Connections & Ink

Jessica Harris
Major: Art
The Italian Jorney

When I found out I would be studying abroad in Italy this summer, I knew the greatest thing I would miss was my family, friends and my incredible boyfriend. Three weeks is nothing compared to most study abroad programs but being as close to my small circle of people as I am, three weeks was going to feel like a long time. Luckily, we live in an age where 4,553 miles can be connected in seconds by incredible technology.  I thought I loved wifi before I studied abroad! Connecting to wifi meant using Google Hangouts to text my father and boyfriend, FaceTime to call my mother and sister and Skype to see my boyfriend. It became a sort of nightly ritual for me, staying up until 11pm or later to decompress with my boyfriend after he got home from work. It was nice to be able to continue sharing our lives as if we were still at home, living 55 miles away from each other instead. Even my early bird mother and I were able to text and talk when she woke up and I was on my lunch break. You don’t realize how much you appreciate communication with your loved ones when it is hard to come by. It made me feel less homesick and kept me grounded. That didn’t completely eliminate my homesickness but it was definitely a major improvement than what I was originally expecting!

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Studying abroad wasn’t all about traveling and Italian food, it meant studying drawing, printmaking and alternative photography processes at the Florence School of Fine Arts.  Even the building in which we studied was unique, as it was once the home and studio of the infamous Giorgio Vasari, a Renaissance Artist, Architect and Author. There, Charles, a former art professor from our very own WMU, and his wife Melania, taught us different art processes, each of us finding something new that we had never tried before. Although I had experience in both drawing and cyanotypes (a historic photographic process), the printmaking processes were relatively brand new for me. My favorite experience was called Intaglio, where you etch your drawing into Plexiglas, coat the glass in ink, lay the inked Plexiglas on a page and run it through a press. This process was time consuming but meditative. I loved that once you finished your etching, you could make as many prints as you would like of that etching, coating and recoating the etching with ink. Learning these in Italy rather than at WMU mostly gave me a different perspective on subject matter and often times, a new approach on a process I had learned prior.

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The work that I made was directly related to what I was experiencing in Italy and sparked a different kind of creativity that I would not have found so easily in my routines at WMU. I loved how freely we were allowed to work, to break for coffee or just to get away from what we were doing and then be able to return fresh to our projects. We also were able to decide how much we wanted to create, being given a new kind of freedom in the studio that I wasn’t entirely used to but definitely thankful for.  The more I created, the more excited I was to be able to share my experience through art, and the best way I can! I felt connected to Italy, simply by creating art about my own little piece of Italy and being able to communicate that visually with anyone who sees it!

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