Annika Britton, 'Synthetic Bloom' | Credit: Josef Woodard

Keeping roughly apace with the fortuitous emergence of the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art several years ago, student art shows in the high-profile venue bespeak an upward evolution in the college’s art department. That trend continues and rewards a visit and look in the case of this year’s senior art show, a space of her own.

Annika Britton, ‘Cascade Rotated’ | Credit: Josef Woodard

While the exhibition borrows its title from Virginia Woolf’s famed feminist text A Room of One’s Own, promoting the importance of women enabling creativity and self-growth in a personal place, the “space” factor matters here. Between the six young women artists whose work is on view — Annika Britton, Moriah Chiang, Callie Guthrie, Ella Jennings, Ashley Rosenbaum, and Morgan Sailer — the search for a personal “space” of artistic expression and the use of the hosting gallery space itself become part of the process of discovery.

Variety between artists and focus within each artist’s chosen path are key elements in making this exhibition work, beyond just status as an obligatory year-end student showcase. In the museum’s entryway space, for instance, Jennings’s paintings of moody, shadow-playful interiors starkly contrast the art across the way: Sailer’s minimal, skillfully fashioned silkscreen prints adding up to a “day in the life of a cowboy” narrative series.

Jennings’s canvases convey a quiet, muted presence. “Nearer to Thee,” the title of which reminds us of the Christian perspective up at Westmont, is mostly in shadow, with subtle, slanted light seeping through a glass door. The subject is oblique illumination, literally and metaphysically.

Moriah Chiang, ‘Reach’ | Credit: Josef Woodard

In the large, main gallery, Rosenbaum presents a set of mountain-minded landscape paintings, with a loose, gestural flair and idyllic palette, bringing her private eye to the subject of Mount Whitney. From another space and outlook entirely, the adjacent body of work by Guthrie offers a documentary photographic chronicle of the specific demographic and subcultural passion of female and nonbinary skateboarders. Action shots, portraits, and a vivid depiction of the environment make up her embedded vision of this special skate “space.”

Giving the main gallery a touch of surreal feng shui, Britton shows soft, plant-referential sculptures on the floor space and tucked into a sequestered alcove. She has carved out a personal artistic niche, conveying love of nature and especially flora, but using common “downscale” materials — felt, plastic, yarn, coffee filters, found items. In so doing, she subversively empowers materials we traditionally consider as “craft” supplies, in the service of artful nature reverence on her own terms.

Chiang’s own creative terms are also very much at play with her whimsical yet meticulously drawn charcoal studies of skeletons with distorted scalar features and in varied positions. Each piece is structured and/or contorted around an actual light bulb — as in “aha” light bulb moments of discovery and awareness.

Of course, discovery and self-discovery are key to the modus operandi of young artists in this emergent phase. The Westmont exhibition celebrates the search for one’s own space, and presents us with a satisfying progress report on said search.

The Westmont Senior Graduates Exhibition 2023 is on view through May 6 at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art (955 La Paz Rd.). See


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