Painter and foreign language enthusiast Madeleine Morris ’14 is not afraid to push boundaries in her art, blurring the distinction between abstract and naturalistic. But she has not always approached art with this same confidence.
The Studio Art and Italian major’s interest began eight years ago when she started taking classes at the Student’s Art League in New York City.
“When I was fourteen, I went to art camp and I was one of the worse painters in the class, but I loved it so much that I started to take classes. One of the classes was a nude model one, which was intimidating because I was in the ninth grade, but I just kept at it,” Morris explained.
Morris continued, “I started keeping a sketch book, and I think that this was the big difference maker. I would draw all the time, when I was waiting around idly for something to draw or I’d go to the museums and sketch the masterpieces, keeping a list of the artists I really liked.”
She is now influenced and moved by revolutionary artists, such as Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky, both known for their bold colors and unique compositions. “Matisse has incredibly beautiful color. His paintings are deceptively simple and the shapes are so perfect. He never was complacent with his painting style, even when he came across something that was well received or wasn’t,” she said.
In many ways, Madeline has modeled the authorship of her idols, challenging conventions and experimenting with different approaches to both painting and sculpture.
“I like to walk the border between abstract and naturalistic. If I’m working with a literal subject, I like to try and disintegrate the cards or warp the colors,” Morris commented.
Her abstract paintings that experiment with color were a part of the set of last year’s Phililetheas production, Six Degrees of Separation. Recently, one of her creations, an abstract portrait of a hapless family, appeared in Philaletheis’s God of Carnage.
At the College, Morris enjoys mostly oil painting, but is currently learning to embrace different styles of art. The Vassar Studio Art curriculum aims to provide innovative skills and tactics that stretch students’ abilities, bringing them out of their comfort zone.
According to Morris, the department exposes students to new ideas and methods that define their experience.
“I think that they do a really good job with the curriculum, and the fact that they make majors take sculpture is key. I was really skeptical and did not appreciate or want to take sculpture in the beginning because I was terrible at it, but now I really enjoy it. In sculpture, shape and structure are really tantomount. I’ve never had to focus like that,” she said.
“I’ve always approached art differently, never really being forced to think about things three dimensionally.” Morris explained.
Initially, Morris was skeptical as to what her major at Vassar should be, but she eventually gravitated to the classes that she felt most passionate about.
“I started taking Art History classes and then I took Basic Drawing, which was incredible. It all seemed so natural and with all the courses I wanted to take here and became interested in, I realized I would end up becoming a major no matter what,” Morris explained.
After Vassar, Morris is sure of one thing in terms of her career plans- she would like to continue to pursue art.
“I would love to be a painter. I think I would rather work another job that’s either related to or within the art field so that I can paint on the side.” she said.
“There’s no way that I could ever stop painting, it’s going to happen. It’s only going to be a question of how much I can devote to it, I guess.”