Abbot Hall art exhibit showcases MHS student artists

The Marblehead High School Spring Art Exhibition in the auditorium of Abbot Hall unifies 400 artworks, putting on display a labyrinth of creativity for the public until June 2.

For their senior project, Anita Gaunt, Julia Potvin, Cait Mullins and Keira Sweetnam curated the sprawling show, a six-week endeavor that culminated with an opening reception on the evening of May 23. 

For their senior project, Marblehead High School students Keira Sweetnam, Anita Gaunt, Cait Mullins and Julia Potvin (not pictured) organized the school’s Spring Art Exhibition, displaying 400 art pieces in Abbot Hall until June 2. CURRENT PHOTOS / WILLIAM J. DOWD

“It definitely took a long time to organize,” said Gaunt. “The work didn’t feel rewarding until we saw it all come together — which now feels really good.” 

She spoke standing next to Mullins, taking in the scene as people began to arrive on opening night. 

“Once we started putting things up,” Mullins said, “it was really satisfying to, like, see all the works in one spot.” 

Gaunt added, “But it was certainly time-consuming and very, very tedious.”

And the exhibit covers a lot of ground. Visitors will be greeted with close-up, intimate portraits of siblings, friends and grandparents as well as candid moments captured in crisp street photography.  There’s a bunch of drawings in ink and pencil, too. There are landscape pieces and still-life work. And for those into personal expression, there are self-portraits. There are also sculptures with surreal and whimsical elements that make you stop and look. And there are animals galore, lots of them, both domesticated and wild. Basically, whatever type of art people may be into, they are likely to find it here.

Part of the fun in this exhibition is stumbling upon works of art that are not seemingly organized by category or grade. Mullins and Gaunt said the sheer volume is indicative of the high school’s comprehensive offerings in the study of art, spanning everything from animation, photography and graphic design to architecture, oil painting and art history.  

Attendees observe the diverse range of art pieces presented at the Marblehead High School Spring Art Exhibition in Abbot Hall, ongoing until June 2.

“I love that the freedom within classes enables students to pursue their individual interests,” said Mullins. “We also have very supportive teachers.” 

Art teachers Shirley Huller White and Leah Bordieri supervised the senior project students. 

“We just try to foster their love for art whether they are doing it at school or they’re doing it at home. We try to encourage them to continue and explore things,” said Huller White. “We also have students where art is just in their DNA; they just need to have it in their daily lives.” 

Teachers selected the underclassmen pieces hanging in the exhibit, while seniors picked their own artworks to display.

“It’s a difficult decision because there are so many talented students, but it comes down to who’s worked really hard and has put the time and the effort into their pieces,” said Bordieri. “And we clearly don’t have room to showcase everybody because we would need more space.” 

The Spring Art Exhibition features underclassmen works, but it doubles as a senior sendoff. As such, seniors are very much front and center here. 

“There’s a lot of acrylic and oil paints. There is quite a bit of graphite, which is very popular, charcoal as well,” said Gaunt. “And I think in photography, we have mostly portraiture just because I think that’s what kids find most interesting.” 

Bordieri said the exhibition, in some ways, takes visitors on a journey that shows the evolution of students’ artistic growth.

“As students learn techniques and fundamentals,” said Bordieri, “they start developing their own voice and learn how to think more conceptually.”

An oil landscape by Marblehead High School senior Ginger Guy features prominently among the student artworks exhibited in Abbot Hall until June 2.

Mullins’ watercolors feature a take on the theme of “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” that pops, while Gaunt’s photography gives us beautiful snapshots during her time in Venice. The pair pointed to the artworks of seniors Julia Potvin and Ginger Guy as must-see. 

“I just really like that Julia paints a lot about her life and like what’s going on in the world,” said Gaunt with an air of appreciation. “Her work is unique and personal.” 

Mullins added, “Julia’s been doing a lot of different mediums, but one of my favorites that she did is a narrative on abortion.” 

The artwork, which is mixed media, is a polemic on the current pro-life, pro-choice debate.  

Guy’s collection of paintings hangs on the opposite side of the auditorium. Mullins and Gaunt said her oil painting depicting a mountainous landscape with grazing sheep is a standout. With its earthy palette, it exudes an abstract quality from a distance but reveals texture and detail upon closer examination. 

“It looks so loose, but it creates an image that’s so, so strong,”  Gaunt said. “It’s very dynamic. It’s very distinctive.”

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