A sketch illustrating James Larson's Smallen Creativity Grant project.

Eight Hamilton students have received creativity grants from the Steven Daniel Smallen Memorial Fund. The 2014 recipients are Kate Bickmore ’15, Sean-Henry Smith ’15, Lesley Klose ’15, Sawyer Konys ’16, James Larson ’17, Megan O’Sullivan ’15, Caroline Rudd ’16, and Sara Wortman ’15.

The projects represent a range of subjects and mediums. 

Kate Bickmore plans to explore contemporary issues surrounding female sexuality and identity through the motif of invasive plant species such as weeds, moss and ivy, and the relationships that exist between them through drawing, painting, performance and photography. She will examine and record her research, observations and personal experiences as a woman, and through the repetitive use of the imagery of wild plants, reclaim nature as an empowering, feminist motif.

Sean-Henry Smith will use his grant to explore his passion of photography. He aims to explore the black male identity in a project tentatively titled Black Sheep, through which he will investigate the relationship between photography, philosophy, race and gender. Smith will take self-portraits and portraits of black men (students, faculty, staff, and members of the surrounding community). This work will be displayed in the Wellin Museum as the culmination of his senior project and he hopes to turn it into a book.

For her senior project, art concentrator Lesley Klose is creating sculptures of abstract figures of coddling mothers and womb-like forms that venerate the clay’s origin. She will need to display her 25" forms on pedestals to facilitate viewer engagement. With her grant from the Smallen Fund, she will make new pedestals sized to her specifications, which will greatly enhance the presentation and visual accessibility of her project and that will then remain in the Art Department.

Sawyer Konys aims to explore the deep connection between photography and chemistry by exploiting the chemical make-up of film. He will create non-object oriented works of art in a project titled “Bridging the Void: The Chemistry of Art.” Konys will accomplish this by developing “camera-less” photographic techniques using chemical reactions in a darkroom as opposed to camera-manipulation.

James Larson’s project will create a sculptural machine in a project titled “Power from the Air We Breathe.” He has collected slightly broken or crippled pneumatic tools that are still largely functional but no longer produce the power necessary to perform their specific tasks. Larson intends to assemble them to create a single kinetic, compressed air-powered sculpture. It will incorporate both a pneumatic and a hydraulic system; it will integrate 13 compressed air-powered tools with smaller tools running off the exhaust from larger ones. These tools will not run continuously, but rather they will trigger one another through mechanical programming. The sculpture will run in a perpetual cycle without repeated human stimulus or maintenance.

Meghan O’Sullivan will explore the way that intertextual effects of “self-writing” on identity formation, especially for young women at Hamilton, can be mapped, and will create a visual art piece about this. She aims to create a piece that encapsulates how the messages that women are told by others and themselves form notions of physical identity. She plans to interview Hamilton female students and ask about messages that they frequently hear.  O’Sullivan will collect these messages, and find out what the most influential verbal and written writing has been on their self-concepts, or notion of “who they are” as a person. Then she hopes to photograph these women with these same messages forming a word or phrase written on a part of each woman’s body. 

Caroline Rudd will undertake an independent studio project in painting, titled “Made You Look: Painting the Repugnant.” She will explore abstract painting with the intention of creating oil paintings that relate to images that in the concrete world we have been trained to avoid, images that we assume we do not want to see. Rudd believes that what we deliberately hide or hide from is often what defines us most. By the end of the semester, she will have completed a minimum of 20 cohesive pieces that relate and respond to the shielding of unpleasant content.

Recipient Sara Wortman describes her project. “Through the work that I create this year, I intend to explore the arcane pathways of life and, in particular, how we attempt to discover our own direction.”  By layering and pairing abstract imagery with more representational imagery as well as linear and curvilinear patterning, she wants to plunge into the perplexing uncertainties of one’s existence, the specific but unknown. Her work is influenced by Brazilian folk-art depicting the Candomblé sect of gods and goddesses, the Orixás, in which they are illustrated as ephemeral human-like guiding figures.  

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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