Stephanie Sun ’16, who goes by Steph, came to the College intending to pursue the pre-med track, but during her first-year fall she also enrolled in Professor Michael Glier’s art course: Creating Bodies. Although she took several art classes in high school, the class pushed her in new directions, including working with nude models. She kept taking art classes, and when she “realized [she] was taking so many art classes anyway,” she decided to declare both the art and biology majors last spring. Sun embraces the differences between the two majors: “If I’m sick of doing a problem set, I’ll just go to the studio and paint [to] clear my mind.”
Sun’s primary medium is oil paint, and she works to produce provocative pieces that resist immediate interpretation. She “doesn’t do beautiful landscapes,” but rather “want[s] something that’s a little bit creepy,” that “stays with you a little bit longer.” She describes her work as “dream-like,” and creates “creatures” that obliquely embody her own personal feelings. Sun explains, “it’s very personal but nobody would get that when they first saw a painting.” She says, “art for me is more like catharsis … it’s like an escape.” She recognizes themes of excess and consumerism in her current images, which include people whose heads have been replaced by TVs. She draws partly from interactions she observes at the College—people on smart phones, students choosing to watch Netflix over socially interacting and the phenomenon of Yik Yak. “Social media is like putting on a mask, hiding behind something,” she said. Although she “like[s] being inspired by things around [her],” Sun recognizes the limits of the College’s isolation and most often draws inspiration from internal feelings.
Before she came to college, Sun took several art classes in high school in New Jersey. She does not trace her interest in art to either of her parents, who are both chemists, but recognizes that she grew up practicing art. She identifies themes of innocence and its loss in her high school works. In her senior year of high school, she completed an independent study project incorporating deer into several works in different media. The pieces included a sewn deer that she still keeps in her dorm room. The artist continued her interest in deer in her first-year lithography class. There, she carved into a $10,000 piece of limestone and printed 20 copies of an image of a couple sprawled on the floor. The girl, donning a deer’s head, rests her arms around a boy lying in front of her, wearing a wolf mask. After printing, Sun painted each edition differently. Four of these prints hang in her room, and she resists any suggestion from her friends that this might be “creepy.”
As a sophomore, Sun returned to her favorite medium, oil paint, with Professor Glier. She says Glier “really taught [her] how to be a better painter,” and mentioned that she now is a teaching assistant for a painting class. In Glier’s class, Sun created her first large-scale portrait of a classmate and notes that she is now doing more large works. Also exploring scale in her sophomore spring, Sun took an architecture class: “It made me really appreciate all the work that goes in to planning a building, even an ugly one like Greylock.” For that class, she drew plans and made models. One project involved visiting a site and imagining a restaurant for the location. The artists had to consider such seemingly peripheral details as traffic flow, where the sun was and how to make the restaurant noticeable to passing customers. For the junior seminar, Sun will create “four life-size portraits of people holding or interacting with creatures that represent different things that are important to [her] or that bother [her] personally.”
Although she is still on the path for physician’s assistant school after college, Sun notes, “coming to a school like this where everybody is so diverse makes me want to do… something that involves creativity” after college. Sun clearly entertains various passions. She plays for the women’s team of the Williams College Frisbee Organization, works at Goodrich and co-hosts “The Passivist Broccoli,” with Krystina Lincoln ’17 on WCFM on Sundays at three in the afternoon. She will study public health abroad next semester in South Africa, Vietnam and Argentina. She looks forward to the home-stays and will definitely bring a sketchbook along.