Risk and Rebirth

Aspiring artists at RISD have long been encouraged to think outside of the box, as sophomores in Assistant Professor Taylor Baldwin’s Sculpture studio proved once again at last Thursday’s open critique.

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Gabrielle McSherry 16 SC (above) responded to the final assignment with a moving, personal performance piece that she had invited classmates to attend. She began her final presentation by asking them to share their experience of the performance – a sunrise ritual in which she bathed in soil from her mother’s grave along with sand, seawater and milk, and then dried herself with hair she had cut from her own head. Several students described the piece as “intense,” “focused,” “generous” and “an act of renewal.”

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“The autonomy and agency of the viewer are paramount to performance art,” Baldwin (above) noted. He described the handmade wooden bowls McSherry used during the ritual and the photos of the site where it took place as “residual evidence of an ephemeral experience that help to document and sustain the myth.”

In sharing her process with Baldwin and fellow students, McSherry explained that the work was a necessary step in an emotional transition she has recently been undergoing – almost a rebirth. He encouraged her to document her thoughts and feelings while they are fresh and perhaps to create an art book that will allow the work to live on. 

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