The culmination of four years of labor, “Becoming Articulate” showcases senior art majors Caroline Greb, Colm Maines, and Heidi Yacoubian and their growth in skill and perspective.
“We named our show ‘Becoming Articulate’ to describe the process of learning to look again and expressing what you see,” Greb wrote in an email. “The artist learns to create with more clarity, until they encapsulate the realness and spirit of a subject. Becoming articulate means knowing and growing in the knowledge of truth and beauty — then sharing it with an audience in an accurate, moving, and powerful way.”
The senior art exhibit, open from April 12 to 16 at the Daughtrey Art Gallery, displays the seniors’ artwork from the past four years to document their progress in “becoming articulate.”
The seniors had not always been interested in art; Yacoubian said her artistic journey started in high school with a drawing class; she credits the teacher of that class for kickstarting her interest. It developed more fully once she came to Hillsdale.
“After taking some different classes, I realized that this is what my passion was,” Yacoubian said. “The professors are so incredible. I fell in love with the classes here.”
Yacoubian said she grew in mostly technical skill throughout the years. Painting is her favorite medium, and while she said she hasn’t done enough to have her own style, she has been inspired to grow and learn in techniques used by her favorite painters, such as Edouard Manet and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. She said her favorite painting she has done is a vase of dried flowers inspired by contemporary artists she studies.
“The artists that the professors point out — the artists that they love — you learn to look through to life, and that creates a new appreciation,” Yacoubian said. “I feel like I see it in a completely different way that when I started.”
Yacoubian said the most difficult thing about being an artist is the trial and error.
“With every piece, it’s a secret,” she said. “I think one professor told me in high school that a painting is like solving a series of problems. And so when you come to a problem and you’re stuck and you don’t know what’s wrong with it, you’ll spend hours and hours and hours on this one thing, and it looks terrible. But that’s how you learn and grow.”
For Maines, his passion also started with high school art classes, and his interest developed the longer he was at Hillsdale. He started his journey in art with drawing cartoons from how-to-draw books and worked his way up to realistic drawings and paintings.
“It was all still foggy until I got to Hillsdale and I started taking my first art classes,” Maines said. “Then I really learned about how the first thing that makes something recognizable is its shape. I started to realize that everyone already knows what the world looks like around them; it’s a matter of learning how to describe it on a flat surface. And that’s what I think painting and drawing is doing.”
Maines said his favorite work he had done was a drawing of one of the class’ models because he enjoyed the drawing process and how well the piece turned out. For him, art is mostly a craft that he enjoys working on and getting better at.
“Some artists are like, ‘I know exactly what I want to say and I know I know exactly how I want to,’” he said. “If anything, I just want people to see the world differently. But I don’t think I’ve done enough to be at a place where I can be saying grand things in my heart yet.”
One of the harder things about being an artist is the social aspect, Maines said, such as the “starving artist” stereotype.
“The biggest critique you get from people is, ‘Oh you want to be an artist. Good luck making money,’” he said. “It’s really difficult to have to be doing something that people think is a side gig when it feels like the most important thing.”
Greb came to Hillsdale after a career as a professional ballet dancer and initially didn’t know what she wanted to do at Hillsdale. But after her freshman drawing class, she started to see beauty from a new perspective.
“I fell in love with the mediums that required me to slow down,” Greb said. “I found myself constantly returning to the studio as a way for me to breathe again. By constantly doing this act of ‘looking again,’ I learned to never give up on certain people or places, and saw that nothing — and no one — is ever lost. When everyone else around us says there is nothing more of value to see, we must look again and know there is more. Therein lies remarkable hope.”
As an artist, Greb said she struggles most with perfectionism and letting go when things don’t turn out the way she wants them to.
“Sometimes, you have to battle with a painting until you get it the way you want,” she said. “Even now, I look back on old work and think ‘Oh, that could’ve been better,’ but that’s proof I’ve improved and that’s all I can ask for.”
She said she hopes her art helps viewers to see the world as she does — as a motion toward God.
“It’s the artist’s job to bring attention to things people normally miss,” Greb said. “I hope to discover and share the beauty, pain, and ordinary things I notice in the world. And, in that, show the glory of our Creator. My prayer is that my art may present a safe haven to be honest in our yearning after Christ, and in that, find faith.”