Student Spotlight: Nicholas Samuel Heskes

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19-Mar-17
The Student Spotlight series aims to highlight the work of current MFA students, asking them to share thoughts on their practice by answering curated and peer-submitted questions. Nicholas Samuel Heskes is a student in the Visual Arts Program.

What themes or subjects are you currently addressing in your work?

Lately I’ve been struggling with representations of death; specifically, anxiety about the presentness of death. The trope of momento mori in painting has a long history, but it’s symbolism is canonical and narrow. I’ve been attempting to draw attention to a reminder of death, but through obfuscating the symbolism of that tradition. The more I investigate this topic however...the more I find it both full and lacking...

What materials do you work with?

I work primarily in oil on canvas or wood, or ink/pencil on paper. For now, I still find ways to experiment and discover within the picture plane.

What is challenging your practice right now?

The relative outdatedness of my subject matter has become a problem to consider. This is not to say that the themes I want to address are outdated, but the concern with being always contemporary seems to me both a ridiculous, impossible challenge, and a necessary condition of being a living artist. The question “how do you make artwork that looks contemporary?” is a terrible road block of a question, but one that does not disappear without applying force or tact... Ideally, I would like it to look neither outdated nor contemporary.

What artist or work of art do you find yourself returning to and why?

I find myself cycling through a variety of artists and artworks that I’m interested in, never settling on any one for too long. It’s less that I consciously return to an artist or work, but more that certain artists and works take up a kind of permanent residence in me. Their methods and forms can always be recalled, and I find them rushing to appear every time I begin work on anything.

Your peers ask: What is your favorite cereal?

I don’t eat cereal.

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.