Senior artist profile: Sitting down with Emma Rosenfield ’16

Each year in May, The Colby Museum of Art hosts the Senior Art Show, an exhibition featuring works by senior students ranging a variety of mediums, including photography, sculpture, printmaking and painting. Over the course of the next several months, the Echo will feature interviews with the senior artists, showcasing their work and speaking to them about their personal inspirations and processes.

Raised in Newton, MA, Emma Rosenfield ’16 has spent her time at Colby juggling her interests in art, biology, and wildlife research, while also being an active member of the Women’s Rugby team. Rosenfield has been pursuing a concentration in painting, and has spent her senior year working towards developing and preparing the body of work she’ll be presenting at the end of the year. Her paintings are unique in that the process behind them is a continual response to the addition and subtraction of layers of paint. At one point a painting may look like a highly detailed portrait, and at another it could be covered in a grid of geometric shapes only later to be sanded back down. Her work is both unique and unmistakably hers.

We were able to sit down with Rosenfield to talk to her about her time as an artist at Colby.


Do you want to begin by telling me what your major is and where your painting fits into all of that?

I’m a biology and art double major. Art fits in because I did it all throughout high school, and I just wanted to continue doing it more as a hobby and less as a career path. I still wanted to be painting and learning about art.

And outside of your classes, what are you involved in on campus?

I am on the women’s rugby team. I also at one point did Paw Pals, volunteering at the Humane Society, so I did that for a little bit. But yeah, mostly just rugby and academics.

How did you get on the track of becoming an art major? Did you know coming into Colby that you’d want to do something with art?

I think I knew coming in that I wanted to do an art major—it’s kind of the liberal arts experience. So, I started off my first semester taking Foundations with Bevin because I heard that she was a painting instructor. I wanted to see how she taught and I really enjoyed Foundations, so I kept going with the major.

How have your art classes complemented the rest of your studies?

It’s been really nice to have different classes that are more hands on than some of the intro-biology classes. It was really nice to have drawing and painting while also taking classes like ecology and introduction to biology. It was fun to split it up.

Can you tell me about the current work you’re doing?

Right now I’m discovering what my paintings are. I’m doing a lot of additive and subtractive work. I’m trying to build up the surface and then take away layers, and see what’s there. It all stemmed from these self-portraits that are kind of quirky and weird, with color fields in the background that are strong and intense. I wanted to play more with color and shapes, so I started building up shapes on top of the portraits, then taking away the shapes, and then adding more. So I get to this middle ground between the different layers of the painting.

Are you looking at any other artists, or have there been any significant outside influences on your work?

Not really. I’m so bad at looking at art history and trying to find what interests me. I think something that spoke to me was when Bevin said that my paintings reminded her of old, medieval church paintings called frescos. In some of the ways, the pieces have this fresco-esque element to them. So that’s kind of cool. But I haven’t been looking at anyone in particular.

Do you have a specific end goal in mind when you’re painting or is it a more intuitive process for you?

Right now, I’m working more intuitively and seeing where they go. But I’m kind of in a phase where I want to build up more layers and bring more down again. I want to see if they represent the transition from these hard shapes to more naturalistic, abstract, worn down images. I don’t know if that makes sense. But it’s more intuitive.

What other art classes have you taken while at Colby?

I’ve taken drawing which was really good with Bradley Borthwick, and that sort of brought me back to basics. I’ve taken art history classes, like the introductory level ones. I did one on the renaissance with Veronique, and that was interesting to learn about iconography and see those kind of paintings that were very religious and had such a methodical way about them. But mostly its been painting that I’ve been involved with that has sort of been the central focus of my art experience here.

Do you see yourself going forward with your art?

Yeah I’d like to continue keeping a sketchbook and documenting places I go and things I see. Whether I do formal paintings or not, I’m not sure if I’ll have time necessarily. But I feel like its something I can always come back to. If I ever wanted to go to school again and study art I feel like having this major and taking these classes now will help me.

Do you have any plans yet after you graduate?

I do. I have a job for the summer at least doing research in Michigan.

What kind of research are you doing in Michigan?

It’s called the Michigan Predator and Prey Project. So they are looking at predation rates on white tailed deer in the Upper Peninsula by different predators. They’re moving the project, so we’ll be setting up experiments this summer and conducting howl surveys for coyotes and setting up snares and that kind of stuff to track wild life.

Any plans after that?

I’d eventually like to go to grad school for the biology side of things. I’m really interested in wildlife so that’s eventually the plan but I want to do lots of little research jobs before I go to grad school to at least get my foot in the door.

Do you have any reflections on your past four years at Colby?

They’ve been good. It’s been a journey for sure. I really like the academics at Colby. I think they’ve pushed me outside my boundaries. Even the art history has been challenging and stimulating in a way I didn’t see. The academic experience has been really good I think.

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