Competition inspires art from inside the brain

News
May 1, 2009

William Chen (B.F.A. ’09), created a vision of his own thought process that won an art competition sponsored by the Cornell University Department of Psychology. The winning work, I AM IR … RATIONAL? was created specifically for the competition.

“The piece is supposed to be colorful and lively,” Chen said. “I want the viewer to have fun when viewing it and hopefully find the subject matter relatable.”

The 24-by-30 inch digital print with lithography is a series of six self-portraits, interconnected by arrows linking various concepts expressed in text and illustrations.

“I wanted the viewer at first glance to be overwhelmed and confused by clusters of text,” Chen said. “Once he or she focuses on a particular word of interest, the viewer can begin to see connections, and hopefully this triggers in their head some thoughts and memories of their own.”

The competition was announced in the fall, and a selection panel reviewed 20 submissions from students at four Cornell colleges.

Student artists were encouraged to imaginatively and critically explore elements of human psychology — such as thought, emotion, behavior, or perception — in their work.

Chen’s winning entry “really hit at the heart of the theme of the project, which is to illustrate a topic central to psychology – and it certainly did that, in its depiction of what the mind is up to,” said Thomas Gilovich, chair of psychology, who initiated the competition.

The judges included Gilovich, Department of Art chair Patti Phillips, psychology professor James Cutting, psychology graduate student Emily Rosenzweig, and Elizabeth Chandler, psychology department financial manager.

Chen received $2,000 for the honor, and his artwork has been acquired for permanent display by the psychology department. He plans to graduate in 2010 with a dual degree in fine arts and economics.

Honorable mentions with prizes of $100 each went to Zechariah Choi (B.F.A. ’10), graduate student Gwen Curtis, and Stephanos Tsoucas ’11.

An exhibition of artwork from the competition is on display through May 14 outside the psychology department offices in Uris Hall.

By Daniel Aloi