As she began to hang artist Maria Kreyn’s work in the Fine Arts Building, Assistant Professor of Art Roxanne Kaufman watched more students look in at the paintings than she’s ever seen while arranging past shows.
“The artwork feels very traditional, but when you get in with them and spend time with them, you can pick up on some of those more modern flairs,” Kaufman said. “They captivate the students. Unless you go to a museum, you don’t really get to interact with motifs of this caliber.”
One painting shows a woman and her reflection gaze out at a passing viewer, hands folded gently across each other. She’s glowing, one side of her reflection a warm red and gold and the other a cool blue and green. Her eyes look almost as though she’s thinking about telling the visitor something.
Another image of hands, sprinkled with a layer of sparkling paint, catches the eye. Two hands, fingers turning blurred and black, reach out across an inky, dark purple background. The title card reads “Almost II.”
Kreyn is a contemporary, self-taught oil painter whose work has been shown in galleries throughout the United States, Europe, and China. “Kreyn tells a story of human intimacy and ceremony,” her website, mariakreyn.com, reads.
Kaufman had been following Kreyn’s work for years before reaching out about bringing her art to campus. She worked with a shipping company from Farmington Hills, Michigan to bring the pieces from New York to Hillsdale.
“We try to find artists to portray artwork similar to what we teach here, very foundational, traditional, but also open to more modern ideas,” Kaufman said. “We bring in artists that inspire students to keep pushing themselves and their skillset semester after semester so they can see the beauty and appreciate where they started, confident in where they’ve gone and where they’re going.”
Kreyn uses traditional painting approaches like Baroque and romantic techniques, according to Julio Suarez, assistant professor of art.
“Sometimes you question, ‘Well, if I learn these techniques, what can I do with it that is more than just painting a very traditional portrait or still life?’” Suarez said. “I think she’ll show them, ‘Look, you can get very creative and expressive.’ I think she’s really interested in her self expression through traditional techniques.”
Kreyn’s work is based on realism and figures influenced by the old masters while still being modern, creating a mix of the old and the contemporary.
“Her work is very mysterious. There’s a surreal quality to it where there’s not a specific story,” Suarez said. “You’re trying to figure out what exactly it is. It’s very poetic, what she’s doing.”
The department hopes to bring work to campus that everyone can enjoy and that benefits and inspires the students and community.
“The versatile quality of oil paint is really only appreciated in person,” Suraez said. “It’s going to have that quality of all kinds of different paint that is thick and thin and flowy and chunky.”
The opportunity for a student to sit in front of a painting for as long as they like is important, Suarez explained.
“Some artists are more capable than others at really painting their spirit and energy into their work,” Kaufman said. “She’s just got that nailed down. You can feel the energy coming off the canvases, and maybe even some of her ideas that she wants you to think about start seeping into your thoughts. You can tell that she paints with a lot of passion.”
Fifth-year senior and art major Madelyn Schider said that Kreyn’s art was much more than the modern art she expected to see.
“I loved her style. She presents a story that I don’t really understand,” Schider said. “I would love to know more than just the title, maybe a blurb of what she’s trying to get at, because there’s some pieces in there that I’m like, ‘there’s definitely something deeper about the painting’ and I would love to know what her view on that is.”
Schider said seeing the different galleries on campus helps to see that an art career is possible.
“It’s hard to imagine the career of an artist. People always say you can’t really do it,” Schider said. “But having these professional artists show their work shows that you just have to put the time and the effort in and be patient with it, because of course you want to make a name for yourself. So just seeing that, it shows you can do this.”
A reception will be hosted this Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Fine Arts building, open to all students to enjoy refreshments and observe the gallery. The work will be available for viewing in the gallery through October.