Attention: Pomona College is planning for a full return of students in fall. Learn More

Undergraduate Research in Art

Pomona College students have the opportunity to apply for funded research grants to conduct focused projects during the summer. Below are recent projects conducted by art students.


From Mutual Entanglements (015) to Interpenetrations (2019); From Drawing (1998-2004) to Animation (2019)

Sei-kashe M’pfunya 21; Advisor: Sandeep Mukherjee

Pursuing an apprenticeship under L.A based contemporary artist, Sandeep Mukherjee, my SURP sought to gain first-hand experience in the brainstorming, experimentation, execution and curation of the artwork by an established working artist. I assisted in experimentations with metal meshes,aluminum,fabrics and glass in preparation for sculptural paintings and in preliminary drawings for the schematic planning of installations and compositions. I was deeply engaged in the process and provided feedback to further explore and refine ideas. From this, I expanded my perceptions of color,its relational nature, as well as the idea that the body is performed as an extension of space and vice versa. We experimented with painted glass and perforations in aluminum for a public project proposal titled “Brick and Machine” in Culver City. The perforations were another means by which material imagery was transformed into immateriality. Additionally, I assisted with the proposal for the “Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District” in Inglewood,which gave me an expansive understanding of an art practice that is generative. Finally, I edited and worked over 500 figurative pencil drawings in preparation for a series of animations that will be projected onto sculptural works and architectural sites. My apprenticeship allowed me to understand how an artist’s work informs itself across projects and across time from the work produced in “Mutual Entanglements” of 2015 to “Interpenetrations” of 2019.

Reimagining the “Worlds” of Gio Ponti’s Wall Organizers: A Study of the Functional and Sculptural Fantastic

Kyle Lenhart-Wees ’20; Advisor: Michael O’Malley

Professor O’Malley set out this summer to dive into the objects and ideas of the artist Gio Ponti, taking that inspiration to create his own art pieces in a continuation and evolution of his own body of work. The sculptural pieces we created reference the Wunderkammer, room divider, wall organizer and the sculptural fantastic. These works come out of an interest to mix the paradigms of design, collection and idiosyncratic art object production into a system that blends the practical and the speculative.

I operated as a facilitator for the professor’s art, often operating independently for over half the day, creating simple forms that Professor O’Malley would then play with, sculpt and refine. The art generation process was very fluid and responsive to feedback. We saw each moment as having the possibility to generate a new idea for a way of making, or a part of a sculpture or drawing, and then the entire making process would begin again.

After 7 weeks of work, Professor O’Malley now has many more potential sculptures started, two fantastical wall organizers, many drawings and much more. With art, it is seemingly impossible to ever state that a piece is finished or complete, but after this summer Professor O’Malley has moved a bit further down the path.


Objects for Perfect Strangers

Joel Freeman ’16; Mentor: Michael O’Malley; Collaborators: James Littlejohn ’17, Chris Harding ‘18

This summer I, along with J. Lucas Littlejohn, participated in a SURP with Pomona sculpture professor Michael O’Malley at ArtLandProjects. ArtLandProjects, located on 78 acres of land in the lower Catskills of New York, has been developed as a residency site, with several living quarters and studio spaces made to accommodate multiple artists. A number of New York City-based artists also live and work in the Catskills region. In spending a month at ArtLandProjects, Lucas and I were able to meet and interact with a community of people who have chosen to live lives defined by their art-making. While at ArtLandProjects, Lucas and I assisted Michael on a series of wood sculpture pieces, our primary focus being Objects for Perfect Strangers. Objects for Perfect Strangers is Michael’s most recent project – one that is to be part of an upcoming show at Colgate College, curated by LA-based Machine Project. The show is an exploration of the college’s relationship to its surrounding town community of Hamilton, New York. In response to the prompt, Michael developed an idea to create a series of sculptural objects for Hamilton locals, beginning with two of Michael’s friends and extending throughout the community by way of a series of introductions. Through its implementation, the project manifests objects as tangible nodes of personal connection—linking Michael to residents of Hamilton, and its residents to one another. These gift objects will then be displayed in September.
Funding Provided By: Cion Estate


Documentation of Performance Art

Ian Byers-Gamber (2014) ; Mentor(s): Mark Allen

Abstract: I worked with Professor Mark Allen at Machine Project to create documentary video of performances that took place last summer and this summer. For Machine Project, documenting and disseminating films of time-based transitory forms of artwork is a directive toward open scholarship and accessibility. This summer I participated in The Machine Project Field Guide to L. A. Architecture, a part of the Getty's Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in LA exhibition, by shooting and editing videos meant to be an analogous creative endeavor to the performance art. The video work is intended to share difficult or relatively inaccessible art with an interested audience. This can overcome differences in location and availability, as some events only happen once or others are extremely limited in audience size. The primary method of sharing is through the internet, so the videos are tailored for internet viewing, which changes the editing process. My work for Machine Project (and other Machine Project videos) has also been distributed through a DVD, shown in an art exhibition, and will be screened in theaters in upcoming events. My research involved developing solutions to effectively capture complex performances and to make editing decisions about the proper structure for the videos. 
Funding Provided by: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Expanding the possibilities of material transformation through alternative surfaces, media, and processes

Kulsum Ebrahim (2015); Mentor(s): Sandeep Mukherjee

Abstract: The SURP was a ten-week apprenticeship under Sandeep Mukherjee, an L.A. based contemporary artist. We sought to expand the conversation about painting as artistic practice, and art as a means of access to an event, space, or experience that is not solely limited to a semiotic reading but instead amplifies affect in order to resist self-identity and connd the experiencing body were considered as important means to calibrate the process. The practice involved creating work that is moving, work that is additive and subtractive, and work that is always in the state of becoming. The apprenticeship culminated in a 18 feet x 45 feet site specific piece that will be installed at Guerilla Atelier in downtown Los Angeles. This work is a reductive intervention in the preexisting architecture on a very large scale that explores the immersive and environmental possibilities of contemporary painting. 
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP