Students sometimes say that life at Hamilton exists in a “bubble” somewhat removed from real-world events off the Hill, but this does not hold true for Danielle Lashley ’13. She chose to spend her summer gaining valuable career experience right here on campus, by pursuing modern studio art work supported by an Emerson Foundation grant. Lashley, an art concentrator, is working with Associate Professor of Art Rebecca Murtaugh to get a taste of what life as a full-time studio artist might be like.
Lashley, who is studying the role of “domestic body space” in modern art, explains her translation of the term as bodily interaction with everyday objects within the home. Most objects within the home take a different form when interacting with people as opposed to when unoccupied, says Lashley. She referenced examples of domesticity such as couches, beds and clothing, which change in form by stretching or becoming indented when being used by people. “This is how domestic space relates to the absence and presence of the body,” she says.
Beginning her research by reading about modern artists and artistic approaches to the idea of space, she traveled to New York City with Professor Murtaugh to visit the Brookline Museum, the Museum of Art and Design, the Museum of Modern Art and a number of private art galleries in an effort to explore current conceptions of domestic body space in modern art. While Lashley had previously visited New York City and many of its museums, she appreciated the opportunity to experience the city through the eyes of an artist like Murtaugh.
While Lashley’s research has led her to form a number of conclusions about the ideas of body, space and domesticity, she stresses that the goal of her project is “not about finding an answer, but about the exploration.”
Lashley’s artistic study was originally intended to visualize the idea of body and space in an outdoor environment, but she has decided to take a more open-minded approach to her summer research. Her project will now be displayed indoors in the List Art Center and will focus as much on the use of various sculpture techniques, as on the theme of body and space. As the purpose of the Emerson grant is for Lashley to gain experience in studio art and related techniques, her transition in focus from results to methodology seems wholly appropriate.
One of Lashley’s most employed techniques is her innovative use of sewing in the creation of sculptures. She is creating a stuffed patchwork cloth sculpture of women’s undergarments to represent the change in form that clothing undergoes when it is no longer occupied by a body-like presence. She is also employing the themes of body and space and exploring a new medium by creating her first ever plaster sculpture of an entire body. Human plaster sculptures are formed by molding plaster onto an actual human model. When the plaster has dried and is removed, the body’s form remains even though is no longer present, thus illustrating Lashley’s focus on body and space.
While Lashley enjoyed her time working as a full-time artist over the summer, she is not yet sure if she will pursue a career as a studio artist. She remarked that working as a full time artist is “harder than you’d think. It’s very mentally draining because you can’t go home and forget about your work… you take it with you everywhere. I sometimes get up at night and come here to the studio, either because I’ve had an idea or because a medium I’m using is time sensitive.” Regardless of Lashley’s eventual career choice, her talent in modern studio art is difficult to overlook – her work can be viewed on her personal website.
Lashley is a graduate of the Pingry School (N.J.)