By Emily Boutilier
Wendy Ewald and Brett Cook are staring at a brick wall—specifically, the back side of Chapin Hall. Bundled in hats and gloves, the two artists are watching Steve Sanderson, an Amherst carpenter and mason, hang a portrait of Andy Tew ’07 on the exterior wall. The giant work of art is one in a series of 18 by Ewald and Cook.
Over the fall and winter, Amherst became the setting for a massive experiment in public art. The project, by visiting artist-in-residence Ewald, who is a photographer, and guest artist Cook, a painter, culminated in six 12-½-foot-by-30-foot portrait triptychs installed across campus. Each triptych incorporated drawings and colorings by students in Amherst art classes and members of the broader college and local community. The project was coordinated and guest-curated by Betsy Siersma with funding from the president’s office. Siersma, who recently served as interim director of Amherst’s Mead Art Museum, is former director of the University Gallery at UMass Amherst.
As part of the project, Ewald and Cook asked each of the subjects—six students, six professors and six staff members—18 questions. Among them: Is it possible to learn everything about yourself? When do you feel invisible on campus? What stakes do we have in the empowerment of others? (Read quotes from some of the interviews on the pages that follow.)
The artists designed the project to open the lines of communication on and off campus—to get everyone drawing, talking and thinking together. “You know, after the art project, there’s not going to be a paradigm shift or anything,” Tew said in his interview with Ewald and Cook. “But this is just to open up the possibility for a little while, just to see what happens.”
The triptychs will remain on campus into the spring. A related exhibition at the Mead closed in January.
Click the image below to open the slide show.