Fine Arts Students get Creative at Home

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By Jade Leah Burns, Staff Writer

An embroidered photograph by Caroline Bert

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, several arts students had trouble completing their projects. However, they found a way to cope with their new circumstances.

Caroline Bert, a graduate photography student, has tried her best to keep busy. Due to social distancing regulations, she is not allowed into her studio where she normally works, so this led her to start new projects. By doing so, Bert had to leave the works that she had previously started in her studio behind.

One new challenge Bert undertook was embroidery and how to incorporate it into her photography. Bert said that her art has been a positive coping mechanism for her during the pandemic, especially as a way to ease her worries concerning her mother. Bert’s mother is a nurse and is on the front-lines of COVID-19. To help with this, she has also been spending time with family and loved ones when she is not learning about new embroidery techniques.

“I miss my studio and my darkroom, but I know I will be back as soon as this is all over,” Bert said.

Clay teacups created by Wenkai Ji

Wenkai Ji, a graduate photography student from China, said that he warned his professors that America should prepare for this pandemic, but no one agreed with him until it was too late. Ji was lucky enough to get 50 pounds of clay before BLICK, an art materials store, closed. His main artworks include photography, ceramics, and pottery.

“Professor Frank Olt said as an artist, ‘you have to make work at least three hours per day,’” Ji said.

Following his professor’s advice, Ji started making tea cups and plates at home. He has taken on building pottery by hand due to his lack of a pottery wheel at home. He would normally have access to one on campus in the ceramics studio.

“It is quite a good time for me, I like quiet and totally focus on the pottery 100 percent,” Ji said. “I can give myself deep thinking for my work and also my life.”

Because he wants to avoid going outside, Ji has also taken up cooking as a way to spend time with his family. Ji also said that he has found working at home to be no different from working on campus. The only frustration he encounters is the occasional feeling of loneliness.

Grace Pentecoste, a mixed media graduate student, said that working on her art has always been a coping mechanism for her, even long before the nationwide shutdown. She explained that before the pandemic, her days did not stop from the moment she woke up to the moment she went to bed.

An original photo by Grace Pentecoste

The stay-at-home order has changed several aspects of Pentecoste’s life.

“I am a full-time art teacher in a high school, I work part time at a college, and go to graduate school full time at Post,” she said.

Her busy schedule has moved online, so she makes a point to stay active.

“I force myself outside no matter the weather because it is healthy for me to do so and keeps me sane. I need to breathe, stretch and clear my head,” she said.

Pentecoste makes sure to take her camera outdoors with her.

Pentecoste said that her biggest frustration is not having a hands-on connection.

“I enjoy physically manipulating my images, whether that means to bring them into the darkroom, transfer it onto paper or a found object, [or] making it into an engraving, and the quarantine doesn’t give me that option,” she said.

Instead, Pentecoste has taken her images and manipulated them with photoshop to look antique.

The beginning of self-isolation was challenging for Pentecoste because she lost her ability to continue creating solar plates and printing like she usually would do in the sculpture studio. She took up sketching dried out flowers and painting. Pentecoste also started gathering materials from her backyard and photographing them. Afterwards, she prints the photos out and does gesso transfers onto water-colored paper. Gesso transferring is a way of displaying an image on an alternate surface.

With the widened spread of COVID-19, Pentecoste relocated to a remote area and now spends lots of her time driving around, exploring unknown territory and taking photographs as she goes.

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