Art students to explore sincerity of human experience in 'Sonder' exhibition

Official English dictionaries have not yet recognized "sonder" as a word, but a group of ASU art seniors have come to accept the poetic slang as a way to express the color and diversity that defines the human experience. 

Painting senior Michelle Condello said she and six other painting and drawing seniors will explore the concept in their upcoming Gallery 100 exhibition, "Sonder." 

"There's a new connotation attached to (the word 'sonder'), that every person you pass has their own individual life, thoughts and feelings," she said. "Each person around you has a life that’s just as deep as your own."

Condello explored this depth through primarily oil paints and a "less is more" method of visual communication, which she said is defined by her illustrative use of bold colors and simple lines.

She will implement this clean technique into each of the seven pieces she will be showing, one of which will put a new spin on the classic self-portrait.

Exhibit runs from April 4 to 8 at gallery 100, 951 S. Mill Ave. Opening reception is April 5 from 6 to 8 p.m.

"It's more of a self-portrait, not in a realistic sense, but expressing myself into a sort of mannequin-type girl," she said.

Through all of her pieces, Condello said she strives to communicate emotions that can be hard to express to people around her and hopes her work will "hit people" in a way they can understand.

Grisel Cordova, also a painting senior, had a slightly different vision of how she'd like the audience to react to her drawings and paintings, and said she anticipates them feeling challenged and uncomfortable.

Cordova said her work focuses on the complex inner relationships people develop with both themselves and others. For her, this means confronting the reality of emotion no matter how uncomfortable it may make others feel.

"A lot of times in society we’re asked to put out a persona that’s supposed to be happy all the time," she said. "You have to deny if you’re having a bad day or if things are not working out, but you still have to prepare yourself to go into the world and deny those feelings."

She said she hopes her work will encourage others to think outside themselves and more about others around them and what they're going through.

Drawing senior Rachel Rock said she hopes her work will also encourage viewers to look beyond themselves but urges them to pay more attention to the media and how world events are being reported.

Her current series of drawings was conceived following the 2015 attacks in Paris and Beirut. Rock said she used her art as a way to process what happened and highlight the media discrepancies between the two events.

Her pieces will branch off of that initial work and continue to focus on major tragedies such as school shootings, including February's Independence High School shooting in Glendale.

"They’re all gonna be portraits with two layers to them," she said. "I'll be working from actual images taken at the scene. ... It'll be combining the crowd aspect of how much terror there is and singling out one specific person."

For some of the featured artists, like painting senior Hitomi Baba, looking outside of oneself is enhanced through artistic collaboration.

Her manga-inspired illustrations came to life as she created figures to accompany a story her friend was writing. She said the stories and resulting illustrations are somewhat autobiographical in nature and hopes her pieces will work within the greater exhibition as a whole to reflect how differently people perceive those around them.

While some artists have chosen to display work that reflects their perception of outside circumstances, others will present highly personal pieces that look inward first and foremost.

Drawing senior Sara Jordan, for instance, said one of her pieces will be a charcoal drawing of her brother, who died when she was young.

"It'll be playing with idea of memory and how memories deceive us," she said. "I don’t have a clear picture of who he is anymore. I’m trying to stay truthful to the image I’ve made of him ... but I've smudged the parts of his face I can’t remember really well."

Jordan will also be displaying three collaged self-portraits, which she said reflect the combination of illustration and abstraction that exist throughout her body of work. Identity and sexuality are also prominent themes in her drawings and collages.

Painting senior Azalea Rodriguez said she also explores concepts of identity and gender in her pieces. 

"Identity is so different than it was 50 or 100 years ago in the way times are changing when it comes to the way men and women define themselves," she said. 

Rodriguez said all but two of her drawings are self-portraits. 

"I like it when artists use themselves as surrogates for the viewers," she said. "You get to know the artist and use yourself to represent other people in general."

In spite of the stylistically and thematically diverse representations of the human form that will be present in "Sonder," one harmonious thought binds them all together: every person's experience is different, but every human is art in their own right.

Related links:

Must-see exhibits from the ASU Art Museum this spring

Video: ASU students display work at exhibition, Phantasmagoria


Reach the reporter at celina.jimenez@asu.edu or follow @lina_lauren on Twitter. 

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