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Marking the start of a year-long series of art shows at the Graduate Student Center, School of Design student Natalie Eve Garrett officially opened her first exhibit at Penn yesterday afternoon.

The series -- which was started two years ago entirely on student initiative -- is designed to provide an outlet for students in the School of Design's Fine Arts Department in order to showcase their work and introduce themselves to the graduate and greater University community.

The inaugural exhibit featured Garrett's most recent collection of 12 acrylic paintings, all of which explore themes of women or feminism, and reflect a diverse set of inspirations -- ranging from Barbie to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Brothers Grimm.

Garrett explained that she draws most of the material for her work from popular culture and the media, and then tries to infuse it with her own personal views and interpretations.

"I'm interested in working with things that have been trivialized by pop culture and portrayed as overly romantic and clich‚, and actually getting to the sentiments behind these things and trying to give them poetic value," Garrett said.

In the exhibit, Garrett took these goals and synthesized them with her feminist inclinations, producing works such as "Victoria's Secret," which depicts two women who closely resemble a well-known lingerie advertisement, and "Dirty Dancing I and II," which represent a female figure reminiscent of the protagonist of the popular film Dirty Dancing.

"I like the romantic female theme in her works," said Sheen Levine, a Wharton Ph.D. student present at the opening. "It is rare, because it is frequently considered inappropriate these days, and it's nice that she's not afraid to show these kinds of images."

According to Garrett, these types of themes have served as inspiration to her throughout her entire life.

"My work has always been affected by women, and feminism is definitely a part of my identity," she said.

However, fellow School of Design student Helen Chuang noted that unlike Garrett's previous works -- which were fraught with color --her most recent exhibit is minimalistic in its use of only black, white and gray. According to Chuang, this change reflects a growing maturity on Garrett's part.

Following graduation this spring, Garrett said she hopes possibly to pursue a career in teaching and become a professional painter in the Philadelphia area.

To this end, these types of shows can be useful exposure, School of Design student Dustin London noted.

"People know what a big part Penn plays in the community in terms of cultural development," he said, "so this show is a great way for her to get herself out there. Anything you can do to get yourself out there definitely doesn't hurt."

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