Giant Portraits Come From Giant Inspiration

By Emily Ramser
Photos by LaNise Salley

    For her senior art show, senior Sara Tolbert is focusing on her family and her identity as an Afro-Latina woman by creating massive portraits of those who have impacted her life.

    In order to graduate with a B.A. in Studio Art, Salem students are required to create a senior thesis in the form of an art show with a minimum of six pieces. Tolbert is one of the two students, the other being Danny Ekstrand, who are participating in the senior art show. Her senior thesis is currently in progress, and she has decided to focus on those who impacted her in her life and her own identity. In order to do, so she is creating portraits of these individuals that are larger than she is.

    “I feel that with my theme of the show it would be appropriate to make huge pieces because the people involved made a huge impact in my life. I want others to feel that they are there into the painting,” Tolbert said. Because these pieces are so large they take a long time to be completed.

Tolbert’s canvases are large, larger than she is.
Tolbert’s canvases are large, larger than she is.

    “The individual portraits take about one day to complete, but there are weeks of planning that is involved in one piece and possible might take months to feel that it is complete,” Tolbert said. Tolbert feels as if her experiences here at Salem have prepared her to finish this massive undertaking of portraits.

    “Most of my studio art classes helped me developed my skills, art history gave me more knowledge of other artist, and overall each class has l prepared me in some way,” Tolbert said. “Another thing to note is experience and connections has overall prepared me, being involved for years in art and non-profit organizations has helped me find as an artist.”

    Tolbert also credits the women of Salem for helping her find her inspiration for her thesis.

Tolbert works on her newest painting.
Tolbert works on her newest painting.

    “Hines-Gaither is one example and is overall just an amazing human being, I had the opportunity in taking classes with her. Her love and dedication in what she studies really had a huge impact in me, it made me appreciate my culture and myself more,” Tolbert said regarding Spanish professor Dr. Kishaun Hines-Gatiher.  

    Tolbert and Ekstrand’s works will be on display in the Elberson Fine Arts Center this spring as a part of the second semester of their senior seminar. Those interested in attending the show should keep abreast of emails from Salem’s art department; they will send out information regarding the opening of the senior show as the date approaches.

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