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“His comments were very helpful to me,” says Emily, a senior from Maplewood, N.J., and a graduate of Newark Academy, Livingston, N.J. “It’s always interesting to meet an artist who’s working and showing. When artists come to visit, it’s so inspiring to see the reality of their lives.”

“It was so inspiring to meet somebody like Gregory Gillespie, who is out there living the life, selling and showing his art,” says Mark, a senior from Eastchester, N.Y., and a graduate of Eastchester High School. “It just makes you realize anything’s possible.”

Emily Quillen of Maplewood, N.J., and Mark Sokoloff of Eastchester, N.Y., shared a high honor as the recipients of this year’s Frederick Knecht Detwiller Prize, awarded to a senior art major or majors for distinguished work in art and art history. They share another distinction, too. They were among several candidates for academic honors in studio art who benefited from the individual attention of acclaimed American artist Gregory Gillespie during Gillespie’s recent three-day residency at Lafayette.

Gillespie, the College’s Richard A. and Rissa Grossman Visiting Artist for 1999, interacted extensively with students in classes, meetings, and one-on-one sessions.

“The residency was an absolute success,” says Edward J. Kerns, Eugene H. Clapp II ’36 Professor of Art and head of the art department. “In all, Gregory Gillespie interacted with more than 200 students. This is a wonderful example of the level of experience of the Grossman program. The benefits for students are limitless.”

Established in 1992 by Richard Grossman, a 1964 Lafayette graduate, the Grossman Visiting Artist and Exhibition Series gives students opportunities to interact with major artists and supports presentation of significant exhibitions. Past Grossman visiting artists include Dorothea Rockburne (1992), Faith Ringgold (1993), Richard Anuszkiewicz (1995), Elizabeth Murray (1996), and Leon Golub (1997).

Gillespie lives and paints in southwestern Massachusetts. Unlike many contemporary artists, he is drawn to the work of the Old Masters of the Northern Renaissance as well as the Early Italian Renaissance. Influences include Hieronymus Bosch and Jan van Eyck and modern painters such as Giorgio de Chirico and Balthus. Gillespie, who says he likes to “mix it up,” also has been influenced by Eastern thought. For the past 30 years, he has studied Buddhism, and Buddhist and Hindu images appear frequently in his work.

He is the recipient of a Fulbright-Hayes Grant, a Prix de Rome, a Chester Dale Fellowship, and a Tiffany Foundation Grant. His paintings have been exhibited at the Forum Gallery and Cooper Union in New York, the Nielsen Gallery in Boston, J. Rosenthal Fine Arts in Chicago, Harcourts Modern and Contemporary in San Francisco, and in group shows in major museums across the country. His work is in collections at the Metropolitan Museum, The Whitney, the Hirshhorn, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., and many other national museums.

An exhibition of Gillespie’s works, entitled “Unspeakable Mysteries,” was on display at Lafayette April 5-30.

“Gregory is a consummate craftsman and a warm human being,” Kerns says. “He has a universal appeal because he works in a realist style. His paintings are staggeringly beautiful, and the students understand the work behind them.”

Sokoloff says, “It was so inspiring to meet somebody like Gregory Gillespie, who is out there living the life, selling and showing his art. It just makes you realize anything’s possible. He was very warm and approachable. We had a few formal functions, like meals, and he met with honors students individually. He visited our studios and gave us some hints.”

A double major in art and English, Sokoloff has done a series of paintings for his honors thesis. He says the works “take control of me” when he paints.

“A visit to the Museum of Modern Art and the Jackson Pollock exhibit gave me the inspiration to paint exactly how I felt like painting,” Sokoloff says. “I unloaded with a power and a fury that I had been trying to control previously.”

In another area of artistic endeavor, Sokoloff was one of four students whose poetry was recognized as outstanding by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Yusef Komunyakaa. Komunyakaa was judge of the annual MacKnight Black Poetry Competition. He named Sololoff for honorable mention in the contest, which is open to Lafayette seniors. It is named for MacKnight Black, a 1916 graduate of the College, who at the time of his death in 1931 was one of America’s most significant poets.

Quillen, an art major, says, “His comments were very helpful to me. It’s always interesting to meet an artist who’s working and showing. When artists come to visit, it’s so inspiring to see the reality of their lives. It’s also great to talk to someone who once was an art student.”

For her honors thesis, she has created large, abstract paintings and smaller collage pieces.

“All of the works comment on social and psychological issues which relate in one way or another to the female figure and how it is perceived by both the public and the individual,” Quillen says, “placed under the microscope, imprisoned by idealistic standards, and judged not only by men, but also by women.”

Quillen and Sokoloff praise the art faculty for their unwavering support.

“The arts community at Lafayette is small and comfortable, but dynamic,” Quillen says. “The strongest part is definitely the faculty. They are just so incredibly supportive. They offer you all kinds of opportunities. I have really enjoyed Lafayette. I’m thankful I came here.”

Sokoloff says, “I didn’t really expect to be an art major, but it’s been a pleasure. The professors are always ready to help, give advice. If you are confused or wondering about anything, they are there for you.”

The students agree that the future of the art program at Lafayette is strong and look forward to new connections with the surrounding arts community. The College is developing a new arts center in the former Hoffmann Ltd. Building, located on North Third Street at the base of College Hill, where the campus and downtown Easton meet. The center will provide new space for College programs and will provide new opportunities for arts programming that includes the Easton and Lehigh Valley community.

“Moving downtown will definitely bring new opportunities for the arts scene,” Quillen says.

“With the new building and the growth of Easton’s art community, I’m sure things are just going to take off,” Sokoloff agrees.

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