‘It’s vital to the times we’re living in today’: ‘What is Love’ exhibit explores complexities of love

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Photo credit: Rose Sarner

Junior Charlotte Tragos considers the complexities of the “What is Love?” exhibit and what it means to her. Junior Cira Mizel created a space where students and faculty can interact and reflect.

By Rose Sarner, Culture Editor

As viewers walked through the Eastern Star Gallery from Feb. 17 to March 3, they were guided through an interactive pink maze, otherwise known as the “What is Love?” exhibit. Eastern Star Gallery Executive Board Member Cira Mizel (’23) opened her first exhibit during the month of February for students and faculty to ponder love. “What is Love?” marks the third Eastern Star Gallery exhibit of the 2021-2022 school year and the second exhibit created by an Archer student. 

“I was thinking about love and how there’s so many different types,” Mizel said. “How we behave around it, how every single type of love is different and how every connection is different from the next.”

“What is Love?” drew inspiration from every person’s individual experience in their day-to-day life. Humans experience love differently, and this exhibit forced viewers to contemplate how one is able to love in the first place. 

“I think by allowing students to create their own program and shows, it gives them a chance to make work that really means something to them and the Archer community, rather than bringing in somebody from the outside,” Director of the Eastern Star Gallery and art teacher Chad Attie said. “These girls know how they feel. They know what they want others to feel and their show is 100% connecting to somebody that’s their age and in their demographic.”

This exhibit [was] not just somebody creating work that they think is really cool, but it is tapped into actual contemporary artists that are making work that have to do with the history of art. There’s a lineage, there’s sort of a scaffolding, that they’re building on top of, which … is vital to the times we’re living in today”

— Chad Attie

Mizel, with the help of her peers, spent two hours and 30 minutes draping pink fabric from the gallery walls to resemble the shape of a maze. Attie said the enclosed gallery revealed feelings of comfort and loneliness, which allowed viewers to reflect and be vulnerable. While viewers ponder their emotions as they walked through the space, at the end of the maze, they were asked to answer the question, “What is love?” This exhibit was interactive and stored students’ responses in a box that is was then emptied and displayed on campus. 

It was so exciting to see everyone interact with the exhibit because there are so many ways for people to relate to the subject of love,” junior Charlotte Tragos said. “The question box gave everyone the opportunity to share with the community their own thoughts on the complicated word, love.”

Before viewers were asked to answer an interactive prompt, visitors stumble upon a projected video featuring an audio clip of the film, “The Wonder Ring” by Stan Brakhage. Initially, Mizel did not intend to have a video playing during the exhibit, and it was not until Attie’s suggestion that she added in one.

“The images depicting many different places helped illustrate how love can truly be found anywhere, and come from anywhere and anyone,” Mizel said.

The Eastern Star Gallery gives students a space to program and run their own real life exhibit.

“When you’re working on programming a gallery, art history and contemporary art is really important because you need to know what has come before and what is happening,” Attie said. “The students aren’t necessarily aware of that, and my job as an educator is to listen to their ideas, ask them questions about it and introduce them to other artists that have worked in a similar way.”

 Mizel said the interactive experience was meant to leave the viewer with more questions than answers, as does love.  

“I knew I wanted to make a maze because I thought that it would be super interesting since I’m a fan of interactive art, and I get bored sometimes staring at paintings on the wall,” Mizel said. “The video in the exhibit … makes you think about love, and what that means to each person. I added a video and audio component to dig in deeper, and to really get people thinking about more than just walking through mazes.”

The Eastern Star Gallery is open throughout the entire school day for students to walk in and out of. As Tragos walked through the gallery, she described her reflective experience.

“The whole exhibit made me think of one of my favorite words, sonder. Sonder is the realization that every passing person in your life is experiencing their own unique, challenging, fulfilling world that you will never know,” Tragos said. “The broadcasted video made me sonder about the meaning of love.”  

Attie said there are many benefits to students having the ability to develop, design and create their own art exhibit.

“I think Cira created a room that is interactive, mysterious and one that provides an unusual experience. It … challenges the viewer to walk and gives them an experience to feel and think, and in the end, it asks them a question,” Attie said. “It’s showing them imagery, dousing them in color, directing their movement, tapping into their senses and ultimately asking them their own personal question about what love is to them.”