Winner of Hamblet Award, top student art prize, named for 2020

Rebecca Arp, "Untitled"

The Vanderbilt University Department of Art announces senior Rebecca Arp as this year’s recipient of the prestigious Margaret Stonewall Wooldridge Hamblet Award. Arp, of Columbus, Ohio, will receive a $25,000 prize providing funds for a year of art research and travel, culminating in a solo show at Vanderbilt in one year.

Senior Sydney Kaemmerlen of St. Louis is the recipient of the Merit Award and $10,000.

“In a unique year, and within unique circumstances, the Class of 2020 Vanderbilt art seniors have shown their resilience and dedication to continue making art,” said Vesna Pavlović, associate professor of art and director of undergraduate studies. “Adjusting and adapting to their home studios, they have all produced beautiful and intriguing thesis works, showing to the world true perseverance and creativity.”

Rebecca Arp, "Untitled" (wax Hammer)Arp is an interdisciplinary artist concerned with emotion, memory, ritual and religion seen through the lens of her queer experience. She saturates quotidian objects and practices with meaning, using emotionally and historically charged materials and processes to speak about her family, relationships and identity. Arp is distinctly interested in where art meets life, and the exchange between one’s self and one’s proximate environment. Arp’s changing working conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have influenced her practice, and she acknowledges these limits through various changes to her exhibition. She adapts what she originally envisioned as a poetry reading performance that would have taken place in the gallery into a video format that can be experienced digitally. She chose to memorialize the few tools she has access to—a hammer, chisel, screwdriver and palette knife—and celebrate their enduring ability to create artworks by casting them in the wax from Advent candles. An Advent wreath is composed of four candles, three purple and one pink, each representing a distinct virtue of hope, faith, joy and love. These wax tools symbolize art-making, world-making and future-making, and they give Arp the ability to create a future that reclaims these virtues.

Sydney Kaemmerlen, "passion, queer notion"

Kaemmerlen is constantly striving to discover more about herself and her surroundings. Her work, driven by this pursuit, explores identity and questions normalcy on both an individual and societal scale. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, her work often deals with her observations as a queer woman in the contemporary world. Her project, queer notion, is based in reflection and communication. The piece features photographs of the artist wearing six crochet masks, each made using the fabric from recycled clothing as yarn. She chose this material intentionally, utilizing clothing as a commonly understood physical reflection of our identity. She deconstructs each item of clothing into a liminal form before carefully crocheting it into a novel object. Each mask is made to represent an emotional sensation that she has experienced in her identity journey. “Frustration,” “passion,” “hope,” “dread,” “self-reliance” and “hesitancy” serve as the names for each of these sensations. In wearing a mask, which is meant to communicate her inner experience, Kaemmerlen juxtaposes the definition of the object as something meant to conceal with the intent to outwardly express one’s inner self.

The other graduating art majors exhibiting are Kirsten Bailey, Alexis Bray, Peter Hill, Thomas Maertens, Arezou Moosavi, Sophie Stark and Fei Yang.

View Wordling, the 2020 Senior Show, here. >>

The jurors for this year’s competition are all distinguished artists and educators. They include Edra Soto, School of the Art Institute Chicago; independent artist and photographer Stacy Kranitz, a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow; and Ethan Morrow, chair in painting and drawing at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Tufts University.

The Department of Art has supervised the awarding of the Margaret Stonewall Wooldridge Hamblet Award since 1984. The award was established by Clement H. Hamblet in honor of his wife, whom he met while she was studying abroad. The Hamblet Award is meant to provide the means for travel and independent art activity for one year, culminating in an exhibition at Vanderbilt.

For more information, contact the Department of Art at (615) 343-7241, or visit