Estela Sanchez as Coachilicue, photo by Ian Byers Gamber

Estela Sanchez as Coachilicue, photo by Ian Byers Gamber

“Intimate Something,” the Pomona senior art thesis exhibition, opened on Friday the 28th, bringing a steady steam of excited viewers to the Pomona Art Hall. The show includes work by all eleven senior art majors: Araceli Garcia, Davis Menard, Estela Sanchez, Filip Skrzesinski, Katie BC, Lucas Littlejohn, Makaela Stephens, Narei Choi, Nicolas Orozco-Valdivia, Sarit Snyder, and Tim Kebr. The graduating seniors’ thesis projects are on view all throughout the art building, in the Chan Gallery, outside on the terrace and surrounding the building, and inside classrooms and offices. I was able to hear from the exhibiting seniors about the work they presented and their experience at the opening.

Three seniors presented in the Chan gallery space, Katie BC, Sarit Snyder, and Nico Orozco-Valdivia. Katie presented a group of still life paintings that deal with the “embodied experiences of mental health struggles through the spaces in my life,” playing with senses and perception of time within those spaces. All of the paintings were sold within the first 30 minutes of the opening, exceeding Katie’s hopes and expectations for selling her work. Sarit’s thesis show included a set of glossy realist oil portraits and a series of distorted watercolor self-portraits, all centering on the act of eating and engorgement. She is also a skilled baker, and her installation included cupcakes that participants were invited to eat. Sarit is interested in themes of craving, monstrosity, and the uncanny.  Nico’s work included a series of paintings, a book of photos, and hanging banners. Nico wanted to make work that would have different meanings for different people, and sees his paintings as “beautiful and incisive, critical and receptive.”

Four of the seniors exhibited all or parts of their work outside the building. Davis Mernard’s work is located on the upstairs terrace of the building, and features a full installation including video projections, drawings, and a handmade oversize bed. About his work, Davis says, “I’ve been thinking about how the idea of a home can be leveraged to produce feelings of absence, unbelonging, lack, and shame under the desire to conform to normative national identity.  And what kinds of intimacies develop within this paradigm or outside of it or despite it.” These themes are not unrelated from the work Fillip Skrzesinski presented, half of which is located on an exterior wall next to the drawing classroom, and the other half of which is located inside a classroom nearby. His two projects both deal with ”in-betweenness,” one through his own subject position in the American immigration system, and the other dealing with in-betweenness in the house and home and the ontology of things and materials. Makaela Stevens installed several intimate reading stations around the building to invite passersby to read the books she produced for her own Murray Publishing Press in conjunction with writers Ethan Fukuto and Naimi Roz. Her press is also open for viewing in a small office upstairs. Through her publishing work, Mak aims to “explore text and problematize normative structures.” The final artist who exhibited in the exterior of the building was Estela Sanchez, who showed an extensive performance piece as “Coachilicue,” diosx. Coachilicue’s performance consisted of three phases: first, they interacted with an installation “diorama,” next inviting participants to help move bricks downstairs to build a fire pyre in the center of the courtyard, and lastly, interacting with others to burn a symbolic cactus. Viewers were invited to document the performance on social media. Estela told me she sees the work as dealing with “ideas of visual possession when it comes to the internet worlds, the documentation of Coachilicue as a foreign subject, and finding ways to reclaim authenticity over one’s own representation.”

The four remaining seniors exhibited in other spaces within the Studio Art Hall. Lucas Littlejohn and Tim Kebr both showed in the Grey Space upstairs. Tim presented an ongoing project of attempting to counterfeit money as a way of commenting on his own dual hatred and admiration for everything money involves. “The dollar has a lot of power as a symbol,” Tim said.  “I wanted to call into question why we let money have so much power over us.” Tim not only wanted to comment on class, wealth, and capitalist structure in this more abstract way, but also to bring in his own anger and personal grounding to the work by adding an installation comparing the dollar worth of an hour of his mom’s time at work to 10 minutes of class time at Pomona College. Lucas presented a video piece entitled “Ripple Street Sanctuary,” along with an installation of sculptures. The work centers on the relationship between architecture, the body, and the construction of self. For his installation, he created ecosystems of water and sculptures that are activated by the narrative of the video, which was also shown inside the theater on opening night. Narei Choi also exhibited a video piece, on view in the theater. Lastly, Araceli Garcia presented an installation in the same room as Estela’s diorama. Araceli’s work centers on her personal experience healing from trauma, and includes a peeling of her own body, a cutting of her hair, several collages, and an installation of note cards with handwritten affirmations and reflections.

The seniors I spoke with shared a sense of appreciation for the work of their fellow classmates. The sense of community and mutual excitement was palpable as the seniors reflected on the opening and on the work that went in to the show over the course of the past year. Through collaboration, the seniors felt they were able to put on a strong and cohesive show with common threads reaching across their disparate focuses. There was also a common sense of looking forward to future projects; for many seniors, they see the thesis show as just the beginning of much more work to be done in the future, and as just one piece of important work being done on campus, like the student sit in at Alexander Hall at the same time as the opening last week. If you missed the opening, there is still time to see the show, which will be on view through Friday, May 12th.