Review: Abby Warren’s ‘Gaze’ opens doors for aspiring artists

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Sarah Hibberd

Recent graduate Abby Warren introduced her immersive art experience, “Gaze,” featuring the ideas of art, music, dance and how they intertwined in her life. This was the first time a student took over the art gallery.

For the very first time, a high school student took over the art gallery and held their own exhibit. On Aug. 4, recent graduate Abby Warren introduced her immersive art experience, “Gaze,” featuring the ideas of art, music, dance and how they intertwined in her life. Behind the exhibit lays the driving question Warren answered: “How can art and dance be used to portray the feeling of a song?”

A portrait of young Abby Warren. This portrait was featured in Warren’s first movement, “Memories.” (Sarah Hibberd)

In a brief synopsis of the creative planning that went into the exhibit, Warren detailed that her main challenge in creating the exhibit was to include each idea in a way that would be cohesive and enhance her work. When 2D art “didn’t seem like it would do the job,” Warren experimented with 3D art creating an immersive space for each piece. Warren divided the exhibit into a series of three installations. The first named “Memories,” the second named “Abstraction” and the third named “Past. Present. Future.” 

Upon entering the front doors, viewers were immediately pulled into the experience by light incense and the song “Bending Dream” by Eluvium, the object of her memory. Viewers were asked to slip off their shoes and leave them at the door, which, ironically, I found put each individual in the shoes of Warren and her journey. The first exhibit accurately depicted fragments of memory, as Warren intended. An assortment of blankets, pillows and CDs hanging from the ceiling amplified the concept of revisiting a space in time. Miscellaneous items, such as rugs, stuffed animals and what appeared to be a painting of Warren herself surrounded the area as well. In the center of the room lay two red iPod Nanos: one real, one painted. The iPod was a brilliant method of symbolizing that Warren’s memory revolved around a song she found when she was 8 years old.

Transitioning into “Abstraction,” viewers entered a diverse array of visual devices. Inside a narrow tunnel bending around the back corner of the room, Warren included flashing lights, abstract shapes and a “therapeutic beat” to embody the feeling music gives her. I especially enjoyed the dark theme of this installation in contrast to the light, reflective ambiance of the first, as it powerfully conveyed the concept of feeling compared to thought. This installation included the song “Sleep Sound” by Jamie xx, another contemplative choice of music.

Miscellaneous objects on display in Warren’s final movement, “Past. Present. Future.” Warren brought the items from her home and the art room.

Warren’s final installation “Past. Present. Future,” certainly did justice to its counterparts. The final exhibit pulled the elements of discovery and feeling into a powerful depiction of personage, but for Warren, this exhibit was about how childhood affects one’s future and self. By bringing in furniture from her home, objects from the art room and introducing warm lighting, Warren succeeded in making the room feel “cozy and intimate.” On a quilt hanging from the wall, a projector played a video collage of Warren dancing to “Dawn Chorus” by Thom Yorke combined with film from when she was a child. Warren herself performed in the room in front of the live audience, offering viewers a chance to witness what improvised dance looks like. As someone who had never spectated this form of dance before, I enjoyed experiencing something eccentric and new.

Had I not been encouraged by a friend to visit “Gaze,” I likely would have overlooked it, but I’m very glad that I didn’t. “Gaze” was a brilliant, unique exhibit that, to me, perfectly captured what the discovery of dance can mean to an individual. Although not everyone can relate to dance itself, anyone can appreciate the intricate connection Warren made between memory and feeling. 

While the high school has many school-sponsored and student-run events, “Gaze” was unique in that a single student took initiative to try something new. By venturing into unexplored territory, Warren opened a new door for high school artists, proving that students can expand their art beyond the classroom and make waves in their community.