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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Pottery, videos, and the hills of Iowa

The Student Art Salon opened last Friday, displaying works from students of all years as well as professors. Below several artists describe their work and process.

Thomas Agran ’09

Thomas Agran is a senior an Art major from Cinncinati, Ohio. He has two landscape prints, in the style of Japanese wind cuts, showing in the Student Salon.

When did you become interested in Japanese art?
I guess I’ve always liked Japanese wood cuts, I was in a 300 drawing class with Lee Running, [Art] and she showed me a book sketches for the College that were Japanese and quite old. I really liked those.

How did you make the pieces?

They were screen printed, so I drew the stencils and went from there.

Did you consider doing an actual wood cut print?

Yeah, the technique they actually use is really hard; I was more interested in mimicking the style than the technique.

Are you going do more Japanese inspired art in the future?

It would be interesting to learn how to actually do a wood cut print. It seems so difficult, I can’t imagine actually be able to do it hundreds of years ago.

What is your preferred medium?

Probably oil on canvas. I’ve always liked painting. I actually have some pieces up in the JRC currently that are also landscapes. I painted them this semester.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I am actually working on a farm until October. I’ve worked for the same guy for two years. He runs an organic farm. The farm has been his family for five generations. This summer it is being treated a lot more like an internship than in the past, so he is going to show me all of the accounting and managerial stuff. I think it would be pretty ideal if I could eventually be able to farm in the summer and then make art for the other part of the year.

Have you ever thought about what appeals to you about farms and the mid-west landscapes so much?

I’ve thought about it but I don’t know if I can articulate it quite yet. One of the reasons is that its just such a visual thing, there’s so much to it, with all of the lots patterns, rhythm, all the row crops, all the colors and all the buildings and machinery. And when I work on a farm I feel like it really brings me closer to the land, so it feels natural to want to pursue what I’m interested in my life in my artwork as well.

When did you start depicting landscapes?

When I got to Grinnell, because of one of my professors, Bobbi Mckibbin, also did landscapes. I kind started pursuing it because she was able to teach me so much. I still talk to her even though she retired and moved to Montana. I’ve gone to visit her; we’re still good friends.

What was going to Europe for a semester off like?

I bound all of these sketchbooks, and took my water color set and intended to fill all these sketch books because I’d have all this time to do all this observational drawing. But in the end I hardly ended up doing any art. By far the most valuable part was to just get out of Grinnell and take time to think. There wasn’t anybody to speak English with, so I actually wrote a lot.

Christine McCormick ’09

Christine McCormick is a senior (English major) from Kirksville, Missouri. She has three charcoal sketches currently showing the Student Salon.

Is this your first time entering a piece to an exhibit?

This is the first year I felt confident enough in the work I’d been doing. The first art class I took since elementary school was last fall. Then I went abroad, then I took a drawing class with Lee Running and it was really fun and interesting.

What inspired your series in the Student Salon?

The titles are all lines from John Donne poems and I just decided to take the words a lot more literally than he meant them to be taken.

Do you often take inspiration from words?

Totally, I have taken things out of my email in the morning, which turned out to be mostly newspaper headlines that I took much more literally than they were even intended to be taken. You get some really interesting results doing that.

Do you have a favorite piece of the ones in the Student Salon?

I really like the piece with the hands called “Batter my heart three person’d God.” That came out of a plans conversation a friend of mine who was in Traditions of English Literature 1. We read a lot of John Donne in that class and I mentioned that a John Donne line would make a great title for a memoir and she responded “Batter my heart three person’d God” would make a great title for a cook book.

Abbie Caldwell ’10

Abbie Caldwell is a junior (Psychology and Studio Art double major) from Des Moines, IA. She currently has three pieces of pottery showing at the Student Salon.

What do you like about working with pottery?

It’s a really fun experience, it’s a lot of technical skill and it doesn’t always come out the way you want because of the kiln.

What are your plans for your future as an artist?

Well I am a Studio Art and Psychology double major, and I want to become a architect and study urban design. I want to look at how architecture affects people psychologically. I want to be more on the design aspect than the technical drafting end.

Morgan Mercer ’12

Morgan Mercer is a first year from Cannon Falls, Minnesota. She currently has one painting, oil on canvas, showing in the Student Salon.

What inspired your piece?

In high school I took academics really seriously, all the time. I always had stuff to do and I always made these lists. I always forgot to go have fun. I forgot why I focused so much on academics, I forgot the point of it all. The purpose of the painting is to show how people get so bogged down in their own lists in life and to remind them not to forgot about what their working for.

How did you create the piece?

I had all of my friends write on sticky notes at lunch one day and then spent three hours organizing them how I wanted, took a photo of that and then painted that photo.

Did you try to create a focal point with the piece?

No, I wanted to overwhelm the view with lists instead of make them focus on one.

Is this the first time you’ve entered your work for an exhibit?

Do you count the state fair? I’ve been entering the fair since I was little, I won a couple of ribbons. But it felt great to see my work in an actual gallery. It was really compelling.

Paula Matallana ’10

Paula Matallana is a junior an Art major from Miami Florida. She currently has a series of photographs and a video showing in the Student Salon.

What’s the story behind your series of photographs?

I stayed in Grinnell over spring break and one day my friends and I were going to go to the park. My friend showed me that you could unscrew the peep hole from my door, so I did that and took it with me to the park. I decided to shoot through it, using it as a second lens and just experimented and played around with it. I liked how my pictures turned out at the park so I started to use the technique in different environments.

Why did you choose those five?

I feel compositionally they worked and technically they worked the best because I was given an assignment in my digital art class to form a series of the 100 or so I had from these shots and I just eliminated some right away because the peep hole would obscure the shot too much or you could see my finger and I ended up just settling on those five.

You also did a video, what was the story behind that?

It’s called “The Being of my Tree.’ It stemmed out of a video assignment we had in our sculpture class. My idea was to make a stop motion video but instead of using clay I got the idea to draw on my body. I did some sketches and in the end I wanted to do something which you kind of get the body connected to nature and how they come together into and how that transforms each and they become one being.

What are your plans for the summer?

I am going to be working a friend’s father’s studio as a studio assistant in Miami. I think my time there is going to inform me if I want to be an artist once I graduate from Grinnell. I am very invested in my art, and it feels right to be investing this much time in art right now but my future is still open.

Do you see a common theme throughout all of your work, no matter what the medium?

I guess a lot of the work I do is me trying to blend fantasy and reality together in a way. I just look at things in a new way, which goes back to the peep hole idea of you being able to see just something that is everyday and common, but seen through this lens that views into a distorted world.

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