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Last August, I grabbed an interview with 2014 MUM BFA graduate, Nicole McIntyre via SKYPE. We start by talking about her pre-collegiate life in Boston where she waited tables while “avoiding the pressure of others’ ideas of success” and maintaining a healthy “distrust of where things were headed education-wise.”

Artist Nicole McIntyre

Artist Nicole McIntyre

Nicole’s twenty-something concern reflects the pressure this generation faces in a post-collegiate environment of unpaid internships, and an increasing inability to launch into careers-of-choice. Nicole chose to take the time to figure out what she was good at and to cultivate that life choice with academic and interior exploration at MUM.

“It felt like I belonged immediately when I arrived,” she shares. During her first year, Nicole explored Pre-med, and Sustainable Living, reflecting her desire to address health and environmental interests, but her major remained undecided. “One of the challenges of my generation is a lack of confidence in ourselves,” she explains.

“Then I enrolled in a painting class with Professor Gyan Shrosbree in MUM’s Art Department,” Nicole says. “I could spend all day doing it. I discovered the language of the artist I’d read about. The experience revealed a deeper connection to myself.” Nicole had found her major – Art.

Nicole’s deconstruction techniques reveal what most artists cover over in their work. 

Nicole’s process cuts into canvas, then layers or weaves it with vinyl and thread exposing a raw edge or backside of canvas. The work is attached either to a wall or wood stretchers. “Shifting from two dimensional paintings to three dimensional works allows me to explore the depths and qualities of paint and form, I believe each strengthens the other” she explains.

Nicole describes her motivation in a recent Artist’s Statement: “Cutting into canvas and materials is a natural impulse for me as well as looking toward the decorative arts as an interest. I investigate processes and forms, which are deeply integrated into our lives in my work. I balance the work by formal simplification, which explores our awareness of form and materials. At the same time, I look to the past to restore balance to the contemporary.”

When I bring up the challenge of being sidelined with a tag as a decorative artist, Nicole comments “this kind of criticism as often ignores the formal elements of the work and my response is to just go for it . . . to focus!”

Nicole’s recent work and acceptance to grad school illustrate her success.

Nicole applied to graduate schools while working as a teaching assistant at MUM. During the application process, Nicole had a strong team including MUM Professors Gyan Shrosbree, Surya Gied and Jim Shrosbree backing her up.  “I’m really fortunate to have come from such a strong studio based education at MUM. It’s such a such a gem of a program,” she adds appreciatively.

Nicole chose Cranbrook Academy of Art, with its graduate-only program designed specifically to support individual exploration and mentoring. Nicole’s fearless use of materials dovetails perfectly into the educational atmosphere at Cranbrook. This kind of inhibition was “driven home in the MUM program,” she tells me. “I learned not to be scared – just commit, trust, and if it doesn’t come out the way you think . . . respond to that. You learn not to hold yourself back.”

“I can’t wait to dig in (at Cranbrook) and find my voice,” she adds.  “I fit in and my work fits in there. I feel it’s an environment where I can work undistracted by competition and all the people around me. My personal truth is believing in yourself. Lack of confidence holds people back in my generation. The kind of support I got at MUM from my peers and professors was crucial.”

Mo Ellis is inspired by art, issues, and progressive ideas. Mo Ellis’ online and print contributions as a writer, editor, website & mobile app project manager, PR and online media director 
have appeared at: "O" magazine, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Des Moines Register, Surface Design Journal, The Iowa Source, KRUU-FM, Iowa Public Radio, Dr. Mercola and Dr. Oz.

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