The Student Center Terrace was buzzing with excitement at last Tuesday’s Art Lab. A full multimedia experience that included paintings, photography, poetry and music, Art Lab helped give talented UCI artists an audience and gave UCI students in general a fun night on campus.
The theme of the night was “Journey” — I know what you’re thinking, and no, they didn’t have “Don’t Stop Believing” playing on repeat. But despite that, Art Lab definitely fulfilled its mission; they served as a great platform for a showcase of creativity here on campus.
Whether it was students who had known about the event from Facebook or from word-of-mouth, people were delighted to take part in the event which not only had art, but also free food, live spoken-word poetry, live music and a DIY journal-making session. Everyone’s presence could even be recorded by taking a picture in front of some beautifully angelic wings.
One of the most prominent pieces on display were some large photographs taken by Russel Kwok. They feature his journey in Iceland from his arrival to his viewing of the famous Aurora Borealis. The personal quotes accompanying the photos give context and a deeper meaning to the photos.
Photographer Stephanie Kwok created a series called “The Day Today,” which featured a series of photographs meant to capture the daily experiences of people including everything from studying, eating, selfie-taking and baking.
Photographer Jack Yu featured a series of high resolution beach photographs that captured a sense of SoCal life. Likewise, photographer Min Gong sought to capture a perspective of the beach. Though Gong’s photos were black and white, they captured harmonious images of the pier, the ocean and a seagull walking along the sand.
Rachel Sun featured two series of photographs. The first series was in all black and white and had a diversity of photographs that featured everything from a dilapidated gate, stone mesas and a bird in mid-flight. The most stunning picture was one entitled “Tomato and Egg,” where the only colored objects were a single red car and a single yellow car.
The second series, united in high resolution color, was marked by juxtaposed pictures of ocean and desert life. Photos like “Hello” featured a crustacean prominently and the impressive photo “Do You See Me” depicted a seahorse camouflaged amongst some coral. Pictures like these contrasted with ones like “Mirror” and “On The Way!” depicting a body of water in the desert and some people on camels respectively.
Photography was not the only medium offered, as various styles of painting and drawing were readily apparent. In a series entitled “Journey of Self-Discover,” artist Patricia Kunrath Silva created a magnificent series of watercolors. Focusing mostly on faces but also on one landscape, her vibrant use of colors was visually stunning. Whether through a bleeding effect or a simple high contrast, her art was something to marvel at.
Charcoal artist, Sarah Benke created wonderfully detailed drawings, including one visually-appealing (albeit ominous) work that depicted a cobbled street lined with trees and two prominent black mountains in the background.
Even the Art Lab commissioner, Kimberly Van, produced a work of art. In addition to being the driving organizer of Art Lab’s event, she produced a undeniably smile-inducing work that featured a cutely-drawn astronaut marveling at the beautiful expanse of space in front of them.
Last but not least on the art wall was a poet only going by “Ayesha,” whose eclectic, well-written poetry captured all kinds of eclectic topics, including peanut butter.
Everyone at the event, and even people just sitting at cafeteria tables were able to enjoy the live performances. First up was some spoken word poetry. It appeared silly and nonsensical but eventually conveyed a deeper meaning about humanity’s ability to find meaning everywhere. Only the best from Uncultivated Rabbits, UCI’s spoken word club.
Live singing featured everything from Hozier covers to personally-written songs conveying personal experiences and journeys.
Passersby going to get food at the food courts marveled at the works on display, stopping in front of the “Art Walk” and smiling with admiration at a collection of art from their peers.
A corkboard map of the world gave students the chance to show, with a pin, where their journey would hopefully take them. It was clear that UCI students have the travel bug cause nary a place in the world went unpinned. Europe in particular was a hotspot. It was encouraging to see UCI students take delight in an arts event hosted outside of Claire Trevor.
Art Lab is an important organization. On their page on the ASUCI website, they state that one of the long term goals of Art Lab is “to advocate for mural spaces on our campus where students can have the freedom to see themselves reflected in their campus.” This, of course, begs the question of why such an obvious idea hasn’t been done yet or put forward by the school administration.
Ultimately, creating mural space fifty years late is better than doing it never, and it was encouraging to see students productively advocating for something at UCI. Tuesday’s Art Lab, though small and unassuming, was a step in the right direction for arts representation at UCI.
Hopefully in the future, UC Irvine’s artistry will be as unmistakably present on campus as a whole — from the school of engineering to the flagpoles outside of Aldrich Hall — as it is in the School of the Arts. Tuesday’s “Journey” will hopefully be seen one day as emblematic of the larger movement for the artistic representation of students here at UCI.