for her viewers.
The images of the town’s citizens were a particularly captivating subject in “Soil & Salt.” Photos of fishermen working on docks, farmers on their farmland, everyday citizens in settings like ferries and diners — each citizen that Vayer photographs is an addition to North Fork’s collective personality, one that is illustrated as hard-working, inviting, humble and unified. The townspeople represent these traits in a way that makes a viewer feel like they know the subjects, and the town as a whole.
Vayer hoped to frame North Fork, “so that they [the viewer] would want to go themselves,” she said. This hope is achieved most effectively by the portraits of the town’s citizens.
The individual photographs within “Soil & Salt” feel more like one, large portrait of the town, rather than 60 different photographs. There is a fluidity to these images, regardless of whether it is a close-up of produce or a landscape of a beach; all of these varying images reflect North Fork as a cohesive, agriculturally-driven and appealing community.
Though these two projects diverge greatly in their presentation and format, the works of Banta and Vayer both succeed as emotional mediums for viewers to fully immerse themselves in. Banta harnesses personal, relatable experiences to display common yet complex emotions within a futuristic character. Vayer captures a town’s character and the lives within it to bring her audiences into North Fork and experience the unique community.
The exhibition is on view in the Eli Marsh Gallery, 105 Fayerweather Hall, through Sunday, May 22. Open hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, May 21, and Sunday, May 22, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.