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Honors Student Rachel Donohue Curates an Art Exhibition

Nicole Patterson

R donohue feature

Senior Honors student Rachel Donohue with one of the works in her exhibition, "Frohawk" by Jaylyn Lassiter. The juried group exhibition, titled Distinct, is on display in the Williams Gallery.

“What does it mean to be human?” That’s the question Rachel Donohue asked in her national juried group exhibition titled Distinct, which explores identity and diversity through race and gender. It’s on display until March 4 in the Williams Gallery in the Delaplaine Fine Arts Center.

As part of her senior Honors Program project, Donohue, a double major in communication and art with a minor in theology, worked with Professor of Art Elizabeth Holtry, MFA, to place an open call for submissions and curate the show.

“I started getting ideas for this project two summers ago,” Donohue said. “We have gone through a lot of political and social unrest, so I think these issues are pertinent on a personal and societal level—and will resonate with the Mount community.”  She said the word distinct is often used to describe differences among individuals—and has a heartening connotation.

Donohue was born and raised in Fallston, Maryland, where she grew up in a predominately white community, and admits the Mount has expanded her perspective on diversity and inclusion. “I see art as a bridge to diversity and I’m excited to create that space here,” she said.

“With regards to the show, but also in general, it’s important to recognize the differences of every person and accept and respect them,” Donohue added. “Our core curriculum tries to address that and I appreciate the diversity the Mount is working to incorporate. By adding more diversity to the curriculum, you’re really going to see the shift with students accepting diversity too,” she explained.

The exhibition features nine artists, from California, Georgia, Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

Sharon Shapiro

sharon-shapiro_motor-lodge-in-text.jpgDonohue awarded artist Sharon Shapiro’s “Motor Lodge” the exhibition’s Best in Show. “I knew it would be between her two works which are both strong,” she said. “I love the colors she uses and her paint application is so unique—very painterly.”

Shapiro’s oil on paper painting depicts a young black girl standing near the steps of a pool, wearing a dress with white socks and black Mary Jane shoes. Behind her is a brick wall and in the background a 50s-style motor lodge complete with a black and a white Buick. A visually jarring orange shadow becomes the backdrop between the personal and political, mythical and historical—blurring the lines between the viewer and the subject.

In her artist statement, she wrote that her work “explores the private lives of women and girls as a means to examine vulnerability.”By asserting the right for self-possession while exposing the suspect authority (the male gaze), Shapiro hopes that cultural representations of women can shift. Shapiro sees painting as a cunning vessel for the tension and insatiable yearning that hides beneath the surface.

Nick Lee

Artist Nick Lee’s piece “Appreciation for the Scholar and the Divine Mother” explores the idea of using traditionally underrepresented people as the subject matter. “Relating to others’ emotions, no matters the differences in physical appearance or beliefs, sparks meaningful conversation about the vulnerability of humanity. In this regard, all humans are the same and all humans are deserving of respect,” stated Lee, who is Japanese American.

Lee’s oil on canvas painting shows a black woman as a sophisticated scholar who is reading a book about the great Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Dong Kyu Kim

kim_1-in-text.jpgArtist Dong Kyu Kim’s work titled “Everything Must Go” is made of tear-proof polyethylene envelopes, plastic, bags, threads and microfiber cloths. The visually stunning patchwork of FedEx and USPS logos represent the layers of meaning and metaphors of consumerism. Upon close inspection, viewers can read New World written in black marker. The young men’s fashion designer says the demise of brick-and-mortar businesses inspired him to create the work as a reminder of the poverty he endured in his hometown in Korea. He said his work is about the concept of the American dream, what motivates people to seek material gain and questions how value is determined.

Kyle Hackett

Artist Kyle Hackett submitted three pieces and each is about race, class and social standing. His oil on panel work titled “After Arrival” is more than a torn up piece of paper. It’s a face. hackett1-in-text.jpgHackett’s interest in portraiture and still live paintings help viewers realize the fragility of life. By emphasizing conflicts between inner and outer, Hackett stated that he hopes to “foster new realities and ways of being understood as not black or white, wealthy or poor, but human.”

Roxanne Anderson

Artist Roxanne Anderson submitted two pieces and is interested in the balance of masculine and feminine. Her works include materials including blood, watercolor, graphite, pastels, charcoal and acrylic. Referencing cultural norms, she believed many individuals engage in shaming and hiding aspects of themselves. She also explores mental health and how humanity can heal.

Jaylyn Lassiter

Artist Jaylyn Lassiter’s “Frohawk” expresses her views on the significant role hair plays in many cultures. Used as the poster image for Distinct, Lassiter’s layers of texture and color depict a black woman’s hair. “The portraits of hair are meant to represent the versatility and uniqueness in black culture while acting as a mirror, creating personal connections between the subject and the audience,” she shared in her artist statement. Her oil painting celebrates self-love and works to tell a story of cultural history and personal beauty.

Carlos Rene Castro

Artist Rene Castro’s photograph “El Campesino, Salinas, CA” is a picture of a man working in Monterey County. “Most of the residents in East Salinas are hard-working and humble undocumented immigrants who have left their native countries to provide for their families,” Castro wrote.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, an opening reception was not held. The Williams Gallery is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. or by appointment.

Nicole Patterson