Jean Gumpper, Mellon Artist-in-Residence, Creates Interdisciplinary Opportunities for Students

By Erin Ravin ’08

ChemistryThroughout the spring semester, Colorado College students participated in a variety of interdisciplinary workshops with the Art Department’s Mellon Artist-in-Residence Jean Gumpper. Gumpper’s goal is to stimulate cross-disciplinary conversation through visual art, as evidenced by her work with Assistant Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Andy Wowor’s General Chemistry class; Associate Art Professor Tamara Bentley’s Print Culture & International Contact class, and English Professor Jane Hilberry’s Beginning Poetry Writing.

Gumpper’s collaboration began in Block 5 with an art and chemistry workshop in the Art Department’s print shop.  During this workshop, Gumpper, with the help of several senior art studio majors and art department staff members Erin Ravin ’08, Heather Oelklaus, and Eleanor Anderson, demonstrated several printmaking processes.  Wowor then continued this exploration with an in-depth description of what specifically happens at the molecular level during each step of the printmaking process.  Students saw examples of etching, lithography, photopolymer plates, and cyanotypes.  Once the chemistry students understood the chemistry and the process, they each created small etchings that fit together into a large image of a protein dimer. Said one chemistry student, “The workshop increased my understanding of chemistry applications because it allowed me to see that the material we learned in class can be used in a wide variety of ways, such as to produce artwork, and that chemistry branches out to other subjects rather than just being contained to performing reactions in a lab.”

Chemistry 2Also in Block 5 Gumpper worked collaboratively with a variety of people, including Bentley, Professor of Japanese Joan Ericson, Laurence Kominz , a visiting professor with the Theatre and Drama Department and a specialist in Japanese theatre, IDEA Space Curator Jessica Hunter-Larsen, Assistant to the IDEA Space Curator Briget Hiedmous, and Art Department Paraprofessional Ravin.  They planned a small exhibition and brochure of Japanese actor woodcuts from the Colorado College print collection, which was open during theatre performances by students in Kominz’s Japanese Studies: Performing Kabuki in English course.  Students from Bentley’s Print Culture and International Contact course also met with Gumpper to discuss the woodcut prints.  Gumpper demonstrated the woodblock printing techniques, Bentley discussed historical and cultural aspects of the prints, and both joined the students in studying the original woodcut prints and discussing their connections with Kabuki theatre.

During Block 6, Hilberry and Gumpper combined their Beginning Poetry Writing and Introduction to Drawing classes in a collaborative writing and drawing project. Students began by individually researching for texts—visual or written—that showed how artists and poets depict water. They took written and visual notes on how a variety of artists and poets approach the problem of depicting or employing this symbolically loaded element.  Individually and together they created both visual and written studies within specific parameters. Then, based on the preparatory work they had done, each small group curated an exhibit, book and/or performance that synthesized and showcased their work for the class. “Having other people from a different discipline [poetry] to bounce ideas off of was beneficial and enlightening-their perspective added richness and depth to the artist’s work and vice versa,” said one student participant.

In Block 7, Jean Gumpper presented a lecture that was free and open to the public titled “Cross Currents,” describing her own artwork and these cross-disciplinary undertakings.
Chemistry 1

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