Every week, The Mac Weekly sits down with a senior arts major. This week we caught up with studio art and Japanese double major Natalie Kasper ’16. She hails from Tiffin, Iowa.
How did you become interested in art?
Art was always of interest to me, and I enjoyed art assignments in elementary school. At age ten, I started working with wood and textiles as part of 4-H, a youth development program. Also, my high school had a strong arts program. My favorite classes were stained glass and metal and jewelry making.
What kinds of art do you make?
I’m not specifically interested in a certain medium, but in general I feel most comfortable with 3D art. I’ve had the longest relationship with wood and textiles, and I really enjoy making things with those materials.
What do you most enjoy about making art?
It’s really satisfying to develop a piece and see it through to the end. I also like to use art to make analogies or play with symbolism.
What do you mean by making analogies?
Almost everything that I do uses symbolism or analogies in order to express opinions or show contrast. For example, I want to create a modern version of a tablecloth that one of my ancestors made as part of her dowry. It’s embroidered with scenes of the life of a farmer and his wife throughout the year, with each corner representing a different season. The imagery is particular to the Alsace-Lorraine region in France. I hope to make a version of the tablecloth that shows a modern lifestyle and expectations of marriage. The original tablecloth shows my great-great-grandmother’s hopes for her marriage and livelihood, and the new one will show an “ideal” lifestyle in America today.
What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve made?
There’s a piece I made in my first semester at Mac that’s very dear to me. It’s a three foot tall table with a one square foot top. The base of the table has two tracks that marbles can fall down. One falls between triangular troughs set on different planes, and the other ends in a spiral stairway. I was working with the idea that tables are places where you play games. Not only can you play board games or other physical games on tables, but even conversation can be a kind of game.
How are you involved in art at Mac or elsewhere?
I did an internship at the Textile Center over J-Term of my sophomore year. I plastered and painted walls and helped the curator lay out where to place pieces for the member show, “A Common Thread.” I also spent last summer on professor Stan Sears’ farm in Wisconsin as sort of a lifestyle internship.
What did you do on the farm?
I learned to spin yarn and dye fibers. I’m using the skills I learned in my senior exhibit, which I’m going to make with fabric dyed with indigo and madder. I also gardened, took care of sheep and milked goats, which I already knew how to do because I have goats at home.
What’s your senior exhibit going to be?
I’m making a composite garment inspired by traditional costumes of the countries of my ancestors. The piece is an exploration of my national heritage and identity, and it will use shades and hues of red, white and blue. While the piece pays tribute to my ancestry, I also intend to screen print imagery onto the fabric that helps situate white Americans as descendants of immigrants and refugees. White Americans frequently forget that narrative when other groups want to immigrate.
Did you study abroad?
I studied abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Japan. My study abroad experience wasn’t focused on art; it was a chance to delve deeper into my study of Japanese.
What was your most memorable experience in Japan?
The program didn’t give us any holidays off, even though the Japanese students had them off. So on one Japanese national holiday, a couple of friends and I skipped class and went to the city of Kobe. We took a cable car up a mountain to a flower and herb garden and then walked down to see a waterfall and a couple of temples. We then happened across a Shinto shrine that was holding an international festival with dancing. Finally, we went to Arima Onsen, a public bath with water from hot springs.
Has studying Japanese culture influenced your art?
Although I try not to be appropriative, I have been inspired by some of the artists I learned about in Kari Shepherdson-Scott’s Japan and the International Modern course. In particular, I like the fashion designer Issey Miyake and the Gutai group, a collective of performance artists that made statements about questioning authority.
What are your interests or hobbies besides art?
I like salsa dancing, animals and horseback riding. I have goats and horses, and I worked at a horse stable back home as a camp counselor and trail guide up until this past summer. I also enjoy theater and have been active as an actor and director in MacPlayers.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in studio art?
Be better than me at time management. Don’t spend too much time conceptualizing, and work on your art with the sincerity and fervor that you would with something that needs to get done.