The following article was previously published on The Flat Hat’s website during the week of Oct. 23. However, due to an unforeseen technological glitch, it was removed from the website for a period of time and was re-uploaded today, Nov. 6.
Monday, Oct. 9, the Hart Gallery held the opening reception for its first student art exhibit of the semester, titled “Refractions: Student Reflections on LGBTQ+ Life.” Numerous students stopped by to take a look at the art featured in the gallery, which is located on the second floor of the College of William and Mary’s Sadler Center.
“Refractions” was curated by Faith Ronquest ’24, the Hart Gallery intern responsible for creating the concept of each exhibit held there. She intentionally chose for it to be displayed in October in celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month.
As a whole, the exhibit centered on the individual lived experiences of each artist and their personal artistic styles. Ronquest noted the theme was kept intentionally broad and non-mandatory for submissions.
“I was just saying whatever you would like to showcase as yourself or if you had any art that somehow reflected themes of LGBT life, you know, that’s great, and we have a couple pieces like that,” Ronquest said.
Rather than focus on a specific art style or medium, Ronquest sought to display the voices of the artists.
“I also liked that it was an exhibit about the artists rather than the works necessarily reflecting anything,” Ronquest said. “We got a really broad range of works that were really more about the artists getting to showcase them.”
To acquire submissions for the exhibit, Ronquest employed a variety of outreach strategies, using her connections with faculty, students and groups as an art major, as well as contacts in LGBTQ+ focused student organizations like Lambda Alliance.
Ronquest herself also submitted two pieces to the exhibit. She chose two monotype prints that she created as class projects, as monotype tends to be a medium she deeply enjoys working with. The prints, made only with black ink, are titled “Banshee” and “Ropes Course 1.” While “Ropes Course 1” includes clearer elements of nature, “Banshee” is more abstract with its lines and images.
For attendee Fiona Molluso ’25, “Banshee” particularly struck a chord within her and was her favorite of the exhibit.
“I don’t know anything about art, but that one, I feel like I could just stare at for hours,” Molluso said.
Beyond Ronquest, several other artists were featured in the exhibit, including Meg Castonguay ’25, who submitted a photograph to the exhibit entitled “Looking Glass.”
“The picture was taken actually through a glass bottle, and it’s of my partner who identifies as non-binary,” Castonguay said. “So it’s like looking at reflection and glass as a theme in LGBT life, and how we view ourselves as something that’s really important, and then how we’re viewed by others.”
Castonguay reflected on the significance of art as a whole, regardless of the medium in which it is presented. They recognized the power of representation channeled by this kind of creative expression.
“I think art is a great way to get at people’s sense of empathy and really help them to identify with their subjects,” Castonguay said. “I think [art] can be really important for LGBT people, who are often marginalized and ignored and put to the side, to show people that we are here, and this is who we are and [to] really express ourselves and our identity.”
Castonguay’s preferred art medium is photography, and they have taken several photography classes at the College. However, “Looking Glass” is a photograph that they took on their own time.
“I think photography for me has been a really good way to capture the world around me and to express my identity as an LGBT person,” Castonguay said.
They further explained that they are especially drawn to photography’s ability to capture fleeting moments.
“I like photography especially because it’s capturing moments that you would normally miss,” Castonguay said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, this is something that you should pay attention to,’ and I think that’s really the way that I look at it.”
Castonguay’s piece is notably the only photograph that was chosen for the exhibit. The other mediums featured include photography, mixed media, acrylic on canvas and wood, monotype print, graphite, relief print, oil on canvas, paper collage and stoneware.
For instance, Kate Madigan ’24 submitted a piece called “Handshake,” which is an acrylic painting on canvas that includes bright colors and geometric shapes. Madigan created it during her freshman year before she started taking any art classes at the College.
“For this piece, specifically, I was really interested in color relationships, very inspired by [Rene] Magritte and surrealist landscapes,” Madigan said. “I was just playing around with color and shape and geometry. It just felt fun to make, so I enjoyed it. It’s usually hanging up in my bedroom, so my walls are a little bare. It makes me happy, all the different colors.”
For Madigan, whose other pieces “Intimates” and “Love Potion” were also featured at the exhibit, her love for art extends far prior to her freshman year, having been nurtured by her family since she was young.
“I definitely grew up in a family where art is very encouraged,” Madigan said. “Both my parents are very creative. My dad is a writer, so he is artistic in that way. And my mom is very creative. She’s an elementary school teacher, so [she is] very crafty. I’ve just always loved to paint, especially, and drawing all different kinds of art.”
Mattie Lambert ’24, another attendee of the event, conveyed the value of Hart Gallery as an important venue to showcase student art, especially during the Year of the Arts.
“I feel like there’s such a broad range of different artistic mediums being shown, and it’s really cool to see all the student work being shown in such a prominent place on campus,” Lambert said.
Molluso also noted the crucial visibility that the exhibit brings to queer student artists at the College.
“I like that we have the gallery at all and that it is in such a communal, high traffic space so that people will see it,” Molluso echoed. “I feel like it’s obviously really important to display student art and specifically queer student art.”
Lambert said she especially appreciated the decisions that Ronquest made in terms of how the different art pieces are actually displayed, which she felt contributed to the overall feel of the exhibit.
“When you move through [the exhibit], you’re not just looking at stuff in order of what’s most similar,” Lambert said. “Each piece is really positioned in a way that shows off its uniqueness. They all come together to make a really diverse, interesting exhibit outside of just the concept itself. All the different pieces are so different and interesting.”