Artists bond over memories

Seniors from the O’Neill Center took walks down memory lane through artwork Friday afternoon as Marietta College art students displayed “A Historical Event in the Life of a Senior.”

The event, held for the third time, paired five Marietta College students in Jolene Powell’s advance oil painting class with five seniors from the center, and after spending hours connecting and learning about their pasts, the students completed two paintings-one of the senior from when he or she was the student’s age, and the other depicting a memorable moment in the senior’s life.

The paintings will remain on display the O’Neill Center throughout April.

The project, which Powell has done about every two years since starting it in 2009, is designed to connect two generations and give art students a different perspective on life.

“Students tend to want to paint about themselves and their lives, and I thought of this as a way for them to learn to paint outside their world and learn more about others,” Powell said.

Junior Dana VanDervort connected with 74-year-old Judy Van Dyk, and as an end result painted Van Dyk’s high school senior class portrait and a scene of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

“We found we could talk quite a bit without a barrier,” VanDervort said.

Van Dyk said she thought of several other life events significant in her memory, but thought it was her husband’s connection to Europe that brought this event out.

“(The wall) changed everything, and because she was so open with me, that helped me open up to her,” Van Dyk said. “It shows how close people really are in life.”

Students were given four hours initially to meet and learn about their partner, and the center and college made pairs by performing an “Oreo test,” which matches people up based on how they eat an Oreo.

“She was a physical education teacher for special education students, so she remembered the Special Olympics in Baton Rouge,” said junior Morgan Otto, speaking of Nancy Whitehurst, 66. “It was interesting to actually get to know her and then work off that.”

Students were encouraged to paint in a style that was outside their comfort zone and try something new.

“I tried painting fast, because I would normally paint very slowly,” Otto said.

Whitehurst said though she does not remember what year the event occurred, it stuck out in her mind.

“I had a student that got to go the Special Olympics in Baton Rouge and we got to march in the parade alongside her, and I will never forget it,” she said.

Whitehurst also said her portrait does bear a good resemblance.

“It’s beautiful, and I know I could not do anything like that, which makes it nice,” she said.

Marietta College senior Rachel Smith said the experience was nothing like pieces she usually completes for class.

“There was an interaction and integration of their personality that we could incorporate for this,” she said. “Usually it’s just ‘paint me’ and you’re painting someone that you know nothing about.”

Judy Calvert, 74, recalled the story of Kathy Fiscus, a 3-year-old girl from California who died after falling into an abandoned oil well.

Junior Nicole Morrone, who could not be at the event Friday, painted the memory from the point of view of the bottom of the well.

“I was transfixed to the news at the time, and so was everyone else, and that is what I thought of,” Calvert said. “And her painting shows the little girl’s spirit in the well.”

Powell said that in addition to giving students a chance to explore outside their comfort zone and learn a different perspective on life, the depiction of life events is also meant to be a history lesson.

“They were able to learn by talking to someone who experienced something in history first hand,” she said.