Mural creators Andy Im ’22 and Judith Weng ’23 want you to decide what the phoenix they painted onto Sharples is saying.
Im’s take: “I think he’s pretty vibrant, pretty welcoming. He was born in two days. What sort of advice could he give you? I guess he would say, ‘I hope you have a wonderful time.’”
Weng considered attributing a phrase to the phoenix: “It was something along the lines of ‘fly high, we try’ — something very boring but really positive. We’ve been through a lot, and we’re still going. But I did not want to remind people that we’re in a terrible situation. I wanted them to see something positive in their daily lives. I don’t really know what the phoenix will say, to be honest. I want each individual to have their own way to interpret it as well.”
Weng was first recruited to create the mural while conducting computational sewing research for the engineering department, when she spent “most of [her] time” in the MakerSpace. Dining Services Director Linda McDougall reached out to MakerSpace Manager Jacquie Tull for potential artists to make a mural welcoming incoming students, and Weng came to mind.
“Jacquie was the one that said, ‘You should do it,’” Weng said. “When people say that to me, I feel like it’s a responsibility, like, ‘Wow, you trust me to do it?’ The other part is that I wanted to try something new. I’ve never painted on glass, but I was curious about how that would work. And because campus has been kind of quiet the past year, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to bond with other people, bond with my friend Andy, and also to show something to the class of 2025. They have been through a lot, so I just wanted to give them something positive.”
Weng, an engineering major with a philosophy minor, joined forces with Im, an art major and engineering minor. Over the course of a few days this past summer, they transformed Im’s scribbled design into a splash of rainbow feathers across the dining hall doors.
“I started off with an orange base, and I was thinking about the different sort of flames I’ve seen throughout my life,” Im said. “Lots of greens, lots of yellows, and lots of blues and reds — just different flame colors.”
As a result of the experience, Weng changed her ideas about what it means to be an artist. “I feel like maybe people should call themselves [artists] if they love art, even if they don’t actively practice it,” she said.
For Im, art is something that “helped [him] through tough times” and a “method of connection with the world.”
Now, he’s working on his senior thesis, constructing “dangerous” trees out of broken glass, endeavoring to show nature in a different light.
“I like the idea of taking something that’s completely natural, free of human artifice and changing it to something that’s very artificial,” he said. “You also normally see trees as very sedentary, but I wanted to make them dangerous.”
Im also had some closing words of advice for all students, artists and non-artists alike.
“All the professors here at Swat are incredible,” Im said. “They’re very established artists in their own right, and they know their way around the industry. I think a lot of people are a bit scared of art here because of their experiences with art in high school and middle school. But I think that the professors here are ready to guide you toward doing your idea of art. It doesn’t have to be a full major. Even taking one class and learning to see the world in a different light is invaluable. You will never cease to find wonders just by looking around.”
Photo courtesy of Emma Garrett for The Phoenix