Senior artist profile series: Jonah Belk ’15

Each year in May, The Colby Museum of Art hosts the Senior Art Show, an exhibition featuring works by senior students ranging in a variety of mediums, including photography, sculpture, printmaking and painting. In the weeks leading up to the opening, the Echo has featured each artist, showcasing their work and speaking to them about their personal inspirations and processes.

As with many of the senior artists this year, Jonah Belk ’15 has a long list of varied academic and extracurricular interests. While he spends much of his time in and around Bixler, he can also be found in a number of other areas on campus. Belk is a double major in art and biology, with concentrations in studio art and neuroscience. In addition to class, Belk is a member of the Nordic ski team and has rowed for the men’s crew team in the past.

Perhaps what could be considered most surprising about Belk, however, is his time spent living abroad for most of his adolescence. Although he currently resides in Lyme, NH, Belk explained, “I’ve grown up abroad for the majority of my life, mostly Japan, which I guess has influenced my work and the themes I have been focusing on this year.” As for the artwork that Belk is currently exhibiting in the Museum, this influence is readily apparent. He described his current work as “focusing on Japanese joinery with a hint of architecture practice as well.”

Belk’s artistic preferences seem to be nearly as varied as the broad range of his involvement on campus. While his current works are made mostly with wood and cardboard, Belk said he isn’t too discriminating: “I work with all mediums, but my favorite mediums have to be stone and wood.”
That being said, Belk explained that in some of his previous work he has used far less conventional materials. One such example was an artwork that could perhaps be seen as incorporating his background in biology: “Last year I worked with pig intestines [and] casings to make vellum.” Of his process, Belk explained, “I wrapped the vellum around found metal objects including a brake disc from a car, a piece of Pipe, etc.” In another artwork, Belk again used the material in an adaptation of a traditional feature in Japanese architecture: “For my second work last year, I created a shoji screen, but replaced the classical rice paper with pig intestine instead.”

As for the challenges of making art, Belk noted the influence that a particular material has on the work and the challenges that can arise as a result. Belk said, “Mistakes happen when you are sculpting and mediums like stone and wood, while slow going, can be unforgiving at points.” He continued, “So you either have to begin a new piece or remain flexible with it and let it steer [you] in a new direction.” While this can lead to challenges, Belk has learned to incorporate that into his work. He said, “Sometimes mistakes give me new ideas, and the piece heads down a completely different plan than I originally intended it to.”

When asked what he plans to do in the future, Belk provided a list of options that perhaps perfectly captures his many interests: “In the future? I have no idea. Sculptor, architect, neuroscientist, astronaut, firefighter, clown, who knows.”

Come see Belk’s art alongside the works of the seven other artists who are currently featured in the Senior Art Show at the Museum.

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