What does it take to get art accepted into USM’s Juried Student Exhibition? For senior art major Cricket Klein, it took more than 10 hours in a bathroom and several yards of paper towel.
The result is a roll of paper towels etched with Klein’s obsessive thoughts, and it’s one of 41 works accepted into this year’s exhibition, which opened Nov. 17 at the USM Art Gallery in Gorham. Since the gallery’s opening in 1966, the annual exhibition has been an opportunity for students of all majors to present their work in a professional environment. And out of the accepted works, three are awarded with various juror’s awards, including a cash prize of $150. Despite the prestige, however, some students said they feel unsure about the institution, and Klein is one of them.
“This is going to sound funny because I do attend the university for art, but I’m pretty wishy-washy about the institution of everything,” Klein said. “It’s hard for me to be a part of anything on this level because it gets really political, and I don’t like that. I don’t like to support that.”
In what might be seen as a jab to the institution, Klein priced her piece at $1 million, “or best offer.”
Klein’s piece can now be seen at the center floor of the art gallery, where the roll of paper towels sits on a pedestal with its excess sheets unraveled onto the floor. Upon close inspection of the crude brown paper, hundreds of obsessively written messages are inscribed, concerning objects found in the bathroom and what Klein calls her inner thoughts.
“It started as a bathroom installation, and I just stared meticulously labeling everything for its original purpose,” Klein said. “I spent so many weeks in the bathroom doing this that I started having my own thoughts and writing my own thoughts down. And then it became more emotional and conceptual — and then more obsessive about my own obsessive traits. It kind of turned into a confessional, almost.”
Milo Moyer-Battick, another senior art major whose work was accepted into the exhibition, also shares the same reservations about the exhibition as Klein, despite winning the cash prize of $150 this year. He said he hopes to pursue coffeehouse shows in the future — an environment he considers more down-to-Earth compared to the gallery setting.
“I think it’s the best place to show art, because you end up getting to the community,” Moyer-Battick said. “It’s a lot more friendly, there’s not all this hype and all this prestige and all this holiness.”
Moyer-Battick had three works accepted into the exhibition this year, and it was his set of 16 woodblock prints, titled The Sum, The Life, The Key, that won the cash award. Moyer-Battick said the blocks are centered around short words that are universal and fit into a similar aesthetic, and they’re arranged in manner so that patrons can read them in multiple ways.
“What makes this one successful is people can look at it and decide how they want to read it — if they want to look at each one individually, if they read it like a book. People always take their own interpretation of it,” Moyer-Battick said.
This is the third year Moyer-Battick has submitted and the second year in a row his work has been accepted. But despite his success, Moyer-Battick’s said students should pursue art as an end in itself, with no pressure from outside groups.
“I love doing art. Everyone should be doing art, regardless if they’re entering shows,” he said. “People shouldn’t be doing art because it’s what you’re told to do in schools. They shouldn’t be doing for any of this. You should do it for yourself. And you shouldn’t be an art major to do a bunch of art.”