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Art Exhibition: “I Am a Masterpiece and So Are You”

Everyone is an artist. Just ask Villanova senior Kaelin Trombly.

Trombly presented her own art exhibition entitled “I Am a Masterpiece and so are You” at the Oreo on Monday, Nov. 6. A communication major and French and francophone studies minor, Trombly presented her exhibition as part of her performance art class.

Trombly’s performance art class is taught by Dr. Evan Schares, an assistant professor of performance studies at Villanova.

“I’m thrilled to have relaunched and brought performance art back to Villanova,” Schares said. “The last time it was taught was in 2015. I think now is certainly a time for art and creative intervention and solutions to the many problems facing our many communities right now.”

Schares is one of Trombly’s favorite professors at Villanova, and she was eager to take another class with him.

“We’re really close,” Trombly said. “He’s awesome, and he’s really into theatre [and] performance art.”

Although Trombly was excited just to take another class with Schares, she did not have much experience with performance art. However, she quickly learned of the deep meaning and symbolism rooted in the artistic style.

“I thought that performance art was theatre and acting,” Trombly said. “I thought it was going to be a fun acting class, but it’s definitely more of a social movement. It’s showing how taking a stand for something can be a form of art if you do it a certain way.”

As a requirement for the class, students had to pick certain performance art movements to teach and perform for the rest of the class. However, because of performance art’s social significance, Trombly wanted to perform her piece for more than just her classmates.

“The point of performance art is to do something in public that makes a point and pinpoints a problem that you have with society or any kind of issue like that,” Trombly said. “It’s to make a statement, and I’m not really making a statement if I’m in the security of this studio with five other students in it.”

“I Am a Masterpiece and so are You” was inspired by the Cheap Art Movement, which originated in 1984. This movement emphasizes how art should be available to everyone, not just high-paying elites. It claims that the value of art comes not from its literal price but instead from its meaning and symbolism.

“Trombly researched, conceived and led her performance using the Cheap Art manifesto as her guiding method,” Schares said. “The Cheap Art Movement originated in 1984 in Vermont’s Bread and Puppet Theatre as a radical, accessible and cheap response to the corporatization of art, art making and art accessibility.”

“The attempt to make a fortune off of art, especially at the expense of others who cannot afford to do so, is immoral,” Trombly said. “That’s because art is for everyone. Everything can be art. Art is subjective. Art doesn’t have to be behind the plexiglass case or the red velvet rope or have a six-figure price tag or be in a fancy museum.”

In order to convey Cheap Art’s message of art belonging to everyone, Trombly did not just want to present her art in public on her own. Instead, she wanted to make the audience involved just as much as she was.

“If everyone can be a creator, if anyone can be art, [and] if everyone can be an artist, why not incorporate the public into my performance art piece?” Trombly said. “Let’s prove that anyone is a creator. Anyone can be a part of art.”

Trombly decided to set up her exhibition at a table by the Oreo because of its centralized location on campus. In keeping with the Cheap Art motif, the only materials involved were a few blank canvases and some markers.

On one canvas, Trombly wrote out the entire Cheap Art manifesto to provide students with context for the project. Other canvases included questions posed at other students who were encouraged to participate by writing their answers to each question. For example, one canvas read, “How are you, really?”

“Everyone was instructed to write ‘Fine’ or ‘I’m good. How are you?’ but there was a key right in front of it that had a [different color for each] mood,” Trombly said. “You wrote ‘Fine’ or ‘I’m good. How are you?’ in whatever color you were actually feeling.”

Other canvases asked questions such as “What is something people would never guess just by looking at you?” and “What are you currently worried about?” Another canvas said “Art is…” and featured a list of different ways in which art could be used to help and inspire people.

Trombly was pleased with how engaged people were with her exhibition. She liked that it gave students a unique and creative way to express how they were feeling.

“It was just really cool to see how vulnerable people were getting,” Trombly said.

Through this exhibition, Trombly hoped to convey the overall message that “art should be accessible to everyone.” She wanted to include fellow Villanova students to emphasize how “everyone is creative.”

“To me, it definitely resonated with the Cheap Art Movement because it didn’t cost anything crazy to make, it’s artwork that anyone was able to participate in and was available to anyone on campus, and I made sure to tell the manifesto to spread the message,” Trombly said. “I just thought it was a cool way to show what I’ve been feeling, and it stresses the positive nature of art and how it’s beneficial and available to everyone.”

As of now, Trombly does not have any further public exhibitions scheduled, but she hopes to continue engaging in forms of performance art in the future.

“I think it’s something that I want to continue pursuing because it just felt good,” Trombly said. “It’s not like I necessarily volunteered or did something philanthropic, but it just felt like I was spreading a positive message.”

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