Childhood Memories Explored in Art Capstones



Works done by Erin Waugh

Joseph DiCristofaro, Student Reporter

Life-altering experiences, childhood memories and mythical creatures were all themes portrayed by the student artist capstones put on exhibition at the Marshall University Visual Arts Center on Monday, April 10.

Artist Erin Waugh used the capstone exhibit as a chance to explain experiences with sickness in an artistic manner.

“In April of 2022, I was diagnosed with type one diabetes. This is a diagnosis that has completely altered my life, as I used to fly by the seam of my pants,” Waugh said. “Now, I must micro-organize my diet, sleep, exercise and my participation in activities and events.”

While the diagnosis was life-altering, Waugh’s piece looks to bring awareness to the ups and downs of having type one diabetes.

“By creating these sculptures and objects, I’m expelling my near-death experience with my diagnosis and giving it a physical form to the negatives and positives of living with it,” Waugh said.

“Through overwhelming highs and lows both with my sugar and with my outlook, I feel that much of my life has become a residue that pours over me and is stuck like caramel between my teeth,” Waugh said.

Waugh used dripping droplets (meant to represent the residue-like feeling that comes along with diabetes) as well as bright colors in the pieces on display.

“I’m contrasting the very heavy life-altering experience of my diagnosis with my persistence in finding optimism and joy in all things,” Waugh said.

Meanwhile, childhood picture books that artist Willow Hess kept as a child inspired her creation of “Wicked Cerulean,” which includes characters made from digital drawings.

“Beatrice and Dimitri aren’t just digital drawings. They come to life in my capstone as my forever something blue,” Hess said. “These two prove to me that they are just the beginning, and ahead is a future of stories that I will bring to life. I hope they captivate others as they did me.”

Inspiration and passion can sometimes be difficult to find and can come from unexpected places, especially in the art world.

“Art has been a part of my life since I was small. Getting in trouble for scribbling on my homework gave me a passion for art,” Hess said.

Hess’s work carries a much deeper meaning than what meets the eyes of the viewer.

“To me, art is my suit of armor that will always benefit me through life. It is something that no one can take away from me,” Hess said. “Art inspires me every day to become someone everlasting even after I’m gone.”

Childhood memories and experiences of adulthood were also a driving force in the creation of artist Ethan Willis’s collection of works.

“Each of these paintings is a specific location that, for the most part, I took all of the photos and remember being there specifically and the emotions that are connected to them, which is why this is so important to me,” Willis said.

“The oldest memory, painted from being in elementary school, to the most recent one, being a bar where I hung out with some friends in New York,” he said. “And how those memories hold such an important place in me.”

These works led Willis down a path that he had seldom explored in his time making art.

“The goal of these paintings was to tell a story of myself with a visual biography of locations and emotions, which is a huge counter to a lot of the other work that I have done here,” Willis said.

In his time at Marshall, he often tried to make art that had little meaning and was just art. With his capstone, though, he wanted the pieces to be different and be very meaningful, Willis said.

On the other hand, inspiration came to Vanessa Amankwah from her desire to be a veterinarian as a child.

“I did not see myself as a veterinarian, but I felt like working as one in my own creative way,” Amankwah said.

She used an assortment of different mythical creatures in her work to encourage the viewers to dig deeper than what can be seen on the surface.

“The reason I use these mythical figures is to go deeper into what cannot be physically seen by giving them flesh and organs,” Amankwah said. 

The mediums used by Amankwah provided the desired effect that let her relive past goals.

“Sculpture and printmaking were the perfect mediums for my project because the tools help me believe that I am a scientist,” Amankwah said. “I get to relive my goals and put them into creativity.”