TRW NYC Profile: Molly Hartman

The Refined Woman Profiles

http://www.therefinedwoman.com/molly-hartman-rye-workshop-nyc-profile/

Written by Kitty Williams for The Refined Woman

“I needed to be brave and honest in ways that I didn’t necessarily want to be yet,” she says with a laugh, now that she has come through the other side.

Four stories above the Industry City streets of Brooklyn sits a small studio. One wall, from floor to ceiling, has shelves packed with boxes, vases, and jars of every imaginable size and style, and everything decorative. The summer evening light streams through the large windows to give life to the many flowers and plants that call this room home.

Lounging on a couch, a glass of Rosé in hand, Molly Hartman speaks fondly of the magic of New York City. “I never get over that moment of being in a cab with all of our flower boxes and going down 7th Avenue and zooming past tall buildings and small buildings and West Village and cobblestones,” she says. “You go through seven worlds in one 45-minute drive.”

Hartman is the founder and creative director of Brooklyn-based event design company Rye Workshop. Along with her team, she works on brand events, weddings, and other collaborations, bringing ideas to life in beautiful ways.

Living in a cramped New York City apartment has its downsides, and being an event designer who carts boxes of décor and flowers around a bustling city just adds to that. But it’s worth it to Hartman. “There’s a reason we make our lives so hard,” says Hartman. “It’s because we love this New York City life so much.”

For many, there is an epiphany in which they realize they have found what they love to do.  For Hartman it hasn’t been a single moment, but rather a constant feeling and reminder that she is doing what she loves.

Now seven years into this adventure, Hartman says they have achieved what she refers to as flow: “this great balance of where you’re feeling super challenged but also actively and productively learning and meeting your new needs.”

However, where success lives, challenges grow. This past year she focused on personal growth. Working in a creative field, she finds it is impossible to escape certain self-reflections.

Feeling insecure and placing blame on herself, Hartman realized she needed to make a change. “I needed to be brave and honest in ways that I didn’t necessarily want to be yet,” she says with a laugh, now that she has come through the other side.

Luckily she has a wonderful support system to help her through challenging times. “You need someone who, when you reveal those demons, will hold your hand and be like ‘you’re still a good human being,’” says Hartman, gesturing toward Wedding Design Director Julie Guinta across the room.

She expresses great appreciation for Guinta and everyone on her team. “It is never a one person thing,” says Hartman.

The most important thing for Hartman during this time was “letting go of the reins a bit more.”

As a creative director, Hartman finds her work can be constant if she allows it to be. “I can only achieve rest when I ask for help,” she says. Handing a project off to someone else is not always the preferred option, but she is beginning to recognize when it needs to be done.

She also credits her husband for being a great support system. He works in a completely different field as an engineer, but they manage to give each other “space to grow.” They’ve been together since she was just sixteen years old, and their marriage has been built on kindness and celebration.

After college, she began working in television and production in D.C. She was always drawn to projects that gave her the opportunity to work with her hands.

Even as a child, she showed signs of becoming someone who would one day work in a creative field. “I was a kid who ran away all the time,” she recalls. “I would run away from home and make homes somewhere else.” From the age of three, she could be found designing spaces for herself, using anything from a picnic bench to a rhododendron bush as her house structure. “My poor mother,” she laughs. “My poor, poor mother.”

Looking forward, Hartman sees the Rye Workshop continuing to operate as a small team as they begin to make their way into the interior design scene. She also hopes to set aside the time and space to have art shows and showcases celebrating their passion projects.

Though she’d enjoy having a chicken coop upstate, Hartman remains in the gentle grip of New York City. So here she stays in her fourth floor studio: a place of beauty that can sometimes get messy in the service of making beautiful things happen.

 

Mosaic Final Features: Lily M. Jones, A Taurus Story

Miscellaneous Profiles

Written for Mosaic by Kitty Williams & Michelle Karparis | Associate Editors

Remaining in the library after hosting a Mosaic Student Newspaper event, Lily Margaret Jones sits down for an interview and quickly offers up what she believes is important information: “I’m a Taurus.”

Jones identifies with typical Taurus traits of being decisive, emotional, materialistic, and loyal. Though when asked to describe herself in three words, she uses none of these, opting instead for “over the top.”

When asked to describe herself in three different words, the first thing Jones says is “hardworking.” Jones is an English Communications major at Salve Regina University with minors in Film Studies and Spanish. This year, she served as co-editor-in-chief of Mosaic Student Newspaper, president and executive producer of Salve Studios, and student organizer for the Spanish Film Festival. In addition to this, she recently completed an internship with CW Providence.

She also just gave her senior thesis presentation on Adaptation Theory in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Baz Luhrmann also directed Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet, two of her favorite films.

With all of this and more on her plate, she feels burned out at the end of each semester. Jones attributes all of this to being an independent person. Not reaching out for help has made her constantly busy. “It’s been a really long time since I’ve walked on the cliff walk,” she says nostalgically. “Once I’m done with all of my work, I really just want to enjoy Newport.”

Despite all of this, she describes many of her experiences here at Salve as “invaluable.” Jones believes her greatest accomplishment has been co-writing two scripts for Salve Studios. She also cites her experience working with the Mosaic staff, whom she calls “like-minded,” and “talented.” Additionally, her relationships with fellow classmates and professors have been an important part of her college career.

At Salve, Jones describes herself as “loud,” but if asked three years ago, that would not have been the case. She transferred from the University of Connecticut her sophomore year and found that she was better suited for Salve’s environment. She recalls that back at UConn, “I could’ve disappeared and no one would have noticed.”

Something not many people know about Jones is that she has a sensitive side. She is very passionate about what she does, but that also comes with a lot of self-criticism. Despite this, she remembers always being a leader, even at home with her family.

“I’ve always been the controller of the household,” says Jones. As a child, she remembers being threatened when her younger sister, Anna, was born. She recalls thinking, “When is she going back?”

Jones spent a lot of time watching an inordinate amount of television when she was young. “Disney Channel had a very profound effect on me,” she says. It inspired her to write many creative stories in elementary school, and she can still remember every single theme song from her childhood. This love for television has stayed with Jones for her whole life, though now her favorites include the Real Housewives shows.

After graduating from Salve, she plans on moving back to her hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut and applying for jobs in both Stamford, Connecticut and New York City. She hopes to get a job in the video production field of communications. A goal of hers is to see her name on a movie or TV program’s opening credits as a producer.

Whenever confronted by people who don’t see the value of a communications degree, she reminds them that every business has a communications field. However, she notes that most people are starting to understand the importance of the field.

It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks anyway; she is a decisive Taurus. “I’m freaking insane, but I wouldn’t want to be anybody else.”

Dave Fairchild Profile: Taking Control

Miscellaneous Profiles

Written for Mosaic by Claire Latsko and Kitty Williams | Co-Editors-in-Chief

After climbing what seemed like an endless number of stairs up a twisting and narrow turret of an old white colonial house in Newport, we are finally greeted by Dave Fairchild at the door to his apartment. He welcomes us in with smiles, and excitedly jumps into giving us a tour of his humble abode. His skills as an on-campus tour guide shine through over the next few minutes.

The apartment embodies the classic Newport style, complete with framed maps, old rugs, cozy loft space, and rooftop deck with a view of both First Beach and the Pell Bridge. Fairchild finds so much happiness living in this space with two of his best friends. “I love this space,” he says. “It heals me.”

Fairchild lives in this apartment now only because he made an active decision to take control of his life over the past few months. Last year, as a Resident Advisor, he was required to live on campus. This year, however, Fairchild decided to step away from that role so he could live as a real Newport resident.

He was also elected to be President of SGA after running unopposed for the 2017-2018 school year. Fairchild decided to resign from that position early on this semester, though. Fairchild came back from summer vacation and had to be honest with himself about what he could handle. “I went a little overboard and decided to quit everything,” he says with a laugh, then pauses, adding, “I don’t feel regret for it.”

At the end of spring semester last year, Fairchild found himself going through a difficult time with his mental health. “I had been on this consistent down through college emotionally, even though I was on an exponential up in terms of my professional experience and academically what I was involved in,” he says.

While his mental health has been a sporadic struggle throughout his high school and college years, spring semester last year was when Fairchild hit a low that, for the first time, was a low everyone around him could see. “It was a very scary awakening for me, that people knew,” he says. “I didn’t want to be the person people worried about.”

He found that he needed to take time away from this pressure he was placing on himself and so he spent his summer at home in the Berkshires. “I don’t think people treat themselves well at all. I think we’re too busy to do it,” says Fairchild. “But the thing is, you can be less busy.” He began focusing in on music, photography, and nature- things he always said he was passionate about. “This is the reset button,” he reflects.

Fairchild would also make a point to get out with his camera at least once a week. “I’m not an artist by any means, but more and more I feel like creativity is one of the more important parts of my identity,” he says.

His summer job was as a program instructor and outdoor educator at the Berkshire Outdoor Center in his hometown. “It’s this wonderful little corner of Massachusetts where everything is different; slower,” says Fairchild. Here he was able to spend time in nature with those who had an equal admiration and fascination of the outdoors. “It’s all about teaching people about unity of self,” he says of his role there.

The positive and healthy choices he made this summer improved his sense of self and mental health. He credits all of these things for helping him rise from his semester of struggle. “I don’t think I had any reason to be bred an optimist but it happened,” Fairchild says. “I eat, pray, love the shit out of [life].”

Fairchild has formed a deep appreciation for Newport and Salve Regina. He is the only person in his family to not live in Massachusetts, and he is a first generation college student; both of which he is very proud of. “I remember going to orientation and wanting to cry,” says Fairchild. “Not from sadness or homesickness, but from this crazy realization that this thing I thought was just this stupid fantasy actually happened.”

Self-reflection is something Fairchild actively participates in. “I already kind of look back on my years in college,” he says. He notes the many changes he has gone through in college and how they have contributed to his growth.

Fairchild is confident his senior year will be a successful and happy one. “I’ve gone through a lot of growing pains and it’s resulted in this really consistent idea of who I want to be and who I can be.”

Review: Stranger Things 2

Film

Written for Mosaic by Kitty Williams | Co-Editor-in-Chief

The following contains spoilers for season two of Stranger Things on Netflix:

D’Artagnan the growing demogorgon is on the loose in Hawkins, Indiana. Dustin and friends set down a meat trail to lure him in for the kill. Lucas and newcomer Max crouch in hiding, waiting for the demogorgon to appear.

Lucas leans over to Max, who just moved from California. “Hawkins seems pretty lame, I bet,” he says.

One year after the events of season one, Hawkins faces the dangers and monsters of the Upside Down once again. The gang is back together, but only some of them are fully “Right-Side Up.”

Will is no longer stuck in the Upside Down, but he is still in touch with it, living on the edge of both worlds. He regularly has episodes where he shifts into the Upside Down, and eventually the demogorgon invades his body. Noah Schnapp delivers a beautiful performance as Will is caught in moments of absentness and moments of excruciating pain.

The gang is back together to help, but it has grown a bit. Max is Chapter One’s titular character, a girl who quickly makes her way into the group after getting their attention by breaking the record on Dig Dug at the arcade.

Along with her came her cruel brother Billy who threatens Steve Harrington’s “king” status in Hawkins. He also poses a threat to the other kids, as he is racist towards Lucas and stands in the way of their mission to save Hawkins.

Sean Astin, no stranger to acting in a fantasy series, plays Bob Newby. “Bob the Brain” as he is referred to, is the boyfriend of Joyce Byers and unexpected hero of Stranger Things 2 when he uses his knowledge of coding to stop the demogorgons from escaping the Upside Down.

The familiar fan-favorites Eleven and Hopper join together this season. Hopper has made Eleven a home in the woods and hides her there to keep her safe. Their wit and bond is amusing to watch as they go through times of frustration and trust.

Eleven goes through some self-discovery as she reconnects with her mother and finds another girl with mind powers, a sister. The season ends with a classic 80s school dance to top off the classic 80s style of the series. Season one was an immediate success and the long-awaited season two is following suit.

British Shows to Watch on Netflix

Film

Written for Mosaic by Kitty Williams | Co-Editor-in-Chief

 Netflix can be overwhelming with its ever-changing and sometimes bizarre categories with shifting titles every month. You know how it goes: you don’t have the energy to go digging through all of the options so you just go straight to your old reliable (probably The Office). In an effort to get more out of the Netflix experience, I’ve rounded up some options for your winter-break viewing (or finals week procrastination-not the recommended option). Because Netflix does have so many choices, I limited this list by British television shows and films. This is for the anglophiles:

1. Sherlock

This series follows one of literature’s famous duos: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, but this time it is set in modern-day London. This series has three seasons so far with only three episodes in each. The good news, though, is that every episode is an hour and a half long.

2. Ripper Street

This show is also set in London, but this time it is set in the Victorian era. Matthew Macfadyen plays Detective Inspector Reid, who, along with his team, puts himself in danger in order to solve crimes and murders happening in London after Jack the Ripper’s time.

3. The Crown

For the royal-obsessed, this show begins with the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and continues on from there with flashbacks to her childhood here and there. As the royal family is very private, this drama ponders what goes on in private moments and conversations.

4. The Queen

In this film, Helen Mirren stars as the Queen of England. While The Crown follows her entire reign, this film focuses on one brief time: the day after Princess Diana’s death. Michael Sheen plays Tony Blair, then Prime Minister who was adamant about how the Queen should respond to news of the tragedy.

5. Broadchurch

This show is not for those who like closure after each episode. This series begins with the death of a young boy and follows the detectives who tirelessly search for his killer in a small coastal England town.

6. The IT Crowd

This British comedy centers around two men who work in IT but struggle to interact with others in socially acceptable ways. It follows them as they come to terms with the woman who knows nothing about computers but joins them as head of the IT department.

7. Fawlty Towers

John Cleese of Monty Python plays Basil Fawlty, a man who runs a hotel with his wife Sybil. This show follows their funny interactions with customers and fellow employees in this hotel where everything seems to go wrong.

8. The Imitation Game

This Oscar-nominated film follows Alan Turing as he and his team work to crack the enigma and win World War II. It also features flashbacks to Turing’s childhood to give us insight into his personal life.

9. Atonement

This film features James McAvoy and Keira Knightley as two people in love. However, things fall apart when her sister places accusations on him and he is forced away. Things are complicated further by their roles in World War II.

Op-Ed: More Great Gerwig, Please

Film

Written for Mosaic by Kitty Williams | Co-Editor-in-Chief

On January 7th, stars were gathered at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the 75th Golden Globes. Natalie Portman and Ron Howard presented the nominees for Best Director. Certainly breaking from the teleprompter in front of her, Portman leaned into the microphone and said, “Here are the all male nominees.”

[Enter Lady Bird]

Greta Gerwig is an actress, screenwriter, and director who is nominated for Best Director for her Best Picture-nominated film Lady Bird. This year she is the only woman in the Best Director category. More shocking is the fact that she is one of five women ever to be nominated for this award.

The other nominees included Lina Mertwuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, and Kathryn Bigelow. Kathryn Bigelow was the only woman to ever win. She won for her film The Hurt Locker, which was about a bomb disposal team. It also won Best Picture that year.

There’s a trend with Oscar nominated films and that is that they are always about something really dramatic. Often, the main character is going through a really traumatic life experience. In addition, there are car chases, gunfights, and relationships formed and broken.

This is where Lady Bird does something different. It is simply about a high school girl’s relationship with her mother. It also touches on her other relationships in life. One of her past credits as a screenwriter and actress was for Frances, Ha. This film, in a very similar way, focused on two best friends and their evolving relationship through a collection of small moments. Gerwig has a talent for taking ordinary moments and making them important without forcing them to be extraordinary.

Gerwig said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Oscar Nominee Night, “Stop a woman in the street and ask her what her relationship is like with her mother. You won’t get a one word answer.”

Everyone can sit in this movie and see some part of them in a character on screen. It speaks a universal language in the most sincere way. This is the kind of story that needs to be told. This film isn’t the saddest, but it will make a viewer cry if only because they feel understood. If that isn’t deserving of an Oscar, I don’t know what is.

“Different things can be sad. It’s not all war.” –Lady Bird

Best Netflix Originals

Film

This listicle was written and published for The Mosaic.

Kitty Williams

While Netflix may not always have the best movies or television series at the ready, it certainly makes up for it with the original movies and series it provides. The popular streaming service introduced its first Netflix Original in 2013 and now they have an originals list of over 50 series. Here are some of the best series this category has to offer.

  1. Black Mirror

This show began in 2011 and aired on television until Netflix commissioned its third and most recent season. This British anthology has been likened to The Twilight Zone, and for good reason. The show addresses the future of technology and the problems that come along with it in a mesmerizing yet terrifying way.

  1. Derek

Ricky Gervais plays the titular character in this heartwarming mock documentary series. Derek is a good-hearted and childlike caretaker in a nursing home who truly loves what he does. His friends include Dougie, the curmudgeon janitor who constantly sports a frown and a silly haircut, and Kev, who doesn’t work there but hangs around to drink beer and make crude jokes.

  1. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Creator Tina Fey makes the dreary seem bright in this original series starring Ellie Kemper as the optimistic Kimmy Schmidt. Kimmy lived in a bunker for many years when a cult leader told her the world was ending. After escaping, she learns to live in New York City alongside roommate and aspiring actor Titus Andromedon.

  1. The Crown

This series, which premiered earlier this month, follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Claire Foy stars as a young Queen Elizabeth II in this inside look into the life of royalty. The show begins with Elizabeth’s marriage and continues on to show her reign as Queen of England and all that it entails, including her interactions with Winston Churchill.

  1. Grace and Frankie

Sol and Robert are business partners turned lovers who have kept their love a secret from their wives for the past 20 years. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin star as Grace and Frankie, the wives who don’t always get along but learn to get through this tough time together. After they learn that their husbands plan on getting married, they decide to live together in their beach house. The series follows their complicated lives with great humor as their families merge in an unexpected way.

  1. Stranger Things

In a town where bad things never seem to happen, terror strikes when a young boy goes missing. This brand new release, inspired by the theories about the Montauk Project on Long Island, follows a group of teenagers as they try to find their missing friend, Will. While searching, the young boys find a girl with supernatural abilities who escaped from government experiments. Together, they work to find what took Will and bring Will home alive.

The Hunt: A Reflection on Denmark’s History

Film

This essay on Danish film The Hunt was written for World Cinema.

By Kitty Williams

The Hunt is a 2013 Danish film directed by Thomas Vinterberg, one of the fathers of Dogme 95. Dogme 95 was a short-lived film movement characterized by realism in every sense of the word. The film’s theme is also very much a part of Denmark’s reality. The film is a powerful portrayal of the severe damage an accusation of sexual abuse can do to a person. Lucas works at a day care for young children and is falsely accused of sexually abusing a young girl who happens to be the daughter of his best friend. Unfortunately, this is too often a reality in Denmark.

Dogme 95 is a film movement that was created by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, the director of The Hunt, in 1995. Films considered to be part of the Dogme 95 movement are required to follow a strict set of guidelines. There are ten guidelines, all of which stress the importance of maintaining reality. Though it does not abide by every rule, The Hunt holds onto some of the practices of Dogme 95. There are to be no special effects; a rule adhered to by The Hunt. The film is very visually simple, with shots of the houses, streets, and people of Denmark. The most visually exciting shots are of the colorful forests the hunted animals call home.

Dogme 95 also requires that a film is in color and does not have any non-diegetic music. The Hunt is in color, but it does include music. Music’s presence is so scarce, though, that it is hardly noticeable. Many scenes are plagued by silence, including the scene where Lucas walks around, bleeding from having been hit multiple times. His friends see him but stay away, waiting for him to leave. We see him continue to walk alone, limping, in complete silence. Ironically, another rule of Dogme 95 is that the director goes unlisted in the credits. The director of The Hunt (and the creator of this rule) is listed at the end of the film: Thomas Vintergberg.

The realism of the film extends into the themes that carry throughout. Sexual abuse is a serious topic and is at the center of the film. The main character, Lucas, is falsely accused of sexually abusing one of the children he takes care of at the day care. Unfortunately, Denmark has a history of sexual abuse cases. The number of reported cases was on the rise in 1997. As a result, Denmark began focusing on this issue and was very open with the public about the problem. One famous case, the “Tønder case,” put a spotlight on the issue. This case revealed that a man had been prostituting his daughter to many men. More cases of sexual abuse were found in the following years. Similarly, in the film after all the families with children at the day-care were notified of the accusation, they began looking for the warning signs in their children. Some parents saw symptoms where there weren’t any.

Films are a reflection of the society we live in. The Hunt, on the surface, is about a man who struggles to continue on with his ordinary life after being accused of sexually abusing a young girl from the day care he works at. Taking a deeper look, it is clear that this film is tackling the larger issues of Denmark’s society, still under the influence of the Dogme 95 film movement that was created by the director of the film alongside Lars von Trier.

Phoenix: Speak Low, Stand Tall

Film

This essay about the German film Phoenix was written for World Cinema.

By Kitty Williams

Christian Petzold’s 2014 film Phoenix explores the emotional recovery two individuals must endure after World War II. After World War II, many films in Europe were very raw. The war was such a major influence on the world that films began to reflect the changes in a very real way. Nelly, a German Jewish woman is recovering physically and emotionally from her time in the concentration camps and the facial wound she sustained there. In her eyes, recovery means going back to the way things were rather than moving forward. Her husband, Johnny, is focused more on his own recovery financially. He believes her to be dead and his primary goal is to receive her inheritance. He does this by making Nelly over to look like Nelly, not realizing it is in fact her. Though this makeover satisfies both of their agendas in the beginning, it is Nelly who truly recovers, leaving Johnny with the guilt for what he has done to her. Phoenix approaches the raw truths of post-war life in a powerful way, getting at the core of relationships.

After the war, particularly for those who were released from concentration camps, life was very different. Those who were lucky enough to live to see their release from such torture emerged in a changed world. Nelly returns home from the concentration camp and is in the care of her friend Lene. She undergoes facial reconstruction surgery and emerges with a new face despite pleading for her old one. “I want to look exactly like I used to,” she says. This not because she was particularly fond of her appearance before the war, but because she was fond of her life before the war and she believes having that face back will bring a piece of that life back with it. Before the war, people were glamorized in movies with the use of lighting and costuming. After the war, this was not done as often. People were hardened to the realities of life. Similarly, in Phoenix, we hear from Nelly and others how beautiful she was before the war. She is not glamorized on camera but in memory. Now, her face sans makeup (in the beginning of the film) holds the realism of the post-war era. It is only when she feels back to her pre-war self that she begins to wear makeup and brightly colored dresses.

The film also deals with the very real emotional traumas raised by the war. Nelly’s husband believes her to be dead and yet when he sees her he believes her to be a lookalike that he can use to steal her inheritance. Lene tries to convince Nelly that he betrayed her to the Nazis, but she doesn’t listen. She allows him to dress her up to pull off his plan. She clings to the idea of being herself again and living her old life. She does it in an effort to reinsert herself into her old life when in actuality it is making her a spectator of her own life. Their interactions are less about their romantic relationship and more about the need they both have to make things better for themselves. For Johnny, that is money; for Nelly, that is reconnecting with who she was before the betrayal, concentration camp, and facial reconstruction.

War has a deep and lasting affect on everything, including cinema. In turn, it affects Phoenix’s Nelly and Johnny. The pre-war Nelly we hear about is a representation of pre-war cinema. The Nelly we see is in search of who she was, and strives to achieve this by pleading for her old face and going in search of her husband. She doesn’t want her face to look beautiful, or Johnny for romance, but for her old life. Though she fights to be her pre-war self, she has become a recovered version of herself.

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.”