“Cheeky” explores the wide world of visual art

Renny Acheson, Staff Reporter

On Oct. 28, Whitman students Grace Dunbar and Laura Jessich unveiled their exhibition, entitled “Cheeky,” in the Stevens Gallery at Reid Campus Center. With a casual reception, Jessich and Dunbar welcomed visitors to experience a unique multimedia collection of pieces compiled throughout their time at Whitman.

“The gallery curator Rachel Loe was asking around for people who might have art, and someone mentioned our names, and Rachel contacted us, asking if we wanted to either do a show separately or together,” Jessich said. “All of these pieces were things we’d already kind of planned on making or were working on or conceptualized prior to the show, and now we have an excuse to make all of this stuff with a deadline so that we actually have to do it.”

The show’s title draws from the anonymous feminist art activist group the Guerrilla Girls, with Confucianist roots. Dunbar specifies:

“The Guerrilla Girls have this big poster that they made and it says ‘If you keep women out they get resentful,’ which is a quote from Confucius, and it has something about, ‘if you let them get too close they get cheeky, if you keep them out they get resentful.’”

The show spans over a variety of mediums, including woodblock print, watercolor, acrylic, collage, video and plaster cast in accordance with the show’s title. Situated in the back left corner of the exhibit behind a black curtain, Dunbar’s piece entitled “Soft” incorporates video, audio, glass and a plaster cast molded off of her own body.

Dunbar explains the meaning behind the piece: “The video part of this piece was just two different videos that I filmed on my iPhone. The background one that’s reddish was a really close up video of this rose-shaped candle I had, and I thought it looked really pretty, and then this is a video of my naked body within a mirror with a cool shadow on it.” On the audio element, “a series of affirmations,” Dunbar notes “It’s a lot about me trying to learn to love my body and to love my softness, and how I see myself ‘soft’ emotionally, not in a negative way, but in a way that’s vulnerable and open.”  

Jessich speaks on her piece “Cross (section),” a plaster cast of a butt attached to ropes on a bar: “It’s the cross section of a body, specifically of a hypersexualized body part, and it’s a cross section between childhood and adulthood, in modern society.”

The exhibition explores overarching themes including sexuality, femininity, religion, pain and childhood inspired by a wide array of influences including selfies, Argentinian sex work flyers and significant life events. Certain pieces in the exhibition discuss sexual violence and chronic illness through an artistic medium.

“Cheeky” is the first show for both Dunbar and Jessich, and it is composed of ambitious, meaningful, creative ventures. For any community member looking for the opportunity to support independent student art, the exhibition offers the perfect opportunity. Take a few minutes to walk through while at Reid, and leave feedback for the artists in the mailbox in the exhibit.

“It’s a really big accomplishment for both of us, and we’re really proud of it,” Jessich said.