Unraveling Family Ties

Alexa Gross ’22

Photo by Lisa Abitbol

Alexa Gross ’22 has moved between two worlds at Wellesley. In one, she’s majoring in neuroscience, focusing on mental health and emotions. In the other, she’s majoring in studio art, producing prints and photographs. But what seems at first like a double life is actually something more connected.

“I’ve always been drawn to organic shapes and shapes I see in the brain,” Gross says. This spring, her art thesis is on view in the senior exhibition at the Jewett Art Gallery. The work builds on her 2020 monoprints titled In Our DNA, reproduced below. Both projects explore ties among Gross, her mother, and Gross’s grandmother, based in part on interviews Gross conducted with them. She says of her mother, “I think we both experience emotions very differently. And so this is almost like an opportunity to understand each other better.”

Gross learned that her grandmother unraveled gloves allotted to her as a worker at a steel factory and used the material to make pants for Gross’s mother, later unraveling and reknitting the clothes after her mom’s growth spurts. Inspired by the story, Gross has incorporated yarn in her printmaking. She spends a lot of time exploring ideas in the Dactyl Press, the printmaking studio in Pendleton West, and has made use of possibilities for replication in printmaking—for In Our DNA, she presented “ghost prints” alongside first-run prints.

“A lot of my work is so generative and experimental, I think I get lost in that sometimes,” Gross says. “The foundations of this piece will probably be in my work for a long time.”

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