Senior Melissa Hand spends her time researching, reading and thinking about art. She is a Fine Arts major who enjoys her studio and figure painting classes. This summer, she traveled across the U.S to learn about the high-class art contained within one of the most famous cities in the world.
Hand has just returned from an extensive trip to New York City, where her 12-person class toured the finest art galleries and explored the fast-paced city.
The six-credit summer quarter class is called “Metro Art Access: A Summer Study in NYC.” According to the course description, its main objective is to introduce participants to a wide variety of galleries and museums in one of the world’s largest art centers.
“We went to pretty much every major institution there, Had said. “The MoMA, the MET and a really interesting space called the DIA Beacon in upstate New York. We also went to SoHo.”
“At the Museum of Modern Art, we saw Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’”, she said . “There were so many people crowded around it—you couldn’t even get close to it at first.
Hand also saw Monet’s “Water Lilies” and other iconic pieces from famous artists.
“I liked how diverse it was and how much art was there, she said. “I feel like we don’t have that same art exposure here and you’d have to go to Vancouver or Seattle.
If she had to describe New York in a few words? “It’s dynamic, diverse,” she said. “It feels like it’s always moving, always changing.”
“I think [my art] already has changed. I’m hoping that it’s a little more fearless and more my own as a result of that experience.”
Painting and drawing are the main art styles she focuses in, using the “messy” mediums of graphite and charcoal sticks, blocks and vine.
“I like the immediacy of painting and drawing,” she said. “Over the past year, I’ve been more focused on abstraction. I’m interested in being in-between abstraction and figuration.”
She also enjoys painting with oil paints on paper, a departure from the cloth canvases that many painters prefer.
To use a brush the whole time just doesn’t make sense, she said, so she also used cloths, plastic bags and spray bottles to move the paint around.
Hand has received two research grants from Western, which she used to produce artwork and travel to discover new artistic environments.
“The grant will pay for travel, materials, [and so on],” she said. “You then have to produce something or write up a paper and present your research in some fashion.”
The grants from are available for undergraduates during fall, winter and spring. Western’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs approves a handful students each quarter to embark on a “worthwhile project” of some type, which students have up to a year to produce.
“People don’t know about it, but anybody can do it,” Hand said. She’d already finished her Spring Project, a gallery show called the “The Anatomy of Gray.”
She said her project was to think about how natural phenomena shape the natural world and to find a way to represent that visually.
“Wind and water shapes trees, she said, “the same way our experiences shape us and our bodies.”
She finds her inspiration not only in the natural world, but inside deep philosophical books and other artists.
“I’ve always read anything that got too close,” she said.
Hand hopes to be a visiting artist and eventually a university teacher after getting a master’s degree.