This summer I decided to get involved with the Summer Scholars Program. Summer Scholars is for current SJU students to participate in a faculty-mentored research program. I had no idea what to expect going into it, but I did know that I wanted to try to develop my art skills. However, I did not just want to make aesthetically pleasing paintings; I wanted to address a social issue through art. I reflected for a while on what issues I have been through that can be relatable to others. After much thought, I decided to title my summer research, “Vanity: A Study of Today’s Definition of Beauty through Paint.”
I have struggled with body image issues in the past, and I know many other women and young girls who have had similar struggles. Society today sends the message that we need to be a certain shape, we need to have a certain percentage of body fat, and we need to be a certain height in order to be considered “beautiful.” I am constantly seeing women in the media that are 5’11”, 120 lbs, and a size 0-2. I am 6 feet tall and am pretty sure both my legs alone equal 115 lbs. I think it is completely unrealistic for women to look so thin while keeping themselves healthy.
Through Summer Scholars, my goal is to totally rip this ideal body type apart and show the toll it can take on young minds. The only problem is… how do I do this through art? I have been struggling with how I can do this effectively as well as continue to develop different personal styles of art.
I have been working with Professor Cope and he has helped me immensely in developing ideas as well as encouraging me to try different techniques. He really pushes me to expand outside my comfort zone and look to other artists for inspiration. It is only June, and so far I have experimented with various forms of paint application such as applying thick paint, thin paint, and using “dripping methods.” I have also used collage on canvases I have either bought or made by hand. I am currently working on a piece that is my own take on Rubens’ “Three Graces.” The focus on this painting is to really develop my skill for drawing forms and use lights and darks to create a complexly modeled image.
I have so much more to learn as I continue to develop my skills. I am really excited to continue to make art and develop my skills throughout the rest of the summer at SJU!
Ashley Alden is a senior from Ivyland, Pennsylania studying Art at Saint Joseph’s University. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in Special Education and Art Education. She is a member of the Softball team and spends a lot of her free time on the field and in the gym. She is also involved with Developing Everyday Champions and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. The images in this post are all original pieces of art created by Ashley. Be sure to check back later this summer for part two of Ashley’s Summer Scholar experience!