When senior Lotte Vonk gets into her photography, she forgets how to speak English.
And during Open Studio — the senior capstone class for studio art majors — she is forgetting English a lot.
“My models have to deal with me talking to them with hand gestures,” Vonk said. “You have to decode my instructions.”
Artists in the program are expected to spend 40 hours a week researching, creating and revisiting their work. After they have created their work, the artists come together to critique it.
Vonk is the only photographer in Open Studio this year, so artists from other disciplines like painting, sculpting and collage review her work and she reviews theirs. She said that the system has its pros and cons.
“Sometimes it’s really frustrating,” she said. She added that the other artists are used to their own medium and it feels like they do not understand what she is trying to do.
At the same time, she said it is good to see her work from the perspective of the other artists, like painters who Vonk says go into their work “with their whole body and soul.”
“They see things in your work that you might miss,” Vonk said. According to Vonk, bringing different artists together “gives us a better and wider view of art.”
It can be hard not to take critiques personally. Vonk said it is easy to become “too invested in your own work to see some things. You become too close.” In these cases, it can be good to have an outsider’s perspective.
Vonk said that the term has been especially useful in helping her find her voice as an artist. Although she says her voice can change every week, some things stay the same. She loves shooting portraits, and she wants to use her art to communicate.
“I’m not really good with words. Through photography it goes a lot better,” Vonk said. “By doing this, I felt like I gave people a little look into my head.”
Through the workshop process, she has learned a lot about accepting critiques.
“I’ve learned [which] of their comments I should apply and what I should let go,” Vonk said.
Part of learning who she was as an artist was learning who she was not. During the term, since Vonk usually does portraits, she was challenged to try more abstract work.
“Did it. Couldn’t feel it. Couldn’t relate to it,” Vonk said. “It was a nice experiment, but not for me.”
Although Vonk said that she does not like stepping out of her comfort zone, she did not experiment in vain. Her frustration from the abstract piece and the workshop process helped her create one of her favorite series of the term.
After weeks where Vonk felt that she and the faculty could not get on the same page, she turned her dissatisfaction into a series and then, Vonk said, “for the first time, we were on the same line.”
“All that frustration turned out to be functional,” she said.
The series — which is comprised of nudes floating in bathtubs — is her display piece for the term. Vonk says that the piece represents the idea that what people see on the surface is not always what is going on underneath.
Even through her frustration, Vonk finds she loves what she does.
“When I shoot and I like what I do and I feel like it’s going in the right direction, I get an adrenaline rush,” she said.
When things are going really well, she jumps around as she looks at her screen, much to the amusement of her models.
“No matter if I hate what I do,” she said, “when I get that rush, it’s worth it. … When I get to put up my pictures and it looks the way I want — or better — it’s all worth it.”
Vonk said that the process of Open Studio has also shaped how she lives as an artist.
“I look at the world differently now,” she said. “I see photos everywhere.”