By Joseph Nichols, Staff Writer
Senior art major Maria Hart has both dazzled and despaired viewers with her senior thesis, “Opening the Well.” Hart describes the exhibition, hosted in A.B. Cohen Center, as a reckoning with her own mental health in her youth and adolescence.
Hart based her thesis on a two-line poem that she wrote in her poetry class last year: “I cower and fold in on myself, / Living at the bottom of my eggshell-painted well.”
This poem served as a groundwork for her to communicate her experience to others of being trapped in her own habits.
“The egg-shell painted well referred to my room where I spent a lot of time in my childhood, and even now, alone. I found that in my messy bedroom, all of the mess personified me, I thought. All of my thoughts reflected off those four walls created a tunnel of self-hatred,” she said.
Hart’s senior thesis recreates her childhood room. Along the left wall, a bed is hidden underneath a mountain of trash bags and dirty laundry. Nearby, a figurine of the artist hangs off the bed. The room also displays other objects from her adolescence, including a makeup station and a dresser overflowing with clothes.
Hart noted that she intended for people to share a portrayal of her own mental health by engaging with the piece.
“I wanted to have people step into my well of self-hatred and break the cycle of negative self-thought,” she said.
Adjacent to her mock room, Hart displays a life-sized self portrait of herself sitting regally, adorned with dirty laundry.
“In the process of purging the feeling of self-hatred and pain through art-making, I started to see a meaning and beauty in the mess, rather than shame,” the artist explained.
The final element of Hart’s thesis consists of a stained glass self portrait, displaying a tear-stricken Hart gazing into a broken mirror. Surrounding this piece are movie and music posters from the artist’s childhood: 2000s-era staples including The Princess Diaries, Clueless and Taylor Swift’s eponymous debut album.
“I pulled posters from things I grew up with since I didn’t have many friends, and I needed to fill my time, so I watched a lot of movies,” Hart said.
On each of these posters, silver glitter engulfs the faces of the figures, masking the faces the posters would typically portray.
“I really only wanted my face to be in the show, because I needed people to see and feel that isolation in the mess. I chose the silver glitter specifically as I wanted there to be a reflective aspect to it, and for viewers to look into the posters, see themself, and imagine their own lives if they were surrounded in this,” Hart explained.
“Opening the Well” will remain at Cohen Art Gallery on campus until April 14. The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment.
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