Each year, the Williams College Museum of Art hosts an exhibition featuring the culminating projects of the senior Studio Art majors. This year’s exhibition, Instead of Sleeping, includes work by: Tim Brown, Ava Earthman, Henry Johnstone, Xan McKenna, Angelica Pena, Aiden Pham, Daniela Reyes, Isabelle Shah, Kaleisha Towle, and Kevin Weng. The strength and competency of their projects reflect four years of hard work, aesthetic refinement, and individual development.

The students wish to extend gratitude to the faculty and staff in the Art Department and at the Williams College Museum of Art who generously provided feedback and assistance along the way.

Tim Brown
Tougher Times, Safer Spaces, 2024
Mixed media

Ava Earthman

What’s a Good Word for Being Held?, 2024
Acrylic and beading on fabric

Cradle, 2024
Linocut and chine collé with beading

Bind, 2024
Linocut on fabric

Intertwined, 2024
Linocut with chine collé and lace

My art practice emphasizes process and emotion. When I sit down to work, my most successful pieces are a form of release, a visual diary in which I aim to understand myself, my thought processes, and articulate my emotional experiences. I enjoy working with various materials and mediums ranging from textiles, cloth, and beads to charcoal, oil bar, and acrylics. Through material exploration, I am able to uncover the interplay between texture, opacity, translucency, and layering. Each material allows for variation in mark-making, from languid strokes made with charcoal, to buildable surfaces with oil bars. I am attracted to earthy and muted tones and am excited by interactions of color when developing my pieces.

Common themes in my work explore transformation, constriction, boundaries, motherhood, and identity. With the current works, I combine animal and human imagery in an effort to spark curiosity concerning what’s real and what’s imagined. My imagery explores development and forms of identity through strange, relatively avian, relatively hybrid avian female figures, which reflect an ever changing self. 

Henry Johnstone

Vulnerable Ecologies, 2024
Ceramic, metal

Through the mediums of ceramic and metal, my works utilize human and natural forms to explore vulnerability. Forming personal attachments, expressing love, becoming part of a community, caring for the world around us, and expressing hope for the future necessitate vulnerability to the pain of loss. In my life, vulnerability has brought receptiveness to love at the risk of pain, connection at the risk of isolation, and hope at the risk of devastation. My work explores the contradictions embroiled within vulnerability, extending from the personal to the environmental to envision an interdependent ecology encompassing humans and nonhumans. Through material and form, the works express tension between fragility and strength; birth and death; the individual and the collective; isolation and connection; and the natural and the unnatural.

Embracing clay’s sedimentary, primordial nature and its receptiveness to transformation into expressive human forms and delicate natural elements references creation myths and themes of death and rebirth. Withering natural and distorted human forms reference infancy as well as mourning, expressing the strength and pain of becoming and of love and loss. Delicate ceramic flowers contribute to ideas of literal and ecological fragility, while exposing the constructed dichotomy of the “natural” and unnatural which sets humans apart from nature.

Human and nonhuman forms become members of a broader ecology which references mutual vulnerability and the possibility of mutual flourishing. In reimagining our alienation from the natural world, my works acknowledge interdependence and the importance of ecological relationships in pursuit of an environmental care ethic.

Xan McKenna

Beyond Current, 2024
Oil on canvas
Note: Beyond Current is this year’s recipient of The Frederick M. Peyser Prize in Painting, which is awarded annually by a faculty selection committee to a student for a distinguished painting.

Dissipate, 2023
Liquid watercolor on cold-pressed paper

Singularity, 2024
Liquid watercolor on cold-pressed paper

Chrysalis, 2024
Liquid watercolor on cold-pressed paper

Photograph Series: Light Remains, 2024
Inkjet Prints

Thaw, 2024
Oil on canvas

My work centers on the mental and emotional dissonance surrounding my own identity in nature, manifesting in the abstract forms that arise from imagined and remembered landscapes. The internal and external conflate, mirroring the depth of this experience of loss, isolation, trepidation, and wonder. Identity erosion takes on the form of an encroaching, consuming visual force of color that releases the image into a tenuous, other-worldy space.

Using my own photographs of natural elements and figures as references, I work with intuitive and unpredictable currents of paint and water. I’m interested in complicating spatial boundaries and the meaning of real and imagined, trying to reflect my fragmented experience of place, nature, and identity and the way these once-real places morph and mutate in my memory.

I explore blurring the visual boundary between the concrete and the ambiguous, using light to both create and dissolve the illusion of wholeness of the world. This light acts as a boundary and a bridge, along with the marks of light reflections on water, a surface whose boundary is distorted with ephemeral yet infinite movement. My work pushes against this boundary between space and time, both obscuring and creating the relationship between figure and environment, thus rendering a real and remembered space that is in flux like water itself.

Angelica Pena

Do you know how much you are loved?, 2024
Oil on cardboard

Joy comes in the morning, 2024
Oil on paper

I notice you, 2024
Oil on paper

Do you notice me like I do?, 2024
Oil on paper

The works presented here are a collection of oil paintings on paper depicting the people I feel closest to. Portrait painting acts as a way of bridging emotional and physical distance between myself and a loved one. My inspiration is drawn from photographed references or live interactions with the people depicted; painting them with varying time constraints and physical means of visibility. A bright color lies behind each face to illuminate it and match the emotion tied to their gaze. My brushstrokes vary from loose to more precise and interpretive to keep the experience of looking active; moving from the background, to clothing, and eyes. I invite my viewers to enter the world of my subjects and feel the same love, joy, and excitement present in these faces, and present between myself and the subjects.

Aiden Pham

to lay a seed to rest, 2024
Found plates, paper clay, sand, glitter, paper, plywood

what a hand can hold, 2024
Paper clay, teabags, turmeric and tea dye

on eating terms, 2024
Paper clay, turmeric, powdered pigment, varnish

which are really years, 2024
Laserjet on tracing paper

tonal night (tell me what to listen for), 2024
Colored pencil on newsprint

loved one, 2024
Oil pastel on paper, found vase

the mountain hangs over us with benevolence, 2024
Tyvek, found rocks

latest witness, 2024
Found mirror, found tarp, tea, found rocks

this sun is made to tell time, 2024
Acrylic on used dryer sheets, paper, twine, paper clay & gesso on plywood

under the light of your hand, 2024
Cyanotype & gloss varnish on found photo album sleeves

warm scaffold, 2024
Oil pastel on paper, found rocks

wind’s seams, 2024
Found shutters, found tarp, tea, found rocks

soft places, 2024
Colored pencil on newsprint

all i know, I promise, 2024
Lipstick on found dictionary

inheritance, 2024
Lipstick, found rocks, found boxes

i have you back, 2024
Found wooden stool, found tarp, tea, found rocks

distance sounds clearer through water, 2024
Sound installation

Woven bamboo in museum dioramas, peeling Soviet style murals outside schools, bright yellow paint on an old village archway, family photos in plastic sleeves. Growing up, I learnt that material remembers, and constructs belonging from that memory. I make do with materials and hope to render the joy, love, and grief I carry from home and with my communities, and share them with others.

I work with impressionable materials to render memories that are unseen and inarticulable. By initiating contact between different materials at the surface level through cutting, carving, and coloring, I try to gather their sensorial associations to reach towards new ways of remembering of the past, ritual, and the body.

To make is also to displace: things shift, come apart, gather on the wall, the floor, in the studio. My work brings me sensorially to places I cannot go on my own, allowing me to feel out ways to inhabit multiple places and expand the boundaries of myself. I hope to offer objects people can lean on to bring our senses in dialogue with distance, transience, and the spaces between—air pockets, breath, the charged void through which light and sound move.

To remember is also to re-member, to reconstitute a body from parts. I am constantly piecing together my own body in relationship with stories of ancestors, fighters, and artists that inform how I live. With my work, I gather materials to make sense of how I can feel and reenact these stories.

Daniela Reyes

Nuestro Pueblito (Our Little Village), 2024
Linocut on paper

Abuelo, 2024
Oil on paper

Nuestro Pueblito (Our Little Village), 2024
Linocut on paper

Jean, 2024
Oil on paper

Nuestro Pueblito (Our Little Village), 2024
Linocut on paper

Jean Manuel, 2024
Oil on paper

Nuestro Pueblito (Our Little Village), 2024
Linocut on paper

I grew up with the cuentos my abuelo and abuela told me about their life in La Republica Dominicana. Through my art, I recount their stories of perseverance, from the large-scale difficulties of surviving a dictatorship, to small everyday moments of planting plantain and mango trees in their backyard. I tell my family’s stories so they are never lost. I bring to life my memories of walking down Mami’s village in the countryside, a place filled with colorful murals, and other fruits, plants, and landscapes I experienced in my youth, beloved tokens of another country.

With these paintings and prints, I highlight the eternal presence of my abuelo and my primo who are no longer with us. Painting their portraits allows me to process the unfathomable reality of their loss as well as realize that their legacy lives on. My family now owns the lands on which my grandpa spent over half his life growing crops to support his family. We have a house yards away from the home that raised my mom, aunt, and cousin. These prints capture and combine the fragmented aspects of my family’s histories and reconfigure them into harmonious ways of understanding.

Change allows our generations to continue. Time allows new memories to fill the spaces of old ones. My abuelo and primo will live on in the souls of those who come after them—like my little cousin, Jean Manuel, who never had the chance to meet his uncle or grandpa, but is a human medley of them both.

Isabelle Shah

Symphony I, 2024
Oil on canvas

Symphony II, 2024
Oil on canvas

My art dances between the mind’s conceptualization of time and space, while exploring the essence of the human experience. This body of work draws inspiration from the Cubist and Futurist movements, as well as my endeavors within the cognitive psychology labs here at Williams College. As I delve into the intersection of psychology and art, I am compelled by the notion of transforming static dimensions into dynamic narratives, where time unfolds in a symphony of colors and shapes.

My color palette includes bold primaries and contrasting tones, harmonizing to evoke a sense of rhythm and energy. I found myself unsatisfied that realistic depictions of narratives were not getting at how I wish to visualize the essence of human experience—a vast array of emotions, oftentimes conflicting. My current work is the marriage of concepts found within my exploration of dynamic movement and coming to terms with real life experiences.

At the heart of my artistic vision lies the desire to create mindscapes that transcend the boundaries of conventional perception, inviting audiences to lose themselves in the labyrinthine corridors of thought and emotion. With an emphasis on dynamic interplay of hues, I invite viewers into a world alive with vibrant energy and visual intensity. Drawing from my interdisciplinary background in art and cognitive psychology, I aim to evoke a spectrum of feelings, encouraging viewers to pause, reflect, and delve deeper into the nuances of their own consciousness.

Kaleisha Towle

Of Body and Mind, 2024
Monoprints on paper

My art leans towards the abstract and symbolic, employing visual contrast as well as written language to express my intense tendency to overthink and the effect that it has on my physical as well as mental wellness. My creative work functions as my outlet. I insert all my secret troubles into my art.

Of Body and Mind has been about the tension that naturally arises between myself, an orderly person, and the chaotic world I am existing within. Through this visual representation, in the form of layered prints on paper, I have communicated in an explicit manner the looming and exhausting interactions I have had in my lifetime. Making Of Body and Mind is the first time I have expressed to the outside world what it has been like processing the traumas I have experienced.

Within the work are written and drawn messages about my relationship with chronic illness, suicidal ideation, a broken home, and emotional abuse. The medium and process of printmaking allows me to physically work through my thoughts and feelings around these topics. Applying ink, wiping it away, cranking the press, scrubbing my materials clean, all of it, at the end, allows me to transfer some of this energy into the layers of ink and paper.

Kevin Weng

Marinade Motley, 2024
Oil on canvas

Wonders, 2024
Oil on canvas

Splatter, 2024
Oil on canvas

Knickknack, Treasure, 2024
Oil on canvas

Look at Me, 2024
Oil on canvas

Dinner Special, 2024
Photo transfer on plywood

Hideaway, 2024
Oil paint on found cereal box, cardboard boxes

Pooour, 2024
Oil on canvas

Colorful banners and advertisements plastered across the buildings, the constant flow of pedestrians bustling through Main Street, and the sounds of street vendors, traffic, and conversations persist in my thoughts. From the early visits with my family, Flushing Chinatown was a vibrant and dynamic place in my mind. However, as I stroll through its streets today, the neighborhood appears noticeably unfamiliar.

Like many Chinatowns, Flushing Chinatown is undergoing substantial cultural and demographic changes. New food chains have replaced old family restaurants, and younger generations move away, surpassing the number of incoming residents. Gentrification and soaring rent prices have only heightened the departure of long-term residents. By drawing on personal and shared experiences, my works aim to pay homage to and immortalize a declining neighborhood that continues to hold my fondest memories and constitutes my home environment.

In order to capture the neighborhood at its most genuine, my works focus on quotidian moments of Chinatown. By combining a vibrant color palette and intermingling representation and abstraction, my collection speaks to the value of community that I feel in my daily interactions—the seemingly mundane moments that have been so formative in my childhood and artistic development.