The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly


Exum at work in the printmaking studio. Photo by Ellie Fuqua.

Every week, The Mac Weekly interviews one senior majoring in an artistic field at Macalester. This week, we spoke with Noah Exum, a Studio Art Major.

Where are you from?

My family lives in a town called Galsburg, IL, but now it’s been five and half years that I’ve lived in the Twin Cities so it feels like home.

Beyond studio art, what do you study here at Macalester?

I started out as an Education and American Studies major. I will always and forever love American Studies. All of the best people I’ve met at Macalester have been in American Studies, but WGSS is great too.

What are your extracurricular activities?

I started a radio show called “Theme Songs,” I’ve been super involved with the Department of Cultural Life. I created sex positive week although that hasn’t happened in a while.

Describe your art in detail. What first got you involved in this particular style?

Studio Art means you’re doing more of the hands-on stuff. I mostly do printmaking, and I do some ceramics as well. I’d done some art in high school and knew I wanted to do it again. I knew some people who did printmaking in the past. I switched to an art major because I was sick of feeling like I didn’t have any practical skills. Printmaking is very egalitarian – you make a lot of copies and you do it quickly. There’s a lot of autonomy in terms of things you’re working on, you can make whatever you want to create.

What materials do you use?

Screen printing recently. Printmaking is really involved; the nice thing about screen printing is that you kind of know what it’s going to look like. It’s a really forgiving media. For slightly creepy, scientific illustrations I use a style called “Intaglio.”

What work are you most proud of?

This image of ankles and feet of a woman in a dress [Departure (2013), pictured]. I struggled with feet for a long time and I feel like I got them. I love the way that it’s a little bit melancholy. I feel like someone could look at that and have a good idea of what I do.

What do hands represent in your art?

They are a representation for all sorts of activity. Everything we do, we do with our hands. They are a relatively unchanging part of the body; your hands are a constant. Also, they are very similar to the bone structure, you can see [the bones] in your hands more so than any other part of the body. When you create art, you are constantly looking at your own hands.

What is your senior show inspiration?

I kind of want to do the whole body. A lot of times I’ll have thought of something and begin a drawing but I’ll whittle away everything but the hands. I think, “Really, I can convey this with just the hands.”

What are your plans after graduation?

It would be cool to do some design work, I like graphic design and advertising.

How do you hope to incorporate art into the rest of your life?

To be honest, I’m a part time student right now. I already work off-campus at a local sex store called Fantasy Gifts, and I want to keep working there. I’m also a member of a printmaking collective, Living Proof Print Collective, with some Mac grads and other folks in the Twin Cities. We use printmaking as a medium for social justice. I’d like to keep working on that as well.

In your opinion, why is art important?

For me personally, the world is completely overwhelming and sometimes it’s nice to have one thing you can focus on creating, one output to make, zoom in and focus on this particular object. It’s nice to know that I’m able to make something. When I was doing a lot of academic work, I’d learn these academic skills I could only use in academia or I’d get an unrelated job. I like knowing that I have this specific skill set. For other people, it’s nice to create something intentional and beautiful and put it out there for people to look at. Or intentional and ugly, sometimes people need to be jarred out of their boxes.

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