One senior is fascinated with her family history. Another is focused on finding beauty in any body. And yet another is fixated on beads and jewelry. This trio of artists will showcase signature works during “Mixed Media Minds,” the senior art show at Keuka College’s Lightner Gallery.
Friendship resident Emma Wolf has crafted mixed media collages of her great-grandmother’s family using a typewritten essay, old photos recreated on tracing paper, and a wash of coffee grounds and water to create a vintage look. From collage renderings of parts of the bodies of many women, Kaye Field of Torrington, Conn. has fashioned one body, with a mirror in place of the head. Meanwhile, Ayuko Sakurai of Yokohama, Japan, south of Tokyo, has crafted multiple works with colored beads, jewelry and fabrics.
Each young woman is a visual and verbal art major, and all three will be on hand to greet the public at an artists reception, Thursday, April 24 from 4:30 – 6 p.m. at Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library, where light refreshments will be served. The show continues through May 16.
According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, this exhibit features not just three unique styles, but three creative approaches to communicating an idea, emotion or experience, with each artist incorporating pieces of her life experiences
According to Field, body image and the concept of beauty remains an intrinsic struggle for women everywhere and became the subject of her work, “Beautiful Reflections.” She chose to use a variety of media “to depict how no woman and no person is the same. We are all created differently and all of these differences are what make us all beautiful,” she said.
Field said the women who participated in her project came from all over the world and showed their courage and bravery by sending her photos to use as inspiration for the work.
“The mirror is a big part of this piece. Everyone should look in the mirror and be able to smile at their reflection,” Field said.
Wolf, too, could cite courage and bravery of strong women in her family history, such as her great-grandmother, Lula May, and other relatives who survived in regions of Florida where wild, untamed shores and marshes made daily life a struggle. Scattered for display below her mixed media works of Lula May as a child, and later, an aging woman, are knickknacks and small treasures: old-fashioned pocket watches, arrowheads, a large seashell, and an heirloom quilt. A 1938 sepia tint photo shows Lula May as a young mother, standing on a windblown beach, with a child at her feet. Other family members also appear in Wolf’s creations.
“I became avidly interested in their struggle for survival and how they were able to push through and move on to better things, when times got tough for them,” Wolf said. “I wasn’t quite sure what to focus my project on, but writing the essay helped me figure that out.”
Another prominent piece within Wolf’s “Strong Roots” exhibit is a sculpture of a tree rising out of the pages of a book. The work, “Family Tree,” serves as a visual metaphor, she said.
For Sakurai, the intricate work of beading or sculpting jewelry echoes the same multiple dimensions, colors and facets of her personal history, studying abroad beginning at age 15 and traveling to more than 10 countries. One work she will display is a handmade dress designed from egg shells and other unique materials. According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, Sakurai has been working on the dress for over a year.
“As I see something, I often find a connection between it and something I remembered [from my travel or study], which gives me a new layer of knowledge,” Sakurai said. “Different objects or ideas are connected through my interpretation. This makes my world muti-colored and multi-faceted, like a well-polished crystal and also stimulates me in combining both traditional and contemporary styles and concepts of art.”
During her January Field Period™ with a jewelry designer, Sakurai handcrafted her own unique gold necklace, and that experience ultimately led her to the Metal and Jewelry graduate program at Rochester Institute of Technology, where she will begin taking courses this fall.
Just this year, Keuka College began offering a new Art and Design program, providing more studio courses to give students opportunities to learn skills in a greater number of mediums. The increased diversity helps students build a portfolio with greater breadth, as well as develop strengths in a particular area, Newcomb said.
“In this case we have three seniors displaying work in multiple mixed mediums, which shows a range of experiences not only in their skills and abilities,” Newcomb said. “It also becomes a very personal but rewarding way to share their story, whether it relates to the past, present or future.”
The images are arresting. Color portraits of African women and children, their faces lined with the trials of life, and yet a common denominator among most: genuine smiles.
These unmistakable indicators of the human experience – happiness—are the handiwork of senior education major Winsome Zinkievich, who traveled to Africa this summer with a group of adults under the umbrella of Tirzah International, a faith-based mission agency. Zinkievich’s younger brother and uncle traveled with Tirzah the year before, which piqued her interest in making the trip.
The group spent about two weeks in Bujumbura, capital of the country of Burundi for about two weeks, with another four days in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. It felt like two years, Zinkievich said. Every day, they were driven from their protected housing compound, King’s Conference Center, to the Women’s Center, where a 10-month residential program was just beginning for 46 women, most widowed or orphaned.
The women receive counseling and group therapy and learn to sew, a trade that can provide them future income, she said.
“It was my mission to take pictures of all the women,” Zinkievich said. “A lot of them lost their husbands because of civil war or AIDS, or there’s children whose parents abandoned them. Some are young women who are my age and they’ve lived more than me. After I took my first photo of one of the ladies, I looked at it and knew it wasn’t something to just put on Facebook.”
Her photos could tell the story of each of the women, Zinkievich realized, describing how she learned of heart-wrenching suffering and loss, yet a joy in daily life, as she got to know each one without speaking their language. One 20-year-old widow, a year younger than Zinkievich herself, had endured five miscarriages and the death of her husband. One of the woman’s surviving children is afflicted with “water on the brain” and is not likely to live past childhood. In her photo, she is beaming as she holds her two children on her lap.
“Even though she lost her husband and lost other kids, she’s still here and so happy for the day,” Zinkievich said. “I’ve been more disappointed about not getting a text from someone, than she seemed to me. It just changes your way of looking at the world and what’s really important.”
In many cases, women who had lost everything were filled with faith and happiness – faith that the program would help them provide for their families, and happiness “simply because they were alive,” Zinkievich said. “In a world where they have so little, these women still cherish the moment and believe in the future. I realized that maybe if I shared their pictures, I could show their emotion and [how real they are] … and maybe I could change the world a little for the better.”
A plan quickly came together to make framed prints of every woman’s image and sell them for $40 each to support them during their 10-month program. It costs about $60/month to house and feed each woman, a cost covered by Tirzah through donations from sponsors.
Back at Keuka, she has not lost that passion to make a difference with her photos.
“All these women have a story and they deserve their story to be told. None of the images are altered. I didn’t change any of the colors – it’s just there. That’s how it was, and it’s important to me to share that with the world.”
She said this was the first time “I went and did something, not even for me, but for other people and I was proud of it. It was just amazing,” she said. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about going back, or how I can help them, or ways to make my life different because of them, like buying less things and appreciating what I have or especially appreciating the day. So many people don’t think about how wonderful it is that we’re here, alive and in the now. Instead of thinking about your crappy day, how can we make our day awesome and wonderful and worth living?”
According to Zinkieviech, the experience was deeply spiritual for her.
“When I was there, there was a huge belief that it was all going to be OK. Faith is like believing without seeing. The people there have so much faith that it’s going to be OK and that they’re going to figure it out, that it’s all going to come together and that’s a lot more than we have. God is in Africa to me and people are just happy to know God [there]. So that was huge.”
Zinkievich will graduate Keuka in late May and said she’d love to go back to Burundi to visit in June, when the women finish their 10-month program.
“It would be so great to see how they went from Point A to Point B,” she said.
Currently, a selection of Zinkievich’s photos are on display on the fourth floor of Hegeman Hall on the Keuka College campus. A full gallery of portraits can also be seen online at: http:[email protected]/
To order a print of an African portrait, contact the artist at: [email protected]
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of profiles on new, full-time faculty members who have joined the Keuka community.
Perhaps it’s fair to say that Angela Narasimhan is intent on expanding the borders of possibility, whether those borders be in political science, motherhood and family life, or long-held traditions about college education.
Indeed, Keuka’s newest assistant professor of political science went beyond borders to pursue her collegiate studies, moving from Washington, D.C., to Romania, where she spent a year in language school before earning her B.A. in political science from Babes-Bolyai (pronounced “Bobbish- Boyea”) University in Transylvania, Romania. That was followed by a master’s degree in political science from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. And while her Ph.D. – also in political science – is from Syracuse University, Narasimhan maintains a particularly global view on American politics.
“I wanted to study post-communist transition, but I was very interested in American politics from an international perspective. My dissertation was on globalization and the Supreme Court, and how different American institutions are dealing with globalization,” she said, adding that her studies have also touched on American politics, public law and public policy.
“We have many individual rights. We have the strongest, most enduring constitution, and we’re very inclusive, very democratic. These are all important, unique things that many Americans take for granted,” she said. “At the same time, we also lag behind other countries in certain things, and there’s a lot of fear of globalization undermining American values. However, the world is increasingly interdependent. We have to deal with other countries on a more direct basis, and we’re expected to have a global set of abilities to compete.”
Prior to coming to Keuka, Narasimhan taught political science at Idaho State University and the Unversity of North Dakota. She and her husband, Kamesh, who hails from India, moved to be near her parents, who had retired to Central New York.
“I’ve been to more rural places than Keuka and Keuka is more diverse than some places,” she said. “Keuka has this international program reputation, so I was excited to come to a place where students do travel and get out in the world, but it’s not just traveling abroad. Once you work in a real-world environment, you start to understand the practical skills you can take away. I like that. I like to teach to the real world; that fits with my personality. Experiential learning is a contact back and forth between practical and theoretical and that’s how my academic pursuit has always been.”