Culminating years of research and self-discovery in the arts, nine senior advanced art students presented capstone projects at two Art Colloquia in the Performing Arts Center at King School in late April. The presentations result from the school’s O.P.E.N project experience: Original, Personal, Experiential, and Novel, with the advanced students spending their senior year exploring a theme of their choosing. Students used different mediums to explore topics including the environment, human behavior, geology, and technology creating work that reflect their interests or experiences.
Projects begin with one idea or theme that develops into new concepts or multiple projects as the year progresses. For Greg Drbul ’23, what started as an exploration of street art in New York City, evolved into a journey of different mediums and the discovery of both a passion and a talent for photography. This inspired his own graffiti. Using both, he explored loneliness in one of the most populated cities in the world.
“Although you are always around people in the city, you are alone in the sense that you are all going to different places, and you’re not really with anyone,” said Greg. “You are always headed in different directions, and you don’t really know these people.”
Using stark compositions, he printed large-scale photographs and created stencils to impose hidden messages into the images using ink and oil paint. Greg imposed the word “alone” onto an image of a man on a subway platform, absorbed in his phone, oblivious to the people exiting the nearby train. In another image, a woman is standing alone, overlooking empty train tracks. Greg added, “R you left behind” in her line of sight.
“One thing that surprised me was how hard it is to be original,” said Greg, who credits Banksy for inspiration and created his own tag featuring the silhouette of a person with a heart shape cut out in his chest. “Throughout the world there are so many artists doing great things, all with different ideas. It was very tough for me to take an existing concept and make it my own, but in the end I feel like my work is very original.”
Maddy Beck ’23 drew on science to study how we are connected to our bodies, environments, and one another as she sought to explore what maps reveal about human connection. In one piece, she printed a redlining map of Flint, Michigan, highlighting the discriminatory practice using thread.
“Sewing is a very community-based technique which juxtaposes the fragmented and isolated communities that redlining creates,” Maddy said. “The piece is left unfinished and messy to highlight the relevance of this issue which is still being addressed.”
She also created a series inspired by 2020 Google trends.
“I recognized that the data looked like a series of mountains, each trend having its own peak,” she said. “By stacking the data against one another, I was able to map a mountain range, each range having its own category: death, covid, technology, and a culmination of events. By comparing this data, we get a better understanding of what we as a society valued while going through a global pandemic.”
By backing the data on mirrors, Maddy forces the viewer to reflect on the past few years and societal values as a whole.
This is the second year that the event spanned two separate days to accommodate the growing number of students choosing to pursue a Certificate of Distinction in Art and Design. In addition to Greg and Maddy, Ian Nugent ’23, Sasha Intile ’23, Ellie Wayland ’23, Alex Oxenstierna ’23, Grace Horn ’23, Hunter Fine ’23, Jack Davis ’23, and Avery Schwartz ’23 also earned distinctions.
“The work is very sophisticated. This is always an opportunity to do personal and original pieces,” said art and design teacher Ran LaPolla, who advised all of the presenting students. “Part of what we are seeing in the art department is how prepared the students are. They see themselves as artists and as individuals with something to say. They are very serious about it, and it was incredible to see them grow and learn and then present with such confidence.”
As they wrapped up their presentations, students thanked LaPolla and teachers David Hughes and Brady Shoemaker, pointing to their encouragement and high expectations as central to their success.
“The art department at King has allowed me to grow into the artist I am today,” said Maddy, “always being incredibly supportive and helping me turn my visions into a reality.”
The student presentations can be viewed on YouTube here.