Al Larsen, Associate Professor and Program Director for the Creative Media BFA Program, recently took 32 Champlain College students on a bus trip to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) for the day. The majority of students were from three of Larsen’s Creative Media classes. Larsen said that although the art scene in Vermont is vibrant and thriving, it’s typically not as large-scale as the work displayed at MASS MoCA.

In addition to visual art, MASS MoCA displays mixed media art that plays with video, light, sound, tactile objects, and how they all meld together. While the students enjoyed many artists, three especially resonated with them: Cauleen Smith, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and James Turrell.

Cauleen Smith’s display at MASS MoCA consists of rooms of multidisciplinary art, including video and dioramas. According to MASS MoCA’s website, Smith’s work draws on Afrofuturism, science fiction, poetry, and tactics of experimental film to conjure alternative narratives and what Smith calls “a cornucopia of future histories.”

Trenton Doyle Hancock’s exhibit highlights his own creation myth and narratives that he initially dreamt up as a child, inspired by Greek mythology and comic book heroes. The installation is comprised of life-size game boards, toys, and “mounds” that are depositories for memories and bits of discarded humanity.

Part of Trenton Doyle Hancock’s exhibit

James Turrell’s installation at MASS MoCA is a multi-decade retrospective about the optical effects of light. The exhibit plays with perceptions of both light and space, and features words and images as well. Larsen says the exhibit had a big impact on students—some even felt shaken.

When Larsen visited MASS MoCA on his own over the summer, he saw Smith’s exhibit and thought Creative Media majors would enjoy it, as it encapsulates his stated belief that “you can be into video and you can be into sculpture and you can be into ideas about where the world is headed. And you can combine all of that in your work. You know, research, and history, and politics, and aesthetics, and film, and poetry, and visual art, and sound.”

Erika Skorstad ’21—Contributor