GOLD Standard

UC Alumni Artist Spotlights

by: Heidi Jensen ’14 and Elizabeth Cannon ’10

In this time of uncertainty and isolation, the role of art becomes even more central to our lives, whether we realize it or not. Art is an essential ingredient of our culture that connects our shared humanity through curiosity, passion, imagination and creativity. This issue of The GOLD Standard is centered around celebrating art from some of UC’s very own alumni artists. Read on to hear about their adventures at Ursinus and beyond.

Ashley Beach ’09

Instagram @Beach_makes_art

Ashley Beach is a modern abstract artist who graduated Ursinus College in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree focusing on psychology and studio art. Since graduating, she has worked in several fields but has always found herself focusing on creativity and art. She has worked on several commissioned pieces including murals, cakes, custom shoes, paintings of all sizes and has plans to continue accepting new art projects.

What/Who inspires you to create?

I have always felt an electric energy toward being creative. It sparks inside of me and I just go with it, which can lead to a rabbit hole of painting until all hours of the night. I try to surround myself with creative people and art work, whether it be on my walls, or displayed on my body. I love being able to express myself with my tattoos and makeup. Currently, I follow several modern artists and tattoo artists who are making art a full time job, and I think they truly inspire me the most because they are working artists, and prove that you can be an artist and not be starving.

How did Ursinus develop your artistry?

Ursinus was monumental in developing my artistry, offering classes in different mediums really allows young artists to find areas that they never knew existed, and to step outside of their comfort zones and create. Ted Xaras was the head of the art department my first year and the most influential professor. His passion for art inspired all of his students, whether they were taking art for the credit or focusing on it for a major. The professors in the art department as a whole were willing to work with serious art students and allow them to create comfortably, and challenged them to find their artistic voice. One crucial part of my experience was being able to work on my art outside of a classroom—I’m most comfortable working in a secluded space and with non-traditional ways of painting. Easels and I have never been friends. I appreciate the freedom I was given to grow and find myself as an artist.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?

I don’t think that I have one specific project in mind that is my favorite. My favorite projects to work on are pieces for friends and family. Really being able to bring to life a work of art for the people you care about most is pretty magical. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the projects I work on for strangers, but I feel more connected with projects that I do for friends and family.

What is your dream project?

My dream project would be starting a business that allows me to generate and create artwork for more people, whether it be stickers, t-shirts, custom shoes or paintings. And more murals—they’re huge projects and challenging, but they bring character and individuality to spaces in a way a framed painting does not.

Madison Hartzell ’17

Maddy Hartzell is the artist behind Maddy Made Pottery. She creates functional nature-inspired ceramics. You can find her on Instagram here: @maddymadepottery.

What/who inspires you to create?

I am wildly inspired by nature. I was raised in a family of botanists and love spending time amongst the plants. My house is filled with them and it’s hard not to be charmed by their shapes, textures and colors. Being surrounded by plants just feels good.

How did Ursinus develop your artistry?

Although Ursinus does not offer a ceramics class or program, I was able to take lots of other art classes that diversified my skills and allowed me to find out what inspires me. I had several professors who left lasting impressions on me that I think about often. I am a perfectionist who likes everything to be clean, neat and organized. Kay Healy, an Ursinus art professor at the time, said that sometimes the most interesting things are the messes that we try to cover up or hide. Using her advice has helped me create some of my best pieces.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?

I was a part of a gallery show with up and coming Philly artists at an art collective for a fundraiser against addiction. I created a body of work that was specific to the show, something completely different from what I sell. It was freeing to create something just for me. Something that I didn’t need to worry about the price of or if my followers would like the new direction. I am continually trying to find a balance between selling work to make a living and creating meaningful art.

What is your dream project?

My dream project isn’t a project as much as it is a long-term goal. I want to continue to grow my business and make a living creating art. In the future, I would like to partner with other artists, who work in different mediums, to create collaborative pieces. I hope to continue learning and growing as an artist, refining my skills and vision.

 

Masila Muli ’17

Who are you and what kind of art do you create?

I am the founder, president and lead enginee, of Elysium Creative Group (ECG), a multimedia production company comprised of entrepreneurial artists with skills in music production, event production, songwriting, photography, videography and social media marketing. I am also a musical artist under ECG management. My most recent release was “vivify, op. 2” which hit markets in September 2019.

https://open.spotify.com/album/6XeTqldXNk3Eamv9bQ02BC

What/who inspires you to create?

The primary source of my musical interest was my family. My parents cultivated a love for music in all their children from an early age.

How did Ursinus develop your artistry?

My Ursinus years were pivotal in my development because I was lucky to learn from brilliant professors in the business and economics and music departments such as Dr. Hubbs, Dr. Bratt, and Dr. Gaus, among others. There were also many firsts that Ursinus enabled me to accomplish, such as my first performance for a crowd of over 200 people and my first “gig” to pay at a standard professional wage.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?

I am particularly excited for the release of “vivify, op.3” because it is the final installment in that project. vivify is a project that I see as a creative rebirth, so it is really exciting to be able to round out this two-year-long vision.

What is your dream project?

My dream project has always been to develop a streaming service with a more feasible model in the age of on-demand media consumption. I have been refining a business model since my first year at Ursinus and I feel closer than ever to making it a reality.

 

Matt Whitman ’10

Photo Credit: Mark John Smith

Instagram: @mawhitman

Website: www.mawhitman.com

Who are you and what kind of art do you create?

My name is Matt Whitman and I’m originally from West Chester, Pa., which is where I was born and grew up. After Ursinus, I went to New York City for graduate school and I’ve been here ever since, almost 10 years now, and I have taught at Parsons School of Design since 2014. I work primarily with moving images—sometimes video, but mostly on analog film—16mm and Super 8mm film. Lately in my work, I have been building installations and temporary sculptures using digital screens and recording the output of these screens onto film.

What/who inspires you to create?

I’m interested in how so many aspects of our lives—our entertainment, the way we socialize, do business, teach, learn, mourn, memorialize, protest—happen digitally and on screens. So in my work, I like to find and create moments where this goes wrong—where our digital interactions and the ways we use languages, icons, photographs don’t produce the outcomes that we necessarily intend. I try to build narratives of those moments and record them onto analog film. Film, as a medium for recording images and recording motion, behaves very differently than digital images and digital video. On film, the visual information is captured as an actual, physical index—a document of light and shadow. To me, all of our screens are artifacts in the making, they are tools that we use and then discard regularly, especially smartphones, which are really predicated on being replaced and upgradable. So film, which is a medium that we typically associate with the past, an outmoded way of documenting our lives, becomes a way for us to see our screens differently, as the more temporary and more vulnerable objects that they are. And yet, the ways that we use them do, indeed, have real and lasting consequences.

How did Ursinus develop your artistry?

Before I came to Ursinus, I didn’t know that video and film were media that could be considered art. My experiences and my conception of “art” had really been limited to painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking. I hadn’t heard the term “video art” until I came to Ursinus. In my coursework, mostly in the media and communication studies department, I was introduced to the histories and methods of using video and audio as media for more traditional kinds of content—but also and more interestingly for me, how to use them experimentally, how to break the tools once you understood how they worked—and that was a really important moment for me. I also took courses in the art department, mostly in analog still photography. That was when there was a darkroom in Pfhaler Hall, in the basement. I took the darkroom photo courses that were offered at the time and then an independent study, which allowed me to use the facilities there 24/7. And I spent so much time and late nights listening to music and developing photos and making prints in that darkroom. I think that was where I fell in love with film as a material.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?

It is really hard to say a favorite. When things are good, I am getting excited about something new and whatever kind of project that might be formed from that. One very memorable moment though was when I was working on a film about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center here in New York. I was documenting the reconstruction of the buildings on Super 8mm film, which was a medium that became publicly available when the original World Trade Center towers were being constructed. As part of that, I was granted access to go into one of the buildings while it was under construction, with a hard hat, safety vest and all of the apparatus, and document the building from within—that was something I’ll remember for a long time.

What is your dream project?

I would love to shoot film in outer space. I don’t know very much at all about space travel, or the physics of it, or if I would ever be able to do it. I know that Kodak built or helped to build special cameras for the Apollo missions. But I would love to bring a 16mm film camera into space, where there is zero gravity, and have a studio in orbit around the Earth for a couple of weeks and just see what comes out. That would be really cool.

 

Jacqueline Kimmel ’13

Instagram: @WanderingArtistJMK

Who are you and what kind of art do you create?

My name is Jackie Kimmel, and I create many forms of artwork. My two favorites are watercolor and wood burning. I often combine the two by adding watercolor to the wood burnings. I also teach classes in various mediums, such as acrylic, watercolor and pen & ink. In my classes, the goal is always to get those creative juices flowing.

What/who inspires you to create?

Often it is animals or nature that inspires me. I love to pick a particular moment and capture the emotion in my artwork. It’s always my goal to catch the personality of the subject, whether it is of my furry subjects in pet portraits or paintings of someone’s home. For all pieces, even landscapes, have personalities.

How did Ursinus develop your artistry?

Ursinus allowed me to tap back into my creativity. I was encouraged to think outside the box to connect my love of art and biology in new and exciting ways.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?

My favorite piece is a giant acrylic flow painting I made with my dad. We were each holding one side of the canvas, trying to control our laughter so we did not spill paint everywhere. My favorite pieces connect me to others, whether people or animals. Most of the time it’s the feelings I have while making the piece that led me to really love the end product.

What is your dream project?

To paint a mural, particularly one with lots of color.