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Art and Spanish double major works on an honors project with Ed Kerns, Eugene H. Clapp II Professor of Art, as her adviser

Ellen Rose ’09 (Spring Lake, N.J.), a double major in art and Spanish, is performing an honors project in studio art exploring the processes of accumulation and repetition with Ed Kerns, Eugene H. Clapp II Professor of Art, as her adviser.

I began my fall semester with eight individual projects that I have been augmenting on a nearly daily basis. These projects are developing and changing in ways that I could not foresee and will continue to do so until they are completed and compiled in May.

The projects are an exploration of the maturation of an artist – or any individual – in that the art and artist transform together very gradually. The effect of the final pieces will be realized and heightened by the understanding that they are comprised of many smaller components that have been amassed over a period of roughly nine months.

For example, one of my projects is to make a self portrait every day. The portraits are unique in that they each reflect different media, different styles, different moods, and different perceptions of me. The portraits, as well as myself, have matured gradually over these past months and any patterns or nuances in the body of work will be revealed to me in the end when they are finally compiled together.

Another project will be presented as a modern day personal “Wunderkammer” (a tradition begun in the 16th century of displaying scientific artifacts, artwork, and specimens – a cabinet of curiosities – that were the precursors to modern museums). This “Wunderkammer” will be especially humorous because it will be presented as a professional, formal exhibit even though its main theme is my life and my collections of useless objects. My artwork in general is whimsical, quirky, and colorful; however, it also sometimes exudes ominous, macabre tones and hints of morbidity.

I’m also producing a beaded scroll which is currently about two inches wide by three feet long and continues to grow lengthwise. It consists of thousands of tiny ‘seed beads’ that construct a phrase, bead by bead, letter by letter. The phrase is “An artist’s death is never sad,” and I plan to repeat “never sad” multiple times like an echo.

Another project is a hair nest constructed of my own hair. I have been collecting fallen follicles and scraps from haircuts since August, and will amass them together to build a nest. This project relates to the art/artist relationship directly because the art is constructed from my own body. It also pertains to the notion of home and how identity is built, in part, upon a series of external details.

Working with my adviser on this project has been a treat. Professor Kerns is a wonderfully insightful and intelligent professor whose discussions lead me to gain a broader perspective of my work and reinvigorate my motivation when I have reached a plateau.

My immediate plan for after graduation is to go to Bangalore, India, through a program called Parikrma. I will live there and teach mainly English and art at an impoverished elementary school. I’m excited about the idea of someday becoming a professional artist, but I don’t know how realistic of a goal that is to pursue. Still, my commitment to the thesis program has taught me that with a dedicated studio practice, I am capable of producing wonderful art.

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