The most recent art exhibit to open on campus was not created by “artists” at all. The contributing photographers of “In the Eyes of Students: Our Experiences Abroad,” for the most part, have no photo training, and the exhibit does not even appear in an art gallery (instead, it is in 1957 E Street room 602). But it is an art exhibit.
The show, which was co-curated by Caroline Park and Meghan Dunn, is a display of photos taken by students during their experiences overseas through the Office of Study Abroad. More than 14 different countries are represented through photos contributed by 15 students. While “In the Eyes of Students” is certainly not National Geographic, it helps its viewers gain an interesting perspective of not only the experience of being an American college student abroad, but also an insight into each nation’s culture, geography, politics and influence from Western cultures.
For students who have never experimented in photography beyond their own snapshots of friends and vacations, the use of color in each photo is impressive. Whether it is the bright yellow of a native woman’s traditional dress or the contrast of Australia’s blue ocean to its red, rocky coast, the students capture the flavor of each country effectively. The caption below a bright photo by Semester at Sea student Katharine Sprissler explains that the Jewish and Muslim sections of the town she visited were separated by the colors blue and green, both of which were insightfully displayed in her photo.
An art show that isn’t created by artists runs the risk of appearing as such. And while the photos underwent a careful selection process by Park, who was inspired by her own assortment of photographs from time spent in Brazil, the show often has the feel of looking at someone’s painfully ordinary vacation slides or scrapbook.
“You won’t find photos like these on a postcard,” said Park, which is true of the many spontaneous snapshots of people. However, the exhibit has its share of sunsets, horizons, cityscapes and oceans that are beautiful but typical.
Even so, “In the Eyes of Students” link each student’s destination of choice back to America. Jesse Rosenthal’s photo of a man passing by a wall of anti-war protest posters in Toledo, Spain, represents the attitude toward Americans during the height of the recent war in Iraq. Rachel Miller captured the haunting eyes of a Senegalese girl who was seeing a Caucasian person for the first time. The photo that most effectively portrays the Americanization of other cultures was a surprising snapshot taken by Jocelyn Canpanaro, of two Japanese girls dressed in traditional kimonos, with one donning a set of Mickey Mouse ears.
The exhibit is a diverse and colorful representation of student life abroad, and is recommended viewing for anyone looking into the University’s study abroad programs.
The photo exhibit will be running through the semester.