Photo Courtesy of Teagan Durkin.
Visit the Phillip’s Museum. Walk into the Steinman College Center, stroll through the first floor galleries, then go down the staircase to find yourself immersed in Spectra. This curation of student work is centered around neurodiversity which, as the exhibit explains, is a “term commonly used as an identifier for people whose brain works in ways traditionally considered atypical.” Featuring several artists and brilliant multi-media pieces, Spectra is a triumph in showcasing a collection of both talented dedication and variety of experiences while navigating the world with a unique perspective.
As mentioned in Spectra’s exhibit pamphlet, this collection’s intention is to utilize the uniting power of art to celebrate students on campus who identify as neurodivergent. Along with explaining the Spectra’s intentions within the F&M campus, the pamphlet also provides artist biographies that shed light on the context of the various art pieces.
Brandon Webb, one artist whose work was displayed in Spectra, focused on photography to provide introspection into living with a passion for creative processes and expressions paired with ADHD. Photos that embody the quiet serenity of a still life oil painting are featured in Webb’s work, and range from a verdant golden pothos sitting on a windowsill to an ornate collection of fabergé eggs.
Josh Kulak is another featured artist, and his collection blurs the line between purely academic pursuits and creative exploration. As a volunteer at both the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the North Museum of Nature and Science, the latter right next to F&M’s campus, Kulak drew inspiration from working with insects in entomology to create box-like-unit displays that taxonomically categorize and display a variety of beetles in an aesthetically pleasing manner. In recent years, Kulak has wanted to bring greater unity to the middle space between art and science, particularly with highlighting the beauty of beetle specimens. With this exhibition, a “tiny, tiny picture of the vast diversity of this world” is displayed, and encourages the reader to explore a microscopic display, with the final beetle diversity drawer the culmination of two years of work.
Makayla Gayden’s two pen and ink pieces illustrate the elegance behind practicing one’s craft with both passion and determination. After being exposed to stippling in a high school art class, Gayden continued to pursue dots through self-taught lessons and YouTube videos. Having never shown art in a public show, Gayden was excited to showcase in a public museum. When selecting pieces to include, having primarily worked with smaller compositions before, Gayden sought to expand the size of their medium. In Gayden’s curation, one can observe the solitary beauty of Lone Singer, a pointed woman with a microphone, and Woman With Headscarf, who’s contemplative gaze both invites reflection and deflects divulging.
Ellie Chiaradonna’s collection of multi-media paintings and paper cut-outs are a journey through growing up with dyslexia and navigating this with a personal and narrative context. Chiaradonna’s creative process was guided by a desire to dedicate pieces to her high school, AIM Academy, which specializes in educating students with learning differences. Also, each painting is a portrait of an individual who has positively influenced Chiaradonna’s understanding of living with dyslexia: two are of teachers who helped her develop and grow, and Chiradonna’s parents, who are her strongest advocates and role models, are also featured. All the paintings are a poignant, “Thank you,” to the teachers, activists, and family who have accompanied and uplifted Chiaradonna.
Yingtong (Viola) Yao’s exhibition centers around memory as a guiding principle. With several surrealist photographs, most blurred as if distorted by the mere struggle of trying to capture intangible moments, Yao seeks to inspire the viewer to consider their own memories, and the stories that are shaped from these memories. Also, Yao’s photographs are a bit like a kaleidoscope. Squint, and try to make out the reason from the bits and pieces.
Pairing screenprinting and Alice in Wonderland, Serena Almy’s work also draws from solar system structures to illustrate a plethora of personal passions in diverse media, fairy tales, and astrophysics. At the core of all this exploration is a desire to experiment with various processes, and string together several interests into a cohesive artistic form.
Highlighting childhood passions, Anna Waldstein-Torres seeks to illustrate how these interests translate into an artistic medium in adulthood. In particular, an American Girl Doll is featured in Double Doll, a black and white monochrome photo inviting the viewer to interpret. Waldstein-Torres’ second photo, Quilt, is a colorful patchwork collection of companions, with the exuberance of found family and friendship vibrantly shining through every portrait.
Sophomore Teagan Durkin is The Opinions Editor. Her email is email@example.com.