Artists Among Us: An Interview with Eileen Egolf ’21
The Harvard Student Art Collective is committed to raising the profile of student art on campus. In keeping this endeavor, we are producing a series of profiles highlighting the activities of Harvard students involved in the visual arts.
Eileen Egolf ‘21 is a freshman living in Hollis South, student artist, and founding president of the Studio Arts Society, a club devoted to art-making on campus.
HSAC: Hi Eileen, what is your interest in student art?
My passion is creating visual art.
HSAC: Who or what inspires the art you create?
I love to “make things” and think creatively. I am inspired by my inner drive to create.
I generally don’t like to tell people what my artwork “means” as I believe that art is a subjective experience unique to each viewer. I also refrain from titling any of my pieces. As the artist, I don’t want to jade others’ perceptions of my artwork with my own interpretations. I feel that this is particularly important because the majority of my work deals with motifs of life and death, which have vastly different connotations for different people.
HSAC: What is your process for creating art?
My creative process begins with a moment of inspiration in which I see the finished piece in my mind’s eye. Following the initial idea, I put a rough sketch on paper with notes about the possible medium, color palette, etc. It may be up to a year or more before I actually get around to taking the piece into the final stages of production.
HSAC: Is there a certain significance of the butterfly motif in your work?
The butterfly is a significant and reoccurring component of my work. As with many other themes and symbols in my pieces, its inclusion was not a conscious decision but rather something that manifested on its own. The Monarch butterfly is a symbol of the spirit or a bridge between life and death. The relevance of that meaning in the context of my work is dependent on the eyes that perceive it.
HSAC: Why did you found the Studio Arts Society?
I was disappointed when I discovered that Harvard’s extensive extra curricular offerings did not provide an avenue through which I could explore my passion. I considered taking a VES studio art class. However, the classes that are offered conflicted with my schedule and did not provide enough artistic freedom for me to explore the subject matter about which I am passionate. I looked into the art activities offered by the First Year Arts Initiative, but found them lacking for someone who is interested in seriously pursuing the creation of fine art. I also considered the ceramics and drawing classes offered by the Office of the Arts but found them inflexible and limiting. I was left feeling as though the image of my Harvard experience lacked a certain vivacity or color. I expressed these feelings and observations to my friends and discovered that I was not the only one who felt the void of visual art in their college experience.
HSAC: How did you respond to what you felt was a lack of freedom and space for student art at Harvard?
Harvard’s students make up an incredibly diverse and multitalented community. In addition to displaying a high level of academic drive, students possess passions beyond academics that helped to set them apart from their peers and earn them a place in the Harvard community. I set out to create a student organization devoted to nurture these passions, specifically in the creation of visual art. When I started recruiting people who might be interested in joining the group, I got an overwhelmingly positive response, which validated the need for an organization like The Studio Art Society.
HSAC: What is the aim of the Studio Arts Society?
The Studio Art Society is intended to foster the growth of visual artists through the creation, sharing, and promotion of student artwork.
HSAC: What has the process been like for founding a new arts society?
The Studio Art Society has been approved by the Undergraduate Council and carries the status of official independent student organization. Although still in the conceptual phase, an executive board of six other SAS members along with myself is working with the director of the Office of the Arts to take the Studio Art Society from a concept to a reality. The Studio Art Society is pioneering an untapped pocket of talent and interest in the Harvard community and seeking to create a place on campus where visual artists can make art in a manageable and low stress way.