Student Oil Painters to Exhibit Work at Kitao

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Sarah Diamond ’13 and Sung Min Ma ’12 wanted a chance to exhibit their artwork, so they took matters into their own hands. The two oil painters joined forces and booked Kitao Gallery, where they will be exhibiting their recent work this coming week from Monday to Sunday. On Thursday, February 2nd, there will be a formal opening with food and wine from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with a second meet-and-greet held on Sunday from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

The exhibit will showcase work the two students have done over the past year. When asked what they have in common as artists, they explained that they both work in oil and “have similar color palettes,” but their artistic similarities seem to end there. Diamond is continually drawn to the human form, while Sung Min has more of an interest in abstract shapes.

“My focus is portraiture,” says Diamond, a Studio Art major. “I’m definitely interested in the juxtaposition between modeling and the use of line. I’m in the process of honing my craft, portrait by portrait. I look to people like Frans Hals, Édouard Manet, and Hyman Bloom. I’m leaning towards expressionism.”

Diamond is well-known on campus for her large, kaleidoscopic portraits of students. She often produces confrontational imagery, forming powerful life-size figures with thick splashes of color. “I try to paint people I see, the people I know,” she says. “Not just what I see visually, but some of what I see within them. That can come through and give a little peek into one person’s life. I think it says something about being human in general.”

As a Studio Art major, Diamond will have a senior show next year in List Gallery, where she will be able to showcase her best work to a large audience. Sung Min Ma will not have that opportunity, and next week’s gallery show is his only chance to formally exhibit work on campus.

“I’m an Econ major, pre-med,” says Ma, a senior. “One thing that’s great about Swarthmore is that we have opportunities to take courses in other things that interest us. For me, that was art. Oil painting is something that I picked up in college.”

Ma says his favorite artists are French impressionist Henri Matisse and American abstract expressionist Richard Diebenkorn.

“Those are the two [artists] who have influenced me recently in terms of design and color. I’m really interested in shape and design, horizontal axis and vertical axis, composition. Perhaps because of my Economics background, I’m very interested in efficiency — how a few colors and a few shapes actually make the work. I guess I like art because a little bit changes, and it changes the whole work. And I’m really interested in abstracting things. For example, I have a painting with just a bit of modeling, a few little things, and it captures the shape [of the object] and shows what it is.”

When asked why it is important for him to have a gallery show, Ma said, “Art is one of my passions and I really want to stick with it, although it’s not going to be my professional road at this point. Now that I’m leaving, I really wanted to — for myself — have a set deadline and paint more and really enjoy it. I wanted to share with the community and get feedback.”

Diamond also expressed the importance of sharing work in a public space. In her view, student painters should have that opportunity more often at Swarthmore and she was happy to take advantage of the space Kitao Gallery provides.

“I have a lot of work already, and there aren’t many opportunities to have people see your work until your senior thesis show. I want to get ideas about how to set up something like this, sooner rather than later. [Painters] make work all the time and nobody gets to see it because it’s hidden in Beardsley.”

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