As an enthusiastic underclass student, Logan House made a habit of snapping photos at Bowdoin. “I always took a lot of college photos for when I wanted to look back nostalgically 20 years from now,” he said recently, standing in flip-flops among his paintings in an Edwards Center studio.
But while House hoped to capture mementos of the fun side of college life, he now uses those photos as a starting point to explore more complex human terrain. For when he began to inspect his photographs more closely, particularly the ones he took at parties, he was struck by the unguarded expressions of the people caught within the frames. “I’ve always been interested in the figure and drawing people,” he said, “but when you draw from posed photographs or a model in the studio, there is an artifice.”
He began painting moments from parties, launching a project that is tentatively called “9 to 1.” This summer he is being supported with an Alan M. Christenfeld Fellowship from Bowdoin to work on his art. Every year, Bowdoin awards a variety of fellowships to support students pursuing academic, scientific, or artistic projects over the summer.
Although House’s paintings are ostensibly about crowds, the focus of the works tend to rest on just one or a few figures. Some of these people have countenances that seem out of place in a party — they look almost fearful, upset, or pensive.
“People’s faces have so much complexity, they have their own built-in narrative, even in a static image,” House said. “We’re so drawn to faces and other people’s emotions, and we fill in the blanks to form a narrative.”
There appears, in some of House’s pieces, to be a discordance between the group and the individual. “The series has been about creating figures who exist in a frame but are very individualized and have their own separate narrative from everyone else,” he said.
Also, while the series is not directly about House’s experience of being treated with cancer, it is not altogether separate from it. House began his crowd paintings before he got ill last summer with Burkitt’s lymphoma, an aggressive, fast-growing cancer, and had to leave Bowdoin for the fall semester. Still, his experience with illness seems to have sharpened his artistic objective.
“Everybody at Bowdoin has something that can separate them from others, not in an achievement kind of way, but because they have internal narratives that can make it difficult to connect with others,” he said. After returning to school last winter, he added, “it was difficult for me to jump back in and feel like I could connect with anybody. Going through that experience, you feel very separate.”
House, who grew up in Florida, is a visual arts and government major, and a history minor.