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Student Spotlight: Sculptor Ham Sonnenfeld '16

Mar 16, 2016   |   by Nalini Ramanathan   |   The Dartmouth

A senior with a double major in engineering and studio art, F. Hambelton “Ham” Sonnenfeld ’16 has always enjoyed creating projects.

In high school, Sonnenfeld was more mathematically and scientifically inclined. Although he took several art classes in high school, Sonnenfeld never considered art seriously until his junior year, when he took an accelerated open media art course instead of AP physics at the suggestion of his sculpture teacher.

Now, while he is still interested in mathematics and physics, Sonnenfeld focuses more on his art.

Unlike many interested in both engineering and physics, Sonnenfeld is not interested in architecture or being a traditional engineer. Instead, he sees art as a way to make more interesting projects.

Sophie Sheeline ’16, who worked alongside Sonnenfeld in both studio art and engineering, sees Sonnenfeld’s interest in art reflected in his work as an engineer.

“As an engineer, he’d much rather be doing a project than a problem set and loves to get his hands on things as well as sort of defining the overall vision of what he’s making,” Sheeline said. “That’s what excites him about engineering.”

At Dartmouth, Sonnenfeld has been particularly interested in creating three-dimensional sculptural art, incorporating some of the concepts and methods found in technology production.

In his drawing class, Sonnenfeld brought some of these technological concepts into play. Using shapes and contradicting patterns to simulate binary logic, Sonnenfeld created a visual discussion on digital, polarized thought processes and complexity. This is one of Sonnenfeld’s first highly conceptual projects. ...

... Sonnenfeld’s senior thesis is composed of eight pieces, all of which will contain wood from the same tree. He hopes that it will serve as a culminating experience, combining the methods he has learned in his engineering classes with those he has learned in his art classes.

Although Sonnenfeld has not figured out the particular designs yet, he said that all of these pieces will have an overarching theme that alludes to both evolution and human progress. Presenting trees as a sort of champion of evolution, he compares this slow evolution to the faster evolution of human technology, as well as his own progress in his 21 years as a human and as an artist.

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