The Artist Otherwise Known As… Kayley McGonagle ’18

McGonagle ’18 creates watercolor cards for her loved ones.
McGonagle ’18 creates watercolor cards for her loved ones.

When Kayley McGonagle ’18 was nine, her dad first taught her how to use watercolors. “It’s kind of nice. You don’t have to be super exact about it and it can still be really beautiful,” McGonagle said. Now, she carries around a portable water color set and gifts her creations to friends and family on holidays and special occasions. “I will often make paintings for other people… I really like giving art to people.”

McGonagle continued to pursue art in middle school when she took an oil painting and drawing course. The class, which was not instructed through McGonagle’s school, was taught by a woman in the loft of her house. Students drew or painted images from calendars. “I thought it was pretty cool,” McGonagle said. “I really value that experience. I haven’t really worked with those types of materials much since then.” 

At the College, McGonagle has taken one art class each semester and is considering a potential studio art major in addition to her probable biology major. “I get a lot out of art classes. I love being given materials and creating my own thing out of them,” McGonagle said. “With art, it kind of just clicks in my head. For some people, that might be math … Sometimes I am lost in other classes, but with art, I always feel comfortable.”

So far, McGonagle has taken Drawing 1, Drawing 2 and Sculpture and is currently enrolled in Acrylic Painting.

At the end of last semester, McGonagle created a plaster sculpture for her final exhibit. The sculpture, she says, reflects her interest in the figure and human representation in art. “I made this head and neck and shoulders … I used a steel frame with welding and then added chicken wire, mesh, plaster and some burlap.” McGonagle placed the white sculpture on a turntable. She then added white yarn, which wrapped around the eyes and the mouth.

“So the sculpture was blinded and the mouth was bound. With the turn table, the people watch-ing could wrap up the head more [in the yarn]. They became part of the action, implicating them. It was a quiet violent act you were inflicting and not necessarily by choice.”

“I think art is supposed to make people feel a certain way,” McGonagle said. “I wasn’t person-ally connected to the piece in a detailed way. I thought people would be uncomfortable or think twice about what it means. I could do this without portraying a specific theme. It could go a lot of ways … A lot of times people will see that and think they have some super deep thoughts about this. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. When it is cool-looking sometimes the themes will come later.”

This winter study, McGonagle combined her interests in biology and art while taking Glass Blowing. Throughout the course, she created 12-15 miniature elephants, which she added to her collection of elephant trinkets she has been amassing since sixth grade. “In middle school, I just kind of decided they were going to be my favorite animal. Now I have a whole shelf in my room. I just think they are a really great animal.”

McGonagle said she was initially a little bit frustrated by the class. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was really challenging. I don’t think I was good at it at first.”

“I was still just learning and fumbling around a bit, even though I am apparently ‘artistic.’ It was really interesting to figure out the science behind making it look cool,” she said. “Sometimes the science can get really abstract and confusing, so to be able to physically, hands on do it was really helpful.”

In the future, McGonagle hopes to take an upper level sculpture class, oil painting and possibly print making. She also thinks it would be interesting to pursue photography at some level. “I am always looking at stuff and framing things as pictures.”

Most recently, McGonagle made a water color card for her Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First-years (WOOLF) co-leader of silhouetted trees. Over break, she painted another card for her grandfather, depicting the tools he uses for his carpentry work. “He really liked it and it was great,” she said. McGonagle is also waiting on a water color Valentine’s Day card from her dad in the mail.

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