Senior Miyuki Baker recently was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, while currently working on putting together her senior art show.
“I’m really excited to have finally found a focus for my show, which will play on the idea that our identities are like the clothes that we wear. Since I work in mixed media I’ve always tended to jump around a lot and never make a complete series,” Baker said in an e-mail. “Even though I’m still working with a lot of different processes, my work is feeling a lot more cohesive now and the senior studio workshop has given me that space to do that.”
Baker hopes to be able “to get into the studio a few hours every day”. Her show will be exhibited on May 17 as part of senior studio. “It’s really getting down to the last couple of months so I really want to push myself to put together the best show I can,” she said.
Baker also received a Watson Fellowship. The Fellowship program provides recent college graduates with monetary support for a year of traveling and, according to their website “independent, purposeful exploration … to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership.” Baker hopes “to take lots of photos and make sketches while … abroad next year.”
Baker garners inspiration from a variety of of different sources. “I’m inspired greatly by traditional fiber arts and crafts. I obsessively look at Japanese dyeing patterns, embroidery, lace, doilies and quilts,” Baker said. “I make things out of a lot of things … I don’t like to work in just one medium because the medium usually appears before the idea. I cherish being able to create (what I hope is) organized chaos by dipping trash into bold and juicy colors, making patterns and telling stories that provoke a response from my viewers,” Baker said.
Baker also mentioned that she felt that her art connected with who she is as a person. “My art is often related to my different identities — queer, Japanese, Hapa, environmentalist, feminist, etc.” However, Miyuki added that she had mixed feelings about focusing on her identities in art. “At times it is suffocating to always find myself in the art, like I can’t separate it from my identities. At the same time, I feel like I am constantly finding out more about myself through my art and this is intensely empowering and stimulating,” Baker said. “I hope that by putting my personal stories into my art I can touch the viewer at a deeper level. Hopefully I can also touch the viewer at the purely visual level as well.”
Petra Floyd is another senior artist at Swarthmore whose works relate to identity. “I’m moving towards work that explicitly explores my identities. I have some lofty goals about my art, but it’s ultimately about doing something that I really enjoy,” said Floyd in an email to The Phoenix. “Lately I’ve been influenced by Toni Morrison and Suzan-Lori Parks [a playwright, screenwriter and essayist]. Kitsch and aspirational working-class and immigrant aesthetics. Family, identity, memory, loss, absence, trauma, upward mobility, cultural authenticity, immigrant, first-generation, and queer identity.”
Floyd displayed a collaboration between her and JD Stokely, a student at Hampshire College, at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, as part of an exhibition sponsored by the Brooklyn Community Pride Center and Roots and River Productions, on February 29. The show as a whole was called “Multiverse: A Black Od(d)yssey,” and Floyd and Stokely’s work was entitled 867 Sharon Ln. Floyd described this piece as a “multimedia interactive installation” and said that it was her “First ‘real world’ art show.”
Floyd is pleased that her work is branching out to different genres and that she has found a collaborator to create with. “I’m pretty excited that making a leap to a new disciplines, theater and performance, as a writer and designer has been really rewarding. I’ve always wanted to work collaboratively. I’m happy that I’ve found someone I work well with and shares many of my [identities], my collaborator JD Stokely.”
Floyd is hoping to finish and produce a play she is writing with Stokely. She hopes to have the piece performed at a showcase sponsored by Roots and River Productions, an organization that Floyd described as “a non-profit art production company for emerging queer artists of color”, as well as The Philly Fringe Festival.
Floyd explained that she was drawn towards theater because of its relationship between the viewer and the work. “I’m drawn to work that actively engages the viewer, prompting exploration and reflection by addressing the viewer’s body. I like work that embraces ‘touch’, basically intimate, tactile experience between the artist and the work, and later, the work and the viewer, which is why I’m really interested in installation and experimental theater,” said Floyd.