What do you see out of your window today?

Painting a Senior Project

A story by Susan (Shyan) Delahanty



I started with the second class at Kirkland ('73), but graduated in 3 years, i.e. with the first class ('72), partially thanks to lots of AP credit, partially to taking an extra class each semester. I had taken no art in high school (that was for non-college bound students!), though I had taken some summer camp art programs and after school activities. I just started sketching and doing watercolors around campus, and when I decided toward the end of freshman year that I wanted my concentration to be in painting, I had my work cut out for me! The only helpful class I had taken that first year had been modern dance - considered a cognate. So I had 4 semesters to get in all my art classes and do my senior project. I took 4 studio art classes at the same time - drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture one semester. It was a total immersion, which I loved. I had Eli Friedensohn assigning contour drawings in which we weren't allowed to lift our pencil, and Peter Ostuni only letting us paint the horizontal and vertical lines of the live model. Two totally different ways of seeing - but they both agreed, "You will do it my way, and if you don't like this style, then you will have something to rebel against when you start looking for your own style - later!" I also took Art History (across the road) and became fascinated with The Fauves, especially Matisse. I chose that expressionism for my senior project. I had also fallen in love with Michael (H '71) and we got married when he graduated (40 happy years next month!), and we lived in an apartment down the hill that came with a bay window full of plants. I used that as my subject matter, and did a series of drawings and paintings, progressively more abstract, culminating in a cut paper collage. I kept a journal - which my committee was NOT impressed with - but they loved the progression of the works, and I acquitted myself much better verbally about the process, so my project was a success, the exhibit went well, and the cut paper collage was accepted into a juried art show in Cooperstown NY. One wonderful memory is of being befriended by the women of First Floor Major Hall. I was given a storage room in their basement as my senior project studio, and they brought me samples of goodies they were baking and welcomed me up from the dungeon, providing tea, companionship, and encouragement whenever needed. I didn't stay a painter. I found a place to continue pottery (of which I had 2 semesters during those 2 intense years) when we moved to Philadelphia after graduation, and went off in that direction, though I still do some painterly decorating on my pots! ——————————————— Title: The Womb Room Author: Jennifer Morris '72 Location: Boston, MA Creation date: 2012 Event Location: Kirkland College, Clinton, NY Event Date: 1970s Media: Tag words: List Art Center, Ben Thompson, multi-media, senior project, Nat Boxer Content: On the second floor of List Art Center, opposite the curved stairwell, there is a hidden gem of architectural history. It is seriously hidden, behind ominous coded keylocks. Access is restricted. Behind those locks, I believe, lies an octagonal space originally designed to foster the emerging medium of multi-media. There were floor-to-ceiling projections screens on each of its eight walls. Near the ceiling opposite each screen was a projection window intended to accommodate slide or film projectors. Behind the windows were two tech booths wired to accommodate control equipment, including surround-sound (quad in the day). The floor of this Room was carpeted in deep orange. No seating. Dim-able lighting. There was only one possible name for it but, unlike the Red Pit, it has not been enshrined by officialdom. It’s most likely that this space was the brainchild of Ben Thompson, Kirkland’s architect. In Limited Engagement, Sam Babbitt describes a presentation prepared for the Trustees at a meeting at Ben Thompson Associates in Cambridge, MA, before Kirkland’s design had been approved: … a large horizontal screen and three automated slide projectors, programmed to flash images in studiedly random order, now left, now right, now middle and every possible combination in between, and all of this was accompanied by a recording of some current ’60s music (the Beatles, Dylan, etc.) at the highest possible decibel setting. (p.91) As Sam recalls, the Trustees were… nonplussed. Nonetheless, the Room came into being. To this writer’s knowledge, Jesse Zellner was the first to take advantage of the facility, when he presented a multi-image slide show of images captured in Washington D.C. at a major Vietnam War protest rally in the spring of 1970. That show made a deep impression upon me. I spent the next year in D.C., working and studying at the Corcoran School of Art, and when I returned to Kirkland to complete my degree, I knew I needed to incorporate the Womb Room in my senior thesis exhibition. These photos are the only record I have of the project (which included an audio track produced in the Electronic Music Studio, and film created in one of Nat Boxer’s classes). They don’t show much architectural detail, but do convey a little bit of the Room’s atmosphere. A year after graduation, I found myself in Cambridge, MA working for a firm that had emerged from an art collective specializing in new technologies. Within ten years, multi-screen slide shows had become a staple at corporate events, and supported an entire industry. That industry was overtaken by digital media in the ’90s. But Hamilton College possesses a remarkable piece of its history. Now, hidden behind digital locks.

Want to Share This Story with Friends?
 Art History,Major Hall,modern dance,painting,pottery
  Kirkland College, Clinton, NY
Jan 01 1970


To leave a comment, please Signin or Register.