Carroll University began its year-long interdisciplinary initiative, (in)sight: a portrait project, that will highlight the faces and narratives of members in the Carroll community and seek to demonstrate how the arts can help us build community. This project is supported in part by the Mary Nohl Fund of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. The initial phase of the project began in late September with a week-long visit from Dutch sculptor Saskia de Rooy, Carroll’s artist in residence for 2017-2018.
Saskia de Rooy resides in the city of Amsterdam but has traveled the world working at a variety of different locations with a wide-range of materials. De Rooy has dedicated much of her work to sculpting the human face. With over 20 years of sculpting experience under her belt, de Rooy brought with her not only her modelling tools, paint and clay, but also a desire to show Carroll how she believes art can play a role for all people in building a sense of community.
Saskia held a week-long public art event in late September where five members of the Carroll community served as models. The models consisted of Carroll’s President, Dr. Cindy Gnadinger, professor Dr. Joe Piatt, students Jeffery (JJ) Keels and SuYi Lynn, and Carroll’s very own Gert Ullsperger. For five days, Saskia spent several hours in the lobby of the Campus Center sculpting the face of a model; the next day, that same piece of clay was used to create a new portrait. This was done to emphasize our common humanity despite surface differences. This message resonated well with the Carroll community as dozens of students and faculty members gathered around to view this amazing project unfold right on campus. Student model JJ Keels said, “It was an incredible experience being able to model for Saskia and getting to know her was truly great. This was once in a lifetime experience for me and I’m very glad I agreed to do this.” When asked about his thoughts on his sculpture being transformed into Gert, JJ smiled and said, “it’s the highest honor possible.”
During her five-day stay, Saskia also held a discussion with students and faculty as she shared background on herself, provided context for the year-long project and explored the ideas of identity, community and humanity through her work as a portrait artist.
The next phases of the project are set to be carried out throughout the spring semester, beginning with a return visit from Saskia in January where she will be assisting art students with the start of their own portrait projects whether it is through drawing, painting or sculpting. As the students finalize their portrait projects, an April showcase will be scheduled where students will be able to present their portrait projects to the rest of the Carroll community.