The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio (AICUO) presented Brannon Rockwell-Charland '14 with the Grand Award for Excellence in Visual Arts. The Grand Award is the highest honor in the competition, in which fourth-year students from AICUO schools are nominated by their department chairs. Oberlin fourth-year MJ Robinson was also selected as a finalist for the competition.
Originally from Berkley, California, Rockwell-Charland is a fourth-year Africana studies and visual arts double major at Oberlin. Her art uses a combination of conventional media such as photography, as well as non-traditional media such as hair and makeup to explore complex themes such as the experience of time, African American experience, and sexuality.
In addition to her exploration of these themes in her art, Rockwell-Charland's is a Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow, and has published work on representation, race, and postracialism. "I'm first aware of things that I address in my work because I live them and go through them," she says. "And then I go and find the theories or the books to back up my lived experience."
With her victory, Rockwell-Charland is the second Grand Award winner from Oberlin in as many years, joining last year's winner, Matthew Gallagher. She says studying at Oberlin helped her develop her work. "Oberlin is a very good conceptual art education in terms of being able to think through ideas." She cites Professor of Art and Africana Studies Johnny Coleman as an important part of her art education."He just knows so much," she says.
Last month, Rockwell-Charland presented her work in a combined show and reading with Lexy Phillips ‘14, entitled Reasons for Smoking. This summer, Rockwell-Charland will intern for mixed-media artist and New York University professor Lyle Ashton Harris in New York.