The View From Esther’s Easel: A Look Into the Life of a Salve Regina Art Student

Film

By Kitty Williams

This profile was written for Arts & Entertainment Reporting.

Sara Bareilles’s singing echoes from a speaker in the corner of the drawing studio. The room is on the second floor of Antone Academic Center, undiscovered by the casual Antone-class-attending student. A wall that divides the room but doesn’t quite reach the ceiling serves as a perch for a man built of chicken wire. A few students sit on the other side spending their Saturday afternoon working on their art. The sound of their voices travels to the side of the room where Esther Hoekstra is working.

Photo: Kitty Williams

Photo: Kitty Williams

Hoekstra is sitting on a bench, leaning into her easel with a pencil in hand. Above the easel is a board occupied by a piece of paper with “Esther’s Spot Fall 2016” written on it, two photographs, and pinholes scattered like stars in the galaxy. The photograph on the left is a black and white image of a light bulb. To the right and slightly above is another black and white image of a light bulb, but this one is shattered.

“It could be a metaphor for something,” Hoekstra says, reflecting on something a professor told her. “It could be all your hopes and dreams are crushed, which could be depressing.” Offering a happier alternative, she adds, “But if you take it the other way… it could be that you were first broken and now you’re whole.”

As an art major with a concentration in graphic design and photography, Hoekstra has always seen art as an important form of expression. “It’s a way for me to show people without words how I’m feeling.” As someone who suffers from depression and bipolar disorder, she turns to art to help her through life’s difficult moments.

Art is also a means by which Hoekstra can explore gender and sexuality. Last year, she worked on a photography project that involved taking portraits of different people in an effort to capture how they express their gender and sexuality. In the portrait series, she included a self-portrait because she identifies as transgender genderqueer.

Amber Blanchette, a friend of Hoekstra’s, also found herself in front of Hoekstra’s camera for the portrait series. “I wore a very girly outfit as usual,” she says. As a fellow artist, Blanchette has a unique perspective into Hoekstra’s work. She understands the creative process that brings a piece of work from that original idea to the final piece. Thinking about the messages within Hoekstra’s art, she says, “I think sometimes she struggles with how she wants to say it, but it usually does reflect her personality.”

Recently, Hoekstra went through a time of doubt in her work. This doubt can spark thoughts that she should maybe do something else. “It’d be cool if I could be a park ranger or something,” Hoekstra says with a laugh. She has always had an interest in environmental science. These thoughts are “just fleeting,” she adds, though these interests sometimes creep their way into her work by way of landscape photographs.

Photo: Esther Hoekstra

Photo: Esther Hoekstra

In these times of doubt, Hoekstra will seek guidance from her former Drawing I professor, Dr. Gerry Perrino. “He shows you how to be one with yourself and with your artwork,” says Hoekstra. Perrino has a similar admiration for Hoekstra. “On top of having the potential to become an outstanding artist, she’s already an outstanding human being,” Perrino says.

“She doesn’t think that she is, but she’s a very brave person,” Perrino says in regards to her struggles with gender identity. “She deals with it gracefully, and beautifully, and openly.” He thinks this is reflected in her art in an inspiring way. “She’s not sure exactly what it is that she’s trying to say, but ‘whoever I am, I should be allowed to be that.’”

She didn’t have the same guidance back in high school that she has now. Her art education began in her Connecticut private school art class of only two students. Looking back on it, she wishes her art career had started differently. Every artist has a particular piece of work he or she has been less than satisfied with. For Hoekstra, that includes “basically all the work I did in high school.”

Hoekstra’s passion for art came from her mother. She remembers at a young age having her mother’s paintings on display in the house. “She used to draw naked women,” laughs Hoekstra. “That’s all I remember because it was embarrassing when kids used to come to our house and there’d be a naked woman on a painting.”

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Photo: Kitty Williams

As a perfectionist, Hoekstra hopes her work will improve as time goes on. She meets a question of future goals with uncertainty. She sees herself “maybe working for myself independently or something, selling artwork.” She also considers “working in a graphic design company maybe in Europe or something.” She’s still not sure exactly what she wants to do, but she knows the opportunities are endless.

For now, she will continue her work: shading things in, erasing mistakes, continuing to bring emotion and meaning to the outline of an intact light bulb that stares back at her from the page. The music coming from the corner of the room moves from Sara Bareilles’s “I Choose You” to “Gravity”: “Here I am, and I stand so tall, just the way I’m supposed to be.”

 

Celebrating Shawshank Anniversary

Film
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Photo: Warner Bros. Studios

One would think there’s not much hope to be had after receiving two back-to-back life sentences in prison, but that’s just what Andy Dufresne has plenty of. On the 22nd anniversary of the release of The Shawshank Redemption, hope still resonates in the hearts of its viewers.

We meet Tim Robbins’s Andy Dufresne as he stands accused of murdering his wife and her lover. He is mysterious, and the flashbacks do not confirm his guilt. He doesn’t have the look of a criminal; in fact, he has the look of a man who cannot comprehend how or why he arrived at this juncture in his life. Not only does Andy have the look of an innocent man, but he has the persona of a man we’d like to have in our lives.

As the camera flies over Shawshank the first time we see it, the music evokes a melancholy feeling that would typically attend looking back on a fond yet sad memory. Red, played by Morgan Freeman, carries this nostalgic feeling in his voice as the narrator of the film. The second Andy Dufresne steps into Shawshank, we are like a bird perched on Red’s shoulder, seeing everything from his perspective. He walks around Shawshank like the respected mayor of a small town, a man who can get things done and a man who knows everything. Both his presence in Shawshank and his role as narrator are comforting to us. He becomes friends with Andy, a friendship that would last decades.

Andy is an innocent man making the best of the lot he has drawn, tragic as it may be. Throughout his time in the prison, he strives to make the lives of others better. He earns his fellow prisoners some nice cold beers, plays them some music on the loud speakers, and improves the prison library. Red is the one who can find a way to get items from outside the prison delivered to your cell, but Andy delivers the gift that is most essential in prison: hope.

Red thinks hope is a dangerous thing to hold onto in a prison. His view of life in Shawshank is very grim: “They send you here for life, that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyway.” Andy, on the other hand, believes hope is the only thing worth holding onto in a prison. His famous words: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” Andy didn’t physically help Red escape, but he led him emotionally to freedom. He changed Red’s outlook and that new mindset is what led Red’s to his release.

Shawshank plays on audience assumptions. The viewer is kept in the dark about Andy’s escape, making it all the more powerful when we discover he has achieved just that. The film is misleading in all the best ways. Andy gets rope we assume will be used to hang himself but is used for his escape. Even his fellow prisoners become concerned when they discover he has gotten rope and has been acting unusual.

This is an adaptation of the novel “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” by Stephen King. Typically, adaptations are not so widely accepted and fail to emerge from the shadow of the original work. However, this adaptation is hardly ever mentioned in comparison to the novel. The film is its own being and is appreciated as such, and rightfully so. This film still stands at the top of best-movies-of-all-time lists after 22 years. The film may be from the 1990s and set in the 1940s to 1960s, but the lessons it teaches are timeless.

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Photo: Warner Bros. Studios

Stephen King is known for his horror and thriller novels that are prone to causing nightmares. Movies about prison in general are very dark and emotionally tiresome to watch. In Shawshank, there is rape, corruption, and murder. These may be troubling to witness, but are not gratuitous and do not overpower the greater message of the film.

It has been said that the mark of a good movie is that you think about it for a long while after you’ve seen it. Well, it has been over two decades and the world is still thinking about Andy, Red, and Shawshank. As Andy says, “No good thing ever dies.”

Twenty-two years later, we look back at The Shawshank Redemption as fondly as Red looks back on the people he met at Shawshank. Revisiting the film after all these years, we soar on the wings of the camera as it greets Shawshank. We feel like we are returning home.

The Conversation

Film
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Photo source: Indiewire

This was written as a response to The Conversation for History of Cinema class.

 

Harry Caul is a reserved man who puts just as much effort into maintaining secrecy in his own life as he does listening in on the secrets of others. Listening to private conversations is part of Caul’s job, but it brings him a lot of anxiety. The severity of some of the situations can take an emotional toll, especially on a man who would fall to pieces if the same boundaries were crossed in his own life.

The Conversation begins with an establishing shot of a crowded plaza. There are some robotic sounds and then the camera focuses in on a mime that is moving throughout the plaza and he moves towards a man standing on his own. At this point, we meet Harry Caul, a man who is lingering around the plaza with a few other men in an effort to record the conversation being had between two individuals. Because the two under surveillance are constantly moving in a bustling place, they are being recorded multiple ways. Caul spends a good deal of time afterwards trying to piece the different recordings together into one cohesive conversation.

Once he succeeds and realizes the serious nature of what was said, he tries to block it out, but the recordings plague his thoughts. From what he gathers from the conversation, two people are concerned that a man is going to kill them. He comes to this conclusion when he hears “He’d kill us if he had the chance,” but he doesn’t vocalize his concerns to anyone. This idea is never confirmed because the only information he has is from that one conversation. We assume based on what we hear, just as he does. We only find out at the end of the movie that they said “He’d kill us if he had the chance,” hinting at the fact that they are going to kill him before he kills them.

We learn throughout the movie that Harry Caul has found himself in trouble because of his work before. Lives have been lost because of his work and he feels guilty because of it. He goes to confession because the situation he finds himself in is taking a toll on him emotionally. He is constantly thinking about their conversation. When a former colleague bugs him at a convention, he becomes extremely upset. He begins to see the hypocrisy in his behavior.

Harry Caul is a very private man. He has multiple locks on his door but when he finds out that his landlady has a key in case of a fire, he argues that he wouldn’t care if a fire destroyed everything he owned because the only thing of importance to him is his key. He also is in a relationship with a woman who doesn’t know what he does for a living or how old he is. It is ironic how adamant he is about maintaining his privacy when he trespasses on the privacy of others all too frequently. He begins to recognize that throughout the movie. At the end of the movie when he receives a call that leads him to believe his apartment has been bugged, he tears it apart piece by piece as the camera scans his apartment like a surveillance camera. Eerie music plays during this scene to emphasize the state of paranoia that he has fallen into.

Harry Caul’s job puts him in situations that he would not handle so well should he be on the other side of them. After falling into paranoia at the end is unlikely he would ever return to bugging people again. Not only would that require he have no empathy whatsoever, but it would also require that he recover from the breakdown he suffers while tearing apart his home.

His Girl Friday

Film
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Photo source: The Guardian

This was written as a response to His Girl Friday for History of Cinema class.

 

In His Girl Friday, Hildy is a reporter who attempts to leave her life as a reporter behind. Walter, her ex-husband and former boss, schemes in an effort to keep her there. However, Hildy would have stayed in the newspaper business even if Walter hadn’t manipulated her and tricked her into writing another story. She would have found an excuse to stay. She is built for the life of a reporter and would not have been able to survive in a life where her role was just to be some man’s wife.

The movie opens with Hildy walking into the newspaper office so she can talk with Walter, her former boss and former husband. We learn during their conversation that the entire reason she showed up that day was to tell him she was engaged. But this is information that could have been sent in a letter or over the phone. Yet she decided to actually show up to the office to tell him. She knows what kind of person he is and that he is capable of manipulating people. Knowing this, it was silly of her to go into the office to tell Walter that she is leaving the newspaper business for good and becoming a wife. She knows this will anger him not only because he was once married to her but also because he knows she is a talented reporter who they cannot afford to lose. She must realize that he would do everything in his power to try and keep her there.

When Walter begins to get Bruce involved, Hildy realizes it and lets it happen. She takes almost every single dollar Bruce has both on his person and to his name because she knows that Walter will try and get his hands on it one way or another. Then later, when Walter gives Bruce a check, Hildy tells him to keep it in the lining of his hat. Hildy is aware of Walter’s little tricks he plays.

Showing up in Walter’s office was in a way Hildy’s last cry for help. She doesn’t really want Bruce or the “normal” life that he offers her up in Albany. Deep down she knows she should stay in the newspaper business but needs an excuse. Walter makes many excuses and though he tries his best and causes many problems for Hildy throughout the movie, it is really being back in the newspaper business atmosphere that draws Hildy back in. One of the reporters says “Did you hear Hildy when that bell went off? She could never leave.” Then later, when Hildy is writing the story for the newspaper on Earl Williams and Bruce is trying to talk to her at the same time she completely ignores Bruce. She becomes so immersed in her reporting that nothing else matters to her. It takes her quite a while after finishing the story to realize that Bruce even made an appearance in the office.

Hildy would have stayed at the newspaper even if Walter hadn’t manipulated everyone around him in an effort to keep her there. Hildy went to the office because she couldn’t stay away and needed to go just one last time. She thought she would have the will power to leave but she did not. Walter tried his best to keep her there but in the end she made the decision all on her own. Hildy didn’t need Walter’s manipulation and scheming to keep her there, she decided on that herself the moment she stepped through the door into

Netflix Meets Studying

Film
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Photo source: Cord Cutters News

Written for Mosaic by Kitty Williams

The intelligent students of Salve Regina University are always studying, even when watching Netflix. The key is to watch something related to your major. Here is some study material:

 

Administration of Justice: Dexter

This series is about a forensic expert who spends his free time killing those who slip through the cracks of the justice system.

 

American Studies: Lee Daniels’ The Butler

See the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of a White House butler in this award-winning film.

 

Art and Art History: How to Steal a Million

Audrey Hepburn plays the daughter of a man who forges paintings in this 1966 film.

 

Biology and Biomedical Sciences: Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy follows a team of intern surgeons as they learn the ropes in this medical drama.

 

Business Studies and Economics: The Office

This NBC comedy series documents the lives of those who work at Dunder Mifflin, a paper-selling company. It is set almost entirely inside the office building and yet so little work is documented.

 

Chemistry: Breaking Bad

Walter White uses his knowledge of chemistry to make some questionable decisions in this award-winning series.

 

Cultural and Historic Preservation: National Treasure

This action-packed film follows two men who race against each other to find a treasure, coming across many historical artifacts along the way.

 

Education: Mona Lisa Smile

In this film, Julia Roberts plays a teacher who inspires her students to want to learn.

 

English and Communications: His Girl Friday

An oldie but a goodie, this film follows a reporter who tries to quit and an editor who tries to hang on to her.

 

Environmental Studies: Blackfish

This documentary shows the consequences of keeping killer whales in captivity.

 

 

Global Studies: An Idiot Abroad

Take a look at the globe from the perspective of a homebody who is sent abroad at the request of Ricky Gervais in this practical joke turned TV series.

 

History: Hotel Rwanda

This movie shows how one man can make a difference during the Hutu and Tutsi conflict in Rwanda.

 

Math: Good Will Hunting

In this Oscar nominated film, Matt Damon plays a mathematical genius who spends his time mopping up the floors of a university’s halls rather than learning in its classrooms.

 

Modern and Classical Languages: 2 Autumns, 3 Winters

This film, showing how a relationship evolves, was featured in the French Film Festival last year on campus for those of you who were not able to attend.

 

Music, Theater and Dance: Footloose

Dancing is outlawed in this film full of dancing.

 

Nursing: Call the Midwife

This BBC series follows the duties of a group of midwives in 1950s London.

 

Philosophy: Hector and the Search for Happiness

A man travels the world on his own in order to find out what makes people happy in this film starring Simon Pegg.

 

Political Sciences: House of Cards

Follow Frank Underwood as he climbs the ladder of power with his wife in this Netflix Original series.

 

Psychology: Silver Linings Playbook

This film deals with mental disorders and how they affect romantic and family relationships.

 

Religious and Theological Studies: The Passion of the Christ

This two-hour film focuses on the final twelve hours of Jesus’s life.

 

Social Work: Cyberbully

A teenager copes with being bullied online in this ABC Family original movie.

 

Sociology and Anthropology: Amélie

A young woman spends her life making the people around her happy after she does a good deed and sees the joy it brings to others in this French film.