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11 Hamilton Students Awarded Smallen Creativity Grants


Eleven Hamilton students have received creativity grants from the Steven Daniel Smallen Memorial Fund. The 2015 recipients are Saige Devlin ’18, Max Freedman ’17, Corinne Hom ’16, Chris Labora ’16, Asad Javed ’16, Lily Johnston ’16, Hristina Mangelova ’16, Laura Rivera ’16, John Rufo ’16, Charlotte Simons ’16 and Zoe Tessler ’16.

Devlin’s project, “Decomposition of the Inner Feminine Etherealism,” will focus on Fungi as a symbol. She writes, “Mushrooms are not only largely involved in myth, magic and folklore, but also serve as a decomposing organism. They feed off of others, breaking them down and turning them into nutrients to supplement their own growth. I find that the both ethereal and scientific depiction of the mushroom can serve to express the ways in which science is slowly causing my childlike mysticism to decay.”

Art and economics major Max Freedman ’17 will work to magnify his most recent artwork which is currently on display in the Kennedy art building. He writes, “My vision is to expand the canvas of our campus and expose more students and faculty to beautiful pieces of art. In order to grow this idea of giving art a greater presence, I want to put my photos up in the windows of different buildings around campus. These photos will be colorful abstract compositions.”

Hom will use the grant in creating her senior art project, “Exploring China's Concerns and Possibilities.” She writes, “By incorporating my Chinese heritage, my knowledge of the language, and my experience traveling abroad in Beijing I will explore the power of visuals and brand identity.” Hom will examine the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics which she cites as a perfect opportunity for a country to reinvent and rebrand its public image.  She will explore “how traditional art fits into modern media and plans to present this through a collection of prints using paper, a material that originates from China, but also a material that represents and addresses a current environmental issue.”

Chris Labora describes his project “An Exploration of Graffiti in the Community” as “a dialogue between graffiti writing and traditional studio practice. He said that as a teenager he attended an art magnet high school in Miami and apprenticed under studio painters. “At night I painted illegally with my graffiti crew on the street. Although I have matured as an artist and now only paint with permission, legally, my studio practice has been greatly influenced by my experience as a graffiti writer,” Labora said. “The purpose of my project is to explore the reciprocity between street art and contemporary art... Finally, I intend to explore community outreach through this art form.”  

Javed will use the award to produce his original musical film “So Sang the Swan.” It is the story of a 22-year-old man who is diagnosed with astrocytoma, an inoperable cancer which is pushing into the audiovisual centers of his brain, causing him to hallucinate. Javed writes, “…Teddy is offered a medical trial to help with the hallucinations. The film is a journey through the last days of (the) three cancer patients, homage to learning to love and live again when time is almost up.” The title alludes to the idea of the swan song; that the finest bit of a swan comes alive right before its time for it to die.

Johnston will use the Smallen award for her senior project through which she will use art to explore protection and vulnerability, and feelings of comfort and discomfort.  “Vulnerability can be one of the most uncomfortable experiences in human relations,” she writes. “However, I believe it is the most important aspect in life. I propose to explore this human emotion through installation, sculpture and performance.”

Mangelova will study the effects of technology and culture on female self-portraiture in the digital era. The project relates to her interdisciplinary major, modern culture and media studies. The second part of her project concentrates on the study of the work of four female photographers from different backgrounds, and who are famous for their work on self-portraiture – Nikki S. Lee, Jess T. Dugan, Cindy Sherman and Carrie Mae Weems.

Rivera’s project “Women Warriors” will focus on the lack of quality photography of women’s athletics. She will follow and take photos of the Hamilton’s Women’s Ice hockey, basketball, squash, indoor and outdoor track & field, lacrosse, golf, rowing and softball teams. “In addition to taking photos of these women’s teams in action,” she writes, “I would also take candid images and compare the photos in order to demonstrate the strength, discipline and poise these women have in their sports, and show them as warriors on the field.”

In his project “Vocal Nodules: Experimental Practices in Poetry Performance,” Rufo will explore different modes of performing poetry. Having read his poetry at Hamilton on a number of occasions and in New York City, he will explore new performance models that he previously had not been given the time, space, or funding to investigate.

Simons’ project “The Visible Consciousness” will emphasize “how our perception of reality differs from what is actually in front of us. This project will be an exercise in understanding perception versus reality inside the mind.” She will produce paintings that reflect this.

Tessler will use the grant to produce her senior thesis “Structure and Function: An Intersection Between Art and Biology.” She will intersect her background in plant ecology with art “as an exploration of my own identity, personal growth and ecological footprint.” Tessler will make medium to large-scale watercolor paintings of native flora of New York state and Massachusetts (her home state) in the scientific style/format of the botanical illustrations done in the 18th century.

The Smallen Fund aims to encourage student creativity among Hamilton students by providing funds for projects displaying originality, expressiveness and imagination. Hamilton Vice President for Libraries and Information Technology David Smallen and his wife Ann established the fund in 1993 in memory of their son Steven. Steven Smallen studied at Hamilton for a year while receiving treatment for leukemia, before losing his battle with cancer in 1992.

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