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2019 State TOP ESSAYS

Eleanor Ball, Dowling Catholic, State 2019

Essay Prompt: Art Essay Prompt: How is Eva Hesse’s approach to sculpture both a tribute to the minimalism and a transcendence of this movement? Use details from Hesse’s work Repetition Nineteen III to support your answer.

    When going to an art museum, minimalist works can often be the hardest to understand. What is a plain glass cube supposed to mean? How is there any artistic value in a monochrome black canvas? One artist who not only understood, but greatly transformed these ideas, is the sculptur Eva Hesse. Hesse worked in the field of post-minimalism, an artistic movement that formed as a response to minimalism. The word can be misleading, however: post-minimalists did not come about after minimalists. Rather, they emerged during the rise of minimalists, and for the most part, the movements developed in tandem. As minimalism started emphasizing a certain convention or came out with a popular piece, post-minimalism would develop its own style and philosophy in response. As is exemplified in her work Repetition Nineteen III, Eva Hesse's approach to sculpture both did homage to and transcended minimalism.

    Hesse's work does pay some notable tributes to minimalism. One key characteristic of minimalist sculpture is repetition of form. This can be seen in many famous minimalist pieces, such as Donald Judd's work Untitled (Stack), in which identical lacquered boxes are fastened to a wall in a perfectly spaced, straight vertical line. Repetition Nineteen III is a floor sculpture in which Hesse repeats the form of a cylinder many times. Another area in which Hesse works in the same vein as minimalists is in her choice to use modern, nontraditional materials. After World War II, many synthetic materials were being invented. Artists were able to harness these brand-new materials, from acrylic paint to fiberglass, to create work with a much different, newer meaning than what came before. The synthetic nature of these materials greatly aided, for example, the clinicism so favored by minimalists. Hesse did homage to minimalism in her choice of material for Reptition Nineteen III: fiberglass, a new kind of material in which plastic polymers were stretched over and melded with glass. However, the details of how she structured this fiberglass are a sign of her transcendence of the minimalist movement.

    However, Repetition Nineteen III transcends the minimalist movement in many ways, from the look of her sculpture to how she allowed it to evolve. Minimalists favored hard-edged lines and rigid, geometric form, whereas Hesse's sculpture has an organic shape. Each of the cylinders is lumpy and a little bit lopsided; no two are the same, unlike minimalism, where uniformity is prized. In fact, Hesse had the sculptures remade several times in order to ensure they were dissimilar enough. She also allows her sculpture to change over time. She did this in a way that minimalists might consider degrading to the artistic value, but for her, it was a way of increasing it. As the sculptures have aged, the fiberglass has slowly turned from pure white to faded yellow. This is reminiscent of the decaying and aging process of many things, from paper to teeth. In allowing her sculpture to change color with age, Hesse is acknowledging its connections to the real world--specifically, to the flow of time therein. This is something minimalists would have rallied against. To many of them, most notably Ad Reinhardt, art ought to be separated from and elevated above the human world. However, Hesse allows her art to connect with the real world on one of the most visceral and universal of levels: the inevitable passage of time. In this, we come to the crux of how Hesse's art transcends minimalism: it can and does reflect humankind. It bridges the gap between minimalism's lofty heights and the ground where human beings live; it uses minimalist conventions to bring out human meaning. It takes the best of minimalism and modifies it as necessary to touch humankind. This is where the philosophy of Eva Hesse's approach to sculpture differs from the minimalist mentality, and it is the crux of how she transcends it.

    Like all post-minimalists, Eva Hesse's art builds on and draws from the ideas of minimalism. In her floor sculpture Repetition Nineteen III, she makes use of several minimalist conventions. For example, she utilizes the repetition of form that is so central to the minimalist aesthetic, and she chooses synthetic materials like many minimalists did. However, the difference in the philosophy of her approach sets her undeniably apart from minimalism. She eschews conformity and clinicism to give her sculpture an organic, human feels, and in this way, she does what no minimalist would ever do. She acknowledges the inevitable connections of art to the real world and brings minimalist conventions in contact with the human heartbeat. Her approach to sculpture builds on the other movement and in doing so, truly transcends it.


Camden Studer, Perry High School, State 2019

Essay Prompt: Science Essay Prompt: Explain the phenomenon known as total internal reflection. Discuss how this relates to fiber-optic cables and list some advantages of fiber-optics over traditional copper wires.

    Total internal reflection, or TIR,  is the reflection of light at the boundary between two media. It only occurs when all of the light is reflected and not refracted. For example, if you were to shine light into a triangular prism, it would go in and hit the back wall, then bounch out the other side at an angle. To have total internal reflection, you must have two things occuring. First, the light must be in the more dense medium and appoach the less dense medium. This means that the angle of refraction reachs and 90 degree angle before the angle of incidence does. Light only bends away for the normal ray when passing from a more dense medium to a less dense one. The second requirment is that the angle of incidence must be greater than the critical angle. If it is not bigger, when the ray hits it will come back out at the wrong spot. Because infracted rays reflect closer to the orignal ray, if the angle isn't big enough it will be to close. Total internal reflection is everywhere. You can see it in everyday life. It can be found in light piping and fiber-optic cables. 

    Fiber-optic cables are a network of cables that contain strands of glass fibers inside an insulated casing. Fiber-optic cables carry communication signals using pulses of light generated by small lasers. The cable consists of one of more strands of glass. Light travels at the center of the strands, called the core. The core is then surronded by a layer of glass called cladding which reflects light inward to avoid the loss of signal and allow for the light to pass through the bends of the cables. Total internal reflection can be seen in the passage of the light. Because it uses TIR, it allows for light to pass through more quickly and smoothly. It is distrubed at a similar rate, which makes it able to work efficently. If it did not use TIR, then you would have all sorts of different rays bouncing around. The travel and the time it takes would be very inconsistent. The fact that the angle is bigger than the critical angle plays an important role. If the anlge was not bigger, the cladding would absorb some of the light. Seeing as how it is bigger, the light is reflected at an angle that allows for it to continue the reflections.

    The two most popular cables we use are fiber-optic cables and the traditional copper wires. They both have quailites that the other does not. Fiber-optic are becoming more and more popular as they provide higher bandwidth and can transmit over longer distances. When compared to a copper wire, a fiber-opitc cable has a higher capacity. The amount of network exceeds a copper wire. Fiber-optic cables can range from 10 gbps all the way up to 100 gbps. It provides better storage and connection. These cables can also save us some money. They can carry light over much longer distances, which decreases the need for signal boosters. You still may need some, but not as many as if you were to have a copper cable. The fiber-optic cable is less susceptible to interference. A copper cable requires special coatings to protect it. While these help for a little bit, overtime they break down and are not able to fight off interference when many cables are bunched together. The physical properties of the fiber-optic cables, such as glass, help fight off these problems.

    As a society, we are moving in a more technological direction. Everyday new materials and ideas are being developed. The use of fiber-optic cables is one of many that will help us move forward. Total internal reflection and other scientific phenomenon can be seen in everyday life. When you drive a car or even watch TV, you are using a scientific discovery someone has made. It is time to move away from the old and bring in the new. As most of the time, it will better for our society in the long run.