An Exhibition of Styles

Collegiate’s Upper School Art Walk is a culminating show, and it has allowed India Mansfield ’23 to reflect on her work as an artist.
India Mansfield ’23 believes a canvas should allow for a dance of freedom. No formal constraints — just an expressive groove with color and shape, everything free to do as it pleases. “If I do become an artist, which I hope to do when I get older, I don’t want to have just one sort of box, one category that I have to be in, because that’s not what art is about,” she says. “Art is instead about creating whatever you want to create and being free within that.” 

To indulge this kind of freedom requires rigor. An artist’s emancipation begins with learning the fundamentals, and throughout India’s education as an artist at Collegiate, she’s studied enough to develop a strong foundation and refine her taste. With speculation and curiosity she moved through enthusiasms with still life, realism and, eventually, discovered her love of abstraction. Her exhibit in the Upper School’s Art Walk, held in April, is a demonstration of her range, her multiplicity of styles that she likes to play with. 

The Art Walk, which transforms the School’s halls into a vibrant gallery, is a culminating showcase for the artists. It offers a chance for students to reflect on their body of work and exhibit the depth of their talent. “The Honors Art installations in the Art Walk are something many students have been admiring since they were in Lower or Middle School,” says Upper School art teacher Pam Sutherland. “Who wouldn’t want their own space to display not only how they have grown as an artist over time, but also the unique and brave way they see the world now just on the precipice of graduation. It's the ultimate merger of creativity, self-awareness and critical thinking.”

Thinking about what to include in her exhibit at the Art Walk, India knew she wanted to show her scope and her progression as an artist. She reflected on her various styles. Still lifes attuned her sensibility and gave her a new attention to detail that she realized art offered. This was her initial step into art. Taking a portrait drawing course the spring of her Junior year, India, with Sutherland’s guidance, began to fully understand how to incorporate the proportions and values of facial features. Out of that class, a new appreciation of realism emerged. But during her Senior year India began feeling that this style restricted her eye. She would focus on one thing — a nose, say, or a stand of hair — and her attention to other details would fall away. It wasn’t for a lack of skill; she just found that she wanted to do much more with painting — more than a painting of a face would allow.

“I have come to really enjoy creating abstract works, because without having to focus on one specific thing, I feel I’m challenged much more creatively,” she says. “I feel I’m able to open up my creative thinking more, and what appeals to me now is just looking at how colors and shapes go together. Collegiate’s art program has really encouraged me to try out different mediums, and I don’t think I’d really appreciate abstract art as much if I didn’t work through every other style.”

Contemplating her body of work, she found a unifying theme of color; all of her pieces — whether expressive contours of paint or vivid figures — are smoldered with bright pigmentation. Maybe, she thought, her show could bridge her various styles with a similar palette.  

Arranged strategically, her show hums with color. The pieces display her breadth of style and the techniques developed while studying at Collegiate. Her work holds polarities of genre together. On one wall of the North Science building are portraits and still lifes — like a deftly drawn Jerry Garcia, who poses languidly at onlookers in a mist of orange, pink, blue and green. And then, around the corner, is her large abstract work, with a fractured format of paint on wood keeping things fresh and surprising, squeezing dollops of joy from masses of color. 

A complimentary companion to the exhibition is India’s video “Us and Them,” which she created for her English class and ran during the opening night of her show. Another controlled outburst of creativity that serves as an accentuating feature to the show, India’s “Us and Them” is an additional indication of the depth of her talents as an artist. In recognition of this depth, she received the MacNelly Senior Purchase Award for one of her pieces featured in the exhibit and “Us and Them.”

“Putting the show together, I wanted to make sure everything felt unified, and I wanted to create this very bright and vibrant feeling within my pieces” she says. “That was important to me — to feel that there was a bridge between all of the styles of work. And the pieces on the wall are arranged in progression from Sophomore, to Junior, to Senior year, which kind of displays my growth as an artist.”

The Art Walk challenged India to take stock in her work and gave her the chance to view her growth as an artist from a new perspective. In the process of curation, she noticed just how much she’s learned as an artist. She’s able to waltz around in any style with individual flair. That’s freedom. 

“I’ve been given so many opportunities in the arts at Collegiate,” she says. “The access to resources that I’ve had is incredible. With all the choices, all the freedom I’ve been given, I’ve been able to explore my own artistic curiosities, and that’s really helped me develop as an artist. I think my final show reflects that.”