BC Art Club’s Spring Show brings Love and Light to Carney Hall

By Cuilin Chen

Cui - Art - Relapse

The BC Art Club curates a Student Gallery Show every spring semester. About 15 pieces of artwork by BC students hung in Carney Hall , but the first floor hallway could barely contain the creative energy that streamed from the walls.

The exhibitions don’t usually follow a theme: a variety of media and subjects, as well as a rich variation of color, are found in these paintings. But for the purpose of curation, sometimes repeated motifs are grouped together, an unexpected confluence of inspiration revealing itself within these annual shows. Moving from one piece to another is a jump for the eyes, but the reward for processing such a sensory leap is the excitement of grasping each artist’s unique style.

Kieu Bach, Art Club president, tells me: “We treat the students’ work with as much integrity and professionalism as we can, by making tags and paying attention to lighting and specific instructions if we’re given them.” And I am surely convinced as I see how much attention they pay to details and how much effort they put into creating a professional setting, demonstrating the utmost respect for the artwork. The work of Tashrika Sharma is intentionally placed at a low position on the wall to encourage viewers to explore the space, says an art history student Vincent. As we walk down the hallway, Vincent offers thought-provoking insights on the paintings. In one work, intersecting curves are drawn over nine pieces of wood. The smooth, swirling movement of the charcoal disturbed by the harsh angles of the wooden structure conveys a sense of both divergence and unity–a paradox of continuity and interruption, raising questions about space that echo with the art work’s title, “Relapse”.

Another interesting painting is Samuel Kuchwara’s “Window Frost”: a rather abstract depiction of a forest, not so much oriented on forms, but enriched by, and layered with, sophisticated colors and various brushstrokes. My impression of this piece changes as I alternate between observing from a distance and looking closely. As I move towards the painting, it seems to grow thicker and denser. A part of its spontaneity translates into vigor, rendering a beautiful and dynamic scene.

"Window Frost," by Samuel Kuchwara. Photo by Alfred Bolden.

“Window Frost,” by Samuel Kuchwara. Photo by Alfred Bolden.

I stare at Alexandra Deplas’ work for the longest time, intrigued that I feel compelled to solve the mystery in the double portrait of “Shower Hour”. The artwork is created with a mixed use of opaque and transparent watercolor. A recognizably female form sits beside a distorted face, the identity of the subject obscured. The disproportional somber features of the mystery subject seems to be melting as water runs down, her lack of expression further dimmed by shower mist, exuding a feeling of torment and sadness. In contrast, there is much more softness and warmth to the other portrait, which makes it less confronting  for the eyes, but all the same ambiguous.

"Shower Hour," by Alexandra Deplas. Photo by Alfred Bolden.

“Shower Hour,” by Alexandra Deplas. Photo by Alfred Bolden.

I am also fascinated by a set of  watercolor paintings, delicate and elegant  for their fine lines and vivid colors, which enhance the naturalistic style. “The paintings depict places or feelings that are huge parts of my life,” says Léa Oriol, the artist. “For example, the coastal landscape depicts an island where I spent a huge part of my life, where I could escape from the harsh reality of my childhood. The portrait of the girl, initially a doodle made on the plane to Boston, represents the pangs of loneliness I sometimes feel when thinking about people that are dear to me but are not around anymore.” These pieces are not big in scale, but placed together, they deliver a coherent and personal story of Lea’s, which touches me deeply.

Watercolor landscapes by Léa Oriol. Photo by Alfred Bolden.

Watercolor landscapes by Léa Oriol. Photo by Alfred Bolden.

I have had a long day, yet by discovering the talent and creativity of these students, and, as if I am invited to step into their inner world through their art, by seeing the world from their perspectives, although just for a brief moment, my own world is refreshed and enlightened. I agree with Léa for sure: “Art is peace, art is love, art is life. I embrace it in every form”.

BC artists, exhibit your work for thousands of festival guests! Submit to the annual student exhibit in the Stokes Tent Gallery at ArtsFest 2015. Be a part of the biggest student art showcase of the year, represent student artists at the gallery opening, and have your chance at a cash prize in the critics’ choice awards. Details on the show and how to submit are here.

Vaginas: Hysterical, Uncomfortable, Addictive

By Anna Vecellio

(Used with permission of Christine Rotondo)The cast of this year’s production (from left to right, back to front): Amanda Melvin, Bernadette Deroń, Ella Jenak, Kelly Margaret, Cassie Chapados, Danielle Wehner, Marwa Eltahir, Maggie Snell, Michaela Dolishny, Katie Germany, Samantha Constanza, Lily Chasen, Emily Stansky, Meghan Hornblower, Madeline Kay, Krystina Novello, Julia James, unknown, Rowan Charleson, Emily Grace, unknown, Olivia Hershieser, Liz Choi, Grace Fucci

The cast of this year’s production (from left to right, back to front): Amanda Melvin, Bernadette Deroń, Ella Jenak, Kelly Margaret, Cassie Chapados, Danielle Wehner, Marwa Eltahir, Maggie Snell, Michaela Dolishny, Katie Germany, Samantha Constanza, Lily Chasen, Emily Stansky, Meghan Hornblower, Madeline Kay, Krystina Novello, Julia James, unknown, Rowan Charleson, Emily Grace, unknown, Olivia Hershieser, Liz Choi, Grace Fucci. Used with permission of Christine Rotondo.  

“Good is towing the line, being behaved, being quiet, being passive, fitting in, being liked, and great is being messy, having a belly, speaking your mind, standing up for what you believe in, fighting for another paradigm, not letting people talk you out of what you know to be true.”

― Eve Ensler

From the moment you walk in to the annual Boston College production of The Vagina Monologues, the experience is one of a kind: The audience is made up of the widest assortment of people I’ve ever seen at any theatrical event. Every kind of stereotype or cliché group that people imagine makes up the BC bubble has a representative there. That same diversity in audience is reflected in the play itself. The show is made up of monologues written by Eve Ensler and based originally on her interviews conducted with 200 women in the 1990s. Amazingly, nearly every type of woman imaginable finds a voice within them.

As the narrator explains how the interview process worked, what women were asked, and any background information needed, the actresses take on the roles of real women and tell their most private stories. Even with the intense intimacy of the work, it is rife with humor – break down crying, pain in your stomach, laughter that never ends humor. At the same time, whether you’re a boy or a girl, young or old, first-time attendee or veteran, the monologues challenge you. They force you to watch agonizing stories of abuse, push your boundaries of acceptance, and acknowledge the potential problems in your own relationships. Most importantly, however, they do all this without apology. There’s no attempt to sugar coat the dark truths the flow under every monologue. You’re expected to be uncomfortable, but rather than make you feel guilty about it, the play encourages you to try and learn something about yourself and women in general.

Perhaps it’s that attitude, that there is always a way to expand your awareness, that inspires people to attend The Vagina Monologues every year. Every actress who dons the signature red accessory contributes something new and unique to the discussions of women, love, and violence that the show promotes. This year’s show was no exception. What I never realized before, however, was that while the atmosphere and message of the show is consistent – the monologues themselves are not. There is a core set of speeches that never change, yes. However, every year a new monologue is added to the mix. For someone new to the show, it wouldn’t be noticeable, but for those who seen it before – it’s jarring. It makes you sit up and pay attention, eager to learn what new woman Eve Ensler wants to introduce you to. In the spirit of the play, one that tries to give voice to all women, this rotating slot acts as a stage upon which a less popularized story can be told. In 2003, for example, Ensler created a monologue based on women living under Taliban rule.

This year, however, the new monologue was one that premiered in 2004 but is not included in the standard play. In it, four actresses (Maggie Snell, Danielle Wehner, Bernadette Deroń, and Tatiana Scaefer) stood together and recited monologues about the lives of four transgender women. This new addition comes at the tail end of a year that has featured the stories of the transgender community more heavily than any year before it. On one page of the news you have the tragic story of Leehlah Alcorn, a young transgender girl whose suicide prompted national discussion, and on the other you have the amazing success stories of women like Laverne Cox, the first transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy, and the Amazon show Transparent, which follows a family man’s journey through transition into a woman and won two golden globes.

In this year’s sensationalized stories, the good and the bad went hand in hand. The new series of monologues reflected that same dynamic. On one hand, the actresses captured the joy of finding a place and people who accepted them and, on the other, conveyed the crippling fear of violence that follows their every step. In isolation, the piece was moving and haunting. Within the context of the play, its inclusion in this year’s performance reminded me that, while the monologues are amazing and they tell many stories that would otherwise slip into anonymity, there is always another story to be told. There is always another woman whose suffering is being ignored and most of the time, it is only through works like The Vagina Monologues that her voice can be heard.

If I were to describe The Vagina Monologues in three words they would be: hysterical, uncomfortable, and addictive. No matter how many times I see the play, I know I will be back the following year, ready to be entertained again, ready to be challenged again.

Roaming the Roman Provinces: Night at the McMullen Museum

By Kristen Mabie

Mosaic floor with geometric design; courtesy of the McMullen museum.

Mosaic floor with geometric design; courtesy of the McMullen museum.

Unlike a computer from a decade ago that has been rendered virtually useless in society, art from thousands of years ago has not lost its ability to captivate. The McMullen Museum proved this with their most recent exhibition, Roman in the Provinces, produced in collaboration with Yale University where the exhibition was on display last autumn. The idea for this exhibition was born after the last co-op exhibit between Yale and Boston College showcased ancient works in 2011 and the two universities were inspired to create an exhibition that explores the limitations and concepts of Roman art as it relates to Roman provinces.

Entering the McMullen Museum the evening of the opening of Roman in the Provinces, I was immediately engrossed in shades of taupe and soft, warm earth tones created by the interior of the museum and the composition of mosaics, sculptures and architectural fragments erected in Europe as early as the beginning of the Common Era. The works on display, ranging from architecture that more clearly relates to imperial Rome, to the more subtle aspects of provincial life such as what glassware was placed out for dinner guests, allow the viewer to explore many aspects of the Roman Provinces – each as intriguing as the last. It did not take me long to realize this exhibition was not going to cater to the traditional impression of art in the Roman Empire; within the alcoves of the upper floor alone I found art from many regions ranging from Italy, to modern-day Turkey and the United Kingdom. Having such a wide range of art in one place creates a visual timeline for the viewer to explore spanning hundreds of years and multiple regions.

The longer I wandered through the exhibition, examining the tiny treasures in the farthest corners of the museum, the more guests arrived. At each piece, small groups gathered to have hushed conversations, the mysterious nature of the art causing almost every visitor to pause and read the sign, pouring over the stories of each object’s former life. I overheard a woman ask, “What is this beautiful thing?”  which was surely the question on everybody’s lips. With furrowed brows, each guest walked curiously from piece to piece. I’m confident I appeared as curious as all the other guests as I examined a small, silver statuette that vaguely reminded me of Edgar Degas’s dancers.

Figurine of a seated dancer; courtesy of the McMullen Museum

Figurine of a seated dancer; courtesy of the McMullen Museum

Though the exhibition takes place in an art museum, and the artifacts are undoubtedly works of art, the experience at Roman in the Provinces is as much about anthropological and historical learning as it is about art history. There is something uniquely absurd  about standing in front of an article of clothing from nearly 2,000 years ago. I struggled to comprehend the idea that these objects were masterfully preserved since the times of late antiquity and their paths have brought them here, to the campus of Boston College. Reading about a linen tunic belonging to a child in 6th-8th century Egypt, I was stunned – it was in perfect condition. Over the course of the evening, I watched multiple other guests become enamored with the tunic, with the child you can imagine running around in it, ancient history suddenly becoming not a dusty relic but something tangibly human. Standing inches from an artifact like that tunic, or the beautiful, expansive mosaics also on display, it is impossible to conceive the amount of history that has occurred between this artwork’s creation and the thoughts you have looking at it.

Almost an hour into the exhibition, Nancy Netzer, the museum’s director, gave a talk and I gathered, along with all the other guests, among the ancient busts. As I looked around me, between the heads of students and faculty members were marble sculptures of deities and elites from the Roman Empire – quite the gathering of individuals! Professor Gail Hoffman, another of the evening’s speakers, expressed that the exhibit was designed to invite visitors to these provinces and urge them to ask, “What did it mean to be Roman there?” The exhibit encourages visitors to reconsider their perceptions of the Roman Empire and look deeper, allowing each object to tell its story.

The Lowell Humanities Series Hosts Alison Bechdel

By John Hogan

"What would happen if we spoke the truth?" - Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

“What would happen if we spoke the truth?” Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

This past Wednesday, the Lowell Humanities Series had the pleasure of hosting the cartoonist Alison Bechdel. Bechdel grew up in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania and began her career with the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1983. She is best known for her graphic memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother? Both graphic memoirs are two parts of the same family drama, the first focusing on Bechdel’s relationship with her father and their sexual orientations, and the second on Bechdel’s relationship with her mother. Even though Fun Home is the work that won her critical acclaim, both graphic memoirs are exceedingly earnest and spellbinding works.

Her talk opened the same way it ended: with fervent applause. Bechdel took the stage with calm and composition, exuding confidence in both her work and herself. Seated at the back, initially I was worried about missing out. But even when she dipped below the vast sea of heads, I never felt lost. Bechdel possesses an extraordinary ability to capture the audience: Gasson 100 was toasty and dark; sleep would have beckoned even the most cognizant student if there had been a less captivating speaker, but Bechdel maintained a seemingly effortless grip. Even though she did all the talking, the event felt like a conversation through-and-through. I was as relaxed and engaged as if a loved one was telling me a story.

Perhaps that sense of trust came from Bechdel’s expression of her own vulnerabilities. Not once did she shy away from disclosing the darker moments of her life. I imagine that pouring your heart and soul into a graphic memoir is much more intimidating than talking to a bunch of unsure college students. Regardless, lifting the curtain as she did—with hundreds of eyes watching—requires considerable self-conquest. Few of us could muster the deep, soulful courage and indifference to judgment that she did. Bechdel talked extensively about her own sexuality as well as her father’s. She talked about how hard it was to come out as a lesbian to her parents and how she pondered the possibility of her revelation being a trigger for her father’s suicide. She also showed no reservation in alluding to her father’s affairs with other men and even his high school students. The most widely relatable defeat she discussed was her rejection from numerous post-grad art programs. Bechdel showed us multiple rejection letters, some of which claimed neither her writing nor her art was that good. And she didn’t wholly disagree. It wasn’t until she combined her writing and her art into comics that her skills in both blossomed.

It was often in the midst of laughter that the heaviest moments of silence came. This give-and-take of solemnity and humor parallels Bechdel’s own work. Fun Home and Are You My Mother? are certainly “serious” works—some of the first comics to be taken “seriously” in fact–but they are also stories about life; and life is never lacking in paradoxical moments of hilarity and gravity. Bechdel’s presentation wasn’t a mere advertisement. It was an exhibition of profound humanity. Love, sexual confusion, ostracization, failure and success, familial dysfunction—we all face at least some of the problems expressed in Bechdel’s work. Bechdel’s presentation was a well-needed reminder that life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to. But that doesn’t mean we’re alone and that doesn’t mean we can’t derive something beautiful out of it.

The Lowell Humanities Series hosts artists, writers, scholars, and poets on Wednesdays at 7 PM in Gasson 100.

Night of Laughs with the Depressed Comic: Kevin Breel Talks at BC

By Cuilin Chen

It is wonderfully terrifying to sit in the Robsham Theater and listen to Kevin Breel’s talk—I think people around me are going to explode as their laughter bursts out again and again. Mimicking a drunken person he saw one night with wavy arms and exaggerated body shakes, Kevin Breel is stirring with on-stage hilarity. His humor, especially the light-hearted and witty use of sarcasm, brings such excitement for the audience, it is hard to imagine that this young energetic comic was once depressed and wanted to end his own life.

It isn’t too unimaginable for me, though, having watched Kevin’s TED Talk: Confessions of a Depressed Comic last summer. Kevin Breel is a 21 year old writer, stand-up comic, and mental health activist from Canada. In his TED talk, I heard the story of a vulnerable teenager told with such vivid honesty that I felt as if I could touch his pain as I listened to his recollections of being trapped by depression. The Kevin on stage now, however, stuns the audience with an exuberant personality and his comic potential—his delivery is casual but the effect is explosive, a surge of laughter sweeping the audience at every throwaway line.

The transformation from a teenager who once wished not to live anymore to the Kevin today, who has the strength to share his story and help others, must not be the easiest thing in the world. For many people struggling with similar issues, it is deeply meaningful to hear his story as they realize they are not alone in fighting depression. And more importantly, the sense of sharing and caring about others brings people together, and reassures them that it is not as much of a nightmare as they fear. Even though everyone has peaks and valleys in life, and levels of depression vary, it isn’t unnatural to empathize with one another’s deepest feelings, because this is why we are human. I greatly admire Kevin’s efforts in fostering the sense of connection between people and helping them to move out from under the shade of depression.

I caught up with Kevin after the show to talk about the decision to go public with his experiences. Kevin tells me that doing stand ups helps him tremendously in defeating depression. Over the years, the important things he has learnt about fighting depression are to care about people and to be honest with himself. “The only way to be truly loved is to be truly known, and the only way to be truly known is to be vulnerable,” he says.  I could not agree more.

Just among the audience tonight, there will be more people swimming in that darkness than we tend to presume. When it comes to speaking out about a stigmatized condition that affects millions but is still difficult to talk about, a brave candid voice like Breel’s is akin to the most beautiful music. Or at least I believe so. Moments of breakdown are usually despised, dismissed and disliked by us; they cut life sharply into pieces; they are the raspy noises interrupting a soothing melody.

But wait a second: Moments of breakdown also open windows for us to peek into our true selves and build bridges for us to feel deeply for one another. I  searched through my life experiences to verify what Kevin says and came to the conclusion that, indeed, the friendships that I value most were built when my friends and I were going through difficult times. Take a second and ask yourself if it is also true for you.

At the end, one student asks Kevin a pertinent question: “Are you still depressed?” Guess what the answer is? Personally, it does not matter to me whether he is still depressed or not. I have learnt from Kevin’s talks that the most important thing is to react actively when you are, well, “not utterly happy”. After all, depression can happen to anyone; it is not something to fear but, rather, something to be treated tenderly. What we should do in response, which is also my key take-away from Kevin’s talk, is remember these words: Love, Care, Share, and LAUGH!

Honor! Shame! And Violence, Oh My! Modern Lessons from Shakespeare’s Canon

By Anna VecellioHonor Shame Violence 2:3:15

“Mine honor is my life; both grow in one.
Take honor from me, and my life is done.”

-William Shakespeare, Richard II

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve never heard of a Shakespeare play called Honor, Shame and Violence.” Well, you would be correct. However, Boston College Theatre Department’s latest production is not a singular Shakespeare play; it’s an “anthology”. Directed by Tina Packer, a guest professor brought to BC for the 2014-2015 season, Shakespeare: Honor, Shame, and Violence is a study of some of Shakespeare’s darkest plays. Combining scenes from Othello, Henry IV Part I, Coriolanus, and Romeo and Juliet, the play attempts to explore and catalogue how honor and shame directly dictate the course of violence in many of Shakespeare’s works, and perhaps more interestingly, how those same trends can be seen in modern American and world politics.

The show boasts moving performances from its entire cast. Most cast members play more than one character, and some play characters of the opposite gender. In every case, they do amazing work. In particular, Matthew Appleby’s interpretation of Othello strikes fear and horror across the stage, while Aryn Mello Pryor, as Othello’s wife Desdemona, elicits real remorse and grief.

The performances themselves are accented and enhanced by the commentary scripted by both Packer and her class of theater students. By drawing parallels between racism in Othello and the recent demonstrations for Eric Garner and Michael Brown, Henry IV and the American involvement with the Taliban, and Romeo and Juliet’s response to prejudice as a model for our society, Packer and her company create a distinct and unique link between the past and the now. They craft out of centuries-old material a modern lesson that may seem a stretch at first but makes more sense the longer you consider it.

The production ran Jan 21-15 in the Bonn Studio Theater. For information on forthcoming productions from the BC theatre department, please visit their events page.

Hello…Shovelhead! “Butter Party” 2014 Big Show

By Lydia Ahern

Hello…Shovelhead! 2014 Big Show Dec 5th and 6th (7:30 and 10:30pm)

 Laughter is the best medicine for BC students struggling with finals. The weekend of December 5-6th, Hello…Shovelhead! delivered on this prescription with their Fall 2014 Big Show, “Butter Party.” Fulton 511 was packed at each of the four show times—very telling of the group’s popularity. The show definitely felt like a pre-party for the weekend featuring students laughing uproariously during the skits and, in the darkness in-between sets, getting pumped up by dance music.

The live comedy show began on a surprising note with Hello…Shovelhead!’s version of “The Bachelor” presented on a video projector in the front of the room. Each member of the cast had a role in the film, either as a contestant (each with hysterical personalities), host, TV announcer, or bachelorette. It was an incredible introduction to each of the cast members, all with a hilarious and unique role in the short film. Seeing the cast on screen before they came out to perform added to our anticipation for what was to come.

The show proceeded with numerous short skits (which were not short on laughter), performed by differing groups of the cast. The cast members showed incredible imagination in creating the sketches, which ranged from resurrected cats eating Doritos, to Moses’ retaliatory and ‘suspect’ scribing of the Ten Commandments. All of the material was impressively written and performed by various members of Hello…Shovelhead!, and all of it was unexpected, original, and of course….funny.

 Here is that resurrected cat enjoying a snack while his owner, a therapist, and two security guards pay close attention.

Here is that resurrected cat enjoying a snack while his owner, a therapist, and two security guards pay close attention.

Estelle Autissier, first-timer to a Hello…Shovelhead! performance and BC Junior raved, “it was an awesome show. I was laughing from the moment it started until the end. The BC references made it funnier than any comedy show I’ve ever seen”. Students in the audience appreciated seeing friends on stage, allowing for a sense of engaging fun.

The talented cast closed the show with an R-rated surprise… If you missed out on Hello…Shovelhead!, make sure to pay attention to the group’s upcoming shows next semester; their performances are not to be missed here at BC.

In this scene, a dating show to reveal an ex-criminal begins to unravel as stereotypes are tested.

In this scene, a dating show to reveal an ex-criminal begins to unravel as stereotypes are tested.

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Upcoming Events

  • Music Guild Open Mic Night March 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm Vandy Cabaret Room
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