The ocean is undefinable. You ask around, to friends and neighbors, what color the ocean is and their answer would be a solid, thick blue, or maybe some variation of the typical cyan removed from a box of pastels in an elementary school class. The same blue that is seen in many traditional views of the ocean: static, unmoving, solid. But Lauren ten Hoopen ‘19 dumps the box, using all mediums and aspects in an effort to give viewers that feeling of your feet planted firmly in the sand, the water giving you seafoam-y kisses, trying to keep you there forever, in her new showing “Seascape: A Portfolio Exhibition.”
When entering the Lukacs Gallery in Loyola Hall, one of the first things you notice is how far ten Hoopen stands from that one color view of the ocean. Her collection starts with abstraction. “Look, Collect, Arrange, Capture, Repeat” is a table with oceanic objects arranged in irregular patterns. “A Wave’s Impression”, “Shoaling”, “Pink Shoaling” and “Scratching the (Sea)urface” are canvases scratched and coated with blue and green and black and red and yellow inks. Swirling and waving stripes of color. Hung anywhere else, in any other gallery, you wouldn’t connect what you see to the ocean, the abstraction distorts our original vision of the sea too much. But hung here, in collaboration with all of the other pieces displayed, it opens our minds to a new perspective of the ocean. Allowing us to see it through a kaleidoscope of contexts, the colors shifting as we tilt our heads in awe.
Ten Hoopen is an artist, a composer, and though she spends the beginning of her exhibition distorting our perspective, she chooses to close her showing connecting us back to our classical view of the ocean, with traditional digital photographs printed on rice paper of oceanic scenery. “RayDeance” and “Untitled” are views of the sunsetting sky, the ocean lapping gently against the orange coated horizon. “An Individual”, “A Crowd”, “A Group” and “The Other” show us variations of the green moss coated rocks, born from the ocean, standing firmly on the shore. “My Field Glasses” shows us a piece of wood in the center of the frame leaning vertically, a black monolith shadowed from the background. We don’t truly see what this object is, or it’s relation to the ocean, until we look at “Wrapped and Hook” and “Taking a Peek.” Both photographs allow us to see and feel all of the textures of the splintering, peeling wood grain. Not just seeing all of the textures the wood has to offer, but the effect the salty sea had on this once pristine plank.
Ten Hoopen wanted this movement and shifting of our visual fields in regard to the ocean. She chooses not just to depict the ocean as we stand and see it, but show our very much human interaction with it. Flashing us back to those early times of collecting shells in pockets and buckets, and running our hands through the sand distorting all the minuscule grains, and of skipping rocks along the sea and making wishes with a coin toss over the back. Ten Hoopen shows us that we’re wrong in thinking there’s one way to view the ocean, dragging us through a multidimensional appreciation of the Big Blue Sea.