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1-night-only exhibition welcomes new and returning students to Stanford’s visual arts scene

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The sounds of avant-garde experimental lo-fi and a looping animation of a Na’vi woman from James Caemron’s “Avatar” riding atop a motorcycle set the scene at Roble Arts Gym this past Saturday. The video was part of a one-night-only student art exhibition entitled “Synth” that was installed and taken down within the span of five-and-a-half hours. The show featured pieces from an open call to on-campus artists.

“It was just this crazy roller coaster of moving pieces and parts. We hung the last piece around five. We even lined the exhibition walls with this black trash bag wrap. I wanted this to look like we did it, like it was something that students actually did independently,” said exhibition curator and creator of the “Avatar” animation Gunner Dongieux ’22.

The show’s overall theme was exploring the return to life after quarantine, and its multimedia curation featured works including small-scale paintings, an upcycled corset, a life-sized oil portrait, experimental photographs, a satirical collage of world maps and a four-foot tall cardboard sculpture.

A student looking at a painting of a man.
Onlookers stop to see Gunner Dongieux’s ’22 Myth of Sisyphus airbrush painting. (Photo: ULA LUCAS/The Stanford Daily)

While reviewing student submissions for the exhibition, Dongieux noticed “motifs of growth [and] fracture” that he hoped to highlight to the post-pandemic Stanford community. The scrappy backdrop and diverse media on display seemed appropriate given the current state of campus: fragmented, artificial interactions experienced during isolation are being replaced with the communal and organic realities of an in-person quarter. 

At the exhibition, Bhumikorn “Bhu” Kongtaveelert ’25, who is a writer at The Daily, displayed a trio of gouache paintings showing greenery growing between cracks in the street. 

“I started it in Thailand,” Kongtaveelert said.  “At the time, it was politically turbulent, and people were very polarized. I finished it here. I thought it was a funny parallel — because America is very fragmented, and as an international student, it’s like, ‘wow, okay, [America is] progressive, but also so divided as well.’” 

Kongtaveelert hopes to submit more pieces to upcoming student shows, and to future gallery visitors he suggests: “instead of asking ‘how did you make this,’ ask ‘why do you make this?’ The why is important, as well.”

One of Dongieux’s goals for the exhibition aligned with the broader charge of fostering a flourishing and interconnected arts community at Stanford — from frosh to seniors, art practice to computer science majors. Synth brought together an interdisciplinary and intergenerational body of work. 

Two students looking at a corset.
Eli Arguello ’25 answers questions about her fashion piece. (Photo: ULA LUCAS/The Stanford Daily)

As a staff member in Burbank, which houses Stanford’s arts immersion program ITALIC, Dongieux was able to spread the word to new artists on campus and help them kickstart their arts career at Stanford by participating in the show. Burbank resident Eli Arguello ’25 whose piece — a corset upcycled from a pair corduroy pants — was on display, appreciated the exhibition as an opportunity to learn about the ins and outs of being an artist at Stanford. 

“I got to hear about the art practice major and what studio spaces are like here. It was really eye-opening,” Arguello said.

Dongieux will be following up this project by curating another open call exhibition next quarter. He encourages all artists to submit their works, and he hopes the entire Stanford community will come see the show. 

“This one was definitely the scrappy first round, but hopefully showing the university that we’ve done this and that it went really well, they’ll let us get a better space for more time,” Dongieux said.

This article has been updated to reflect that Eli’s last name is spelled “Arguello.” The Daily regrets this error.

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