By Philip Kiely
A stunning pair of contrasting exhibits open this Friday in Faulconer Gallery: both the gallery of student work in the Bachelor of Arts Exhibition (BAX) and a powerful collection of Vietnam War Photographs by Robert Hodierne ’68.
“You really get a clear sense that you are in two different exhibitions. I like that, we have a big space so the fact that we can use it for several different kinds is terrific,” said the Director of Faulconer Gallery, Lesley Wright.
BAX features colorful sculptures, video, prints and mixed media works. From a collection of household objects, to large sculptures mounted on the wall, BAX displays the breadth of student art at Grinnell. Each year, the exhibition gives upper-level art students the chance to display their work.
“Any third or fourth year student who has taken upper-division studio art classes is eligible to submit up to two works to BAX. They can submit a third if it is done jointly with somebody else. We review them all just before spring break and they deliver them here and my staff helps design the installation and helps the students get them up on the walls. It will be up for a month,” Wright said.
Each year the college brings in a juror to award prizes to the students. This year, Professor Tameka Jenean “Meka Jean” Norris, a University of Iowa professor, will serve as the juror. The Student Government Association and the Office of Student Affairs will also award prizes.
“The juror this year is an artist, sometimes it’s a professor or a critic. She is coming from Iowa City, where she’s a visiting professor … there are endowed funds for BAX that allows there to be really decent prize money to be given to students for the best in show and then some merit awards that the juror can opt to give. We also have prizes that are given by the student government association and the office of student affairs,” Wright said
After surveying the best of current student work, visitors will encounter Hodierne’s poignant solo exhibition. Hodierne left Grinnell after his third year and photographed the war in Vietnam for over a year. After graduating in 1968, he enlisted and returned to Vietnam as a correspondent for The Pacific Stars & Stripes to continue documenting the war. He has had a distinguished career in photojournalism, including work in several combat zones.
The fifty-year-old photographs are mostly focused on individual soldiers. Most are single shots, but there are some series, including the burning of a village.
“He thinks of them not as anti-war photographs but as an unblinking look at what we expect of young people when we send them into combat,” Wright explained.
The exhibit contains another interesting historical artifact: old copies of The Scarlet & Black that include dispatches from Hodierne.
“One of our trustees, Hal Fuson, had his career in the news business. He was the managing editor of The S&B back in his day, and when Robert was in Vietnam in that ’66 and ’67 period, he would send back dispatches from Vietnam to The S&B, so he was their reporter in Vietnam, and Hal had a full set of S&Bs, and he sent them to us to keep in the gallery for people to look at,” said Wright.
Both exhibitions open this afternoon. Hodierne will be giving a gallery talk on April 27 about his work.