March 4, 2002

Staff Members Receive Art Grant

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Three of Cornell’s staff members will get the opportunity to showcase their artistic abilities this week in the form of a mosaic, a photographic collage and some creative wooden boxes.

Thanks to the Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA), staff members Jennifer Borel, Wendy Kenigsberg and Mariah Sawyer received individual $500 or less grants last spring to pursue original creative projects. Money provided by the grants supplied the materials needed for the projects.

The CCA offers grants to faculty members in order to promote the expression of arts on campus outside of the classroom. The final products of their efforts will be displayed in Olive Tjaden Hall on the Arts quad from 8:30 a.m. until 4:40 p.m. starting today and ending with a closing reception on Friday, March 8th at 3:30 p.m.

By offering arts grants to all Cornell staff members, those that work outside of the art department are able to express their creative interests. Two of the three grant recipients currently work in departments unrelated to art.

“I read about the CCA in Paw Prints, a faculty magazine,” Borel said, an administrative assistant for the external relations department in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “The council seems to be very supportive of staff and faculty doing art outside a classroom structure.”

Borel conceived the idea for her project after viewing Rodin’s famous sculpture, Danaid. She said that the sculpture “stuck in [her] mind,” so she utilized her sketches of it to create a mosaic. The piece explores the breakdown of the human figure through abstraction and mosaic panels.

“I’m interested in how abstract art can be used to breakdown a figure and express emotion,” Borel said. “The scene relates the emotion … it’s like emotional disintegration.”

Borel applied for the grant because it gave her the resources to pursue a mosaic project that she had been planning during her spare time over the past year.

“One of the challenges of the grant is to expand in some way on a project you have already started,” Kenigsberg said, a graphic designer for the department of Media and Technology Services.

Kenigsberg’s project, “Fire, Water, Air and Earth,” consisted of a series of collages made of assorted media images. She sewed together handmade papers, original photographs, slides and negatives to represent each of the four elements.

The collages are assembled with shades of transparency, so that when hung in front of a light source, the shifting light illuminates the names of pollutants and chemicals which are hidden in the collage.

“I chose the elements because that is what I feel most connected to,” Kenigsberg said. “It’s one of the reasons why I live in Ithaca, where there is clean air and water.”

An administrative assistant at the International Students and Scholars Office, Sawyer developed a piece called “Revealing the Internal Monologue.”

“I created a series of shallow wooden boxes with small openings and a person depicted on the outside of the box,” Sawyer said. “On the inside [of the box], there is something that references the internal monologue.”

She explained that she sought to examine “what … we tell ourselves when there is no one else to hear” by juxtaposing the subconscious mind with an awareness of the outside world.

“I was trying to depict the conversation that you have within yourself, at a biological level,” Sawyer said. “The ideas you have about yourself, your hopes and dreams.”

All three grant recipients plan to continue their artistic pursuits beyond their current projects. Borel hopes to earn a master’s degree in graphic design sometime in the future.

Sawyer, who graduated from Gilford College in North Carolina with an undergraduate degree in print making, also plans to attend graduate school with possible career aspirations as an art teacher or museum curator.

Kenigsberg has plenty of ideas for future artistic projects.

“I’m definitely going to keep doing collages,” she said. “I just basically love the idea of being creative in some way, even if nobody ever sees them.”

Archived article by Meghan Barr