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May 5, 2017

“Don’t Pass Me By” artistically interprets lyrics

“Don’t Pass Me By: Art Inspired by Lyrics Exhibition” was a Five College art show featured at Mount Holyoke’s quaint Blanchard Art Gallery from Nov. 11-16. As viewers walked around the gallery, they were treated to the soundtrack that inspired each of the artists’ respective pieces.

Alan Aldridge’s book “The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics” inspired Mount Holyoke student curator Lucie Castaldo for the theme of this exhibit. She asked students from the Five Colleges to create art pieces informed by their favorite song lyrics. The result was a gallery filled with art in various media, expressing numerous themes, drawn together by the talent and creativity of the artists interpreting Castaldo’s prompt.

Castaldo is an art history major at Mount Holyoke. Interested in museum studies, she organized her first art show in March for Women’s History Month. Castaldo opened this most recent exhibit to Five College students, but most of the artists featured were her friends. For “Don’t Pass Me By” – itself a Beatles song title – the curator took almost everyone that submitted work.

“This year I advertised at the Five Colleges with posters and through the art department chairs. Many of the artists from the Women’s History month exhibition returned and spread word to their friends,” she said. Four out of the Five Colleges were represented by their student artists in Castaldo’s gallery.

Not all of the students that entered the show were art majors. UMass’ own Ellie Rulon-Miller, an English major and the editor of the Arts & Living section of the Daily Collegian, had multiple photography projects featured in the gallery. One of those projects, titled “Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat” after the Say Anything song of the same name, depicted a group of friends in various states of emotion and action. The other project was titled “Every Thug Needs a Lady” by Alkaline Trio and neatly entwined with the other project.

“Whalebones” – the name of a Man Man song – was perhaps the most eye-catching piece in the gallery. Hampshire student Holly Elizabeth MacDonald hung sticks from the ceiling in a shape echoing that of a ribcage and used pink and turquoise light gels to evoke an abstract tone.

“The piece really came together on site when I hung it,” said Macdonald. “Site specificity of my work is really important to me as an artist. Work should be treated differently, and treated according to a space. I also study neuropsychology – and this has certainly influenced the way I create art.”

Amherst College’s Samara Fantie created two mixed-medium pieces. Though the two songs that inspired the pieces (“Shark in the Water” by VV Brown and “The Stand” by Mother Mother) are very different in sound, genre and lyrical content, the works of art complimented each other. Fantie blended watercolor with pen and ink.

“Phantoms in the Brain” was an intriguing piece inspired by the lyrics from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Nan Zhu, a Mount Holyoke student, based her artwork on the idea of stereovision – the composite image created by having two, front-facing eyes. Zhu wrote up an accompanying piece explaining her drawings, musing “is existence just an illusion after all?”

Bryan Bradshaw from Amherst College used a collection of jazz songs for his different mediums of art. “Chameleon,” based off of the immortal Herbie Hancock tune, illustrated the breakdown of music that occurs in jazz through piano keys that he sculpted out of wood. Miles Davis’ “Summertime” (originally by Gershwin) lent its sultry sounds to a graphically designed picture of Davis composed solely of the word “summertime.” For “Front Man,” Bradshaw manipulated lead pipes in a style that echoed the freestyle chaos of jazz.

Zayden Tethong from Mount Holyoke also used photography for her submission, but her photographs were intentionally out of focus and exclusively in black and white. “And at once I knew I was not magnificent” captured a view of trees from indoors, and “Into the Dark” followed an old couple holding hands under a patterned walkway.

Lily Erb, a Hampshire student, fashioned a flower out of rusted nails, screws and bolts after the Lucinda Williams song “Fruits of My Labor.” Her piece was both stylistically unique and technically impressive.

Marilla Cubberley, also from Hampshire College, created a 3D mobile interpretation of the sky for the Bob Dylan track “Tangled Up in Blue.”

Curator Lucie Castaldo also displayed some of her own artwork. “They don’t love you like I love you” was a series of maps layered to create 3D sculptures. Her black and white photograph “Good Morning Sun” was aesthetically pleasing as well as meaningful. She also displayed a series of Polaroid photographs of a fairground, which she titled “Ghosts of a Tilt-a-Whirl.”

Castaldo plans to host her second Women’s History Month exhibit this year and welcomes all types of artists from any of the Five Colleges to apply for exhibition or attend her exhibits.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at adiciacc@student.umass.edu.

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