Interactive BFA Photography Exhibition Tells Unique Stories

Imagine an art exhibition that is interactive: people wearing headphones and listening to audio and photos telling stories to the audience. Directed by Seattle U professors Wyann Greenwood and Clair Garoutte, nine graduating students from the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program kicked off their interactive photography exhibition at the Vashon Gallery on May 23.

Each of the nine students expressed their distinctive perspectives on the world around them. Although not all of the artwork was interactive, each piece was something special.

“What is really nice about this program is that we want them to explore and find their unique voice,” Professor Claire Garoutte said.


A diverse number of projects were presented at the senior Photography Majors’ exhibition.

As attendees stepped into the gallery, the exhibition came alive, a place where the audience and the works of art communicated. Cathryn Hallett and Zachary Burns are BFA alumni who come to visit the gallery every year and they were impressed with how interactive the exhibition was, as it was made in such a way that the audience not only observes photographs but also hears them. Aunna Moriarty was one of the senior photography majors who exhibited photos and also a film.

The title of Moriarty’s piece is “And in That Moment”. She has dreams–and nightmares–every day which she expresses and remembers vividly throughout her artwork. Her exhibits consist of four scenes with different kinds of mysterious and chaotic settings.

In one of her works, she is in a room in a deep forest. The light color of the forest is attractive in its deep contrast at the front of the image because it seems as if it is trying to suck the viewer into the photo.

Laura Affolter, another senior featured in the gallery, focused on her idea of how fixed stereotypes and biases of certain minorities can be eliminated.

“In my work, I’m exploring how we live our life in adherence to specific codes,” Affolter said.

Her well-constructed theme appeals to the emotion of the audience, as if photos are asking people to reflect on how they think and behave subconsciously in their daily lives.

“The codes are like gender or sexuality and we perform these codes in adherence to things like religion, national identity and gender that you’re assigned to at birth,” she said.

Her exhibits, titled “Growing Up with Lua” and “Joseph Building Cross”, explore whether the visual brandings which were assigned to them can be shed. In “Growing Up with Lua”, a person’s back is shown and a bunch of flowers is put into their underwear. Although flowers are usually associated with femininity, the name of the flower shown in the photo is “Lua” which is non-binary.

“You can think about how we ascribe certain attributes to certain kinds of body that aren’t necessary true,” Affolter said.

Through “Joseph Building Cross”, Affolter wanted to criticize people who still try to exclude certain individuals from their community. Joseph is an African American and he is depicted building and crafting a cross with thin wooden boards in three photos.

Senior Katie Flaherty’s series depicted images of her own body, titled “Object/Subject/Self.”

“This was helping me figure out and see myself and get to know myself and my own space,” she said. “I had a lot of issues like body dysmorphia in the past.”

Body dysmorphia is a mental condition in which one has obsessive ideas that some aspect of their appearance is severely flawed even though it is an imagined or slight defect.

What inspired this project was a question that people often asked: “How often do you look at yourself in the mirror?”

Close-ups of her legs, back, mouth, and nose reflected in the mirror and photos of her kitchen, the place where she usually spends much of her time, are shown to represent her past struggle and the overcoming of her body dysmorphia.

“I think these guys worked beyond what you would expect from the undergraduate. I do!” Garoutte said proudly after the end of the first show.

“Major victory!” a voice rang throughout an empty gallery hall.

The BFA Photography Exhibition is available to the public weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until June 19.

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