Fine Arts Seminar (Houghton College)

thinking critically and building community around art and design

Leah Pellingra

I will be the first to admit that I don’t know much at all about fashion, but the way that Leah Pellingra talked about her work and all that she does to make the clothing designs and patterns a reality really spoke to me. The passion she has for her job was something that came through with her excitement and her desire to show how everything worked together, and her eagerness to speak about all the steps.

One thing that stood out to me the most is how Leah said that what she does now, working with the fabric and testing to make sure that the colors and type of fabrics work for the clothes being made, was not something that she ever thought of doing before. Whenever I think of what I’m going to do out in the world I always think of things in terms of the degrees that I’m going after, and not much beyond that. The idea that after getting my degree I might go off expecting to do large art pieces for shows, and yet find myself five years later happily using my art skills to make stencils or wallpaper designs, hadn’t ever occurred to me.

That Leah could find so much passion for something outside of what she had planned, and studied, for and still enjoy it shows the many different ways that our interests develop throughout our life and work. There is still some of Leah’s work and study for graphic design being used with the creation of the branding for the sport line, but that is not her main responsibility, just one of many. It really reminded me that while we leave college to pursue our dreams, it’s important to keep an open mind while looking for work, because there could be something more interesting or exciting to work on that you had never even thought of pursuing.

Heather Layton

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I enjoyed much of what Heather Layton had to say and I found her artwork simply amazing.  I loved the piece she made about the mines and how you experienced it in total darkness with just a headlamp.  I would love to have been able to see that!

I rather liked her description of her visit to Nagaland and how she worked with the “Naya filmmakers”.  I admire her courage for going to a country where she needed an armed guard at all times.  It was enlightening to see things in war-torn countries from a different perspective.

However, there was a part of her talk that I found difficult to sit through.  Being a veteran of both OIF and OEF I have not had the opportunity to experience the world the way she has.  My opinions on the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are rather darkly tainted by my experiences in those countries.  Her descripton of “Home Drone” and why she did it left me, admittedly, seething.  Discretion being the better part of valor, I decided not to say anything that night as I knew I would likely say something I would later regret.  Instead, I went home and thought about it.  I came back the next evening, for the reception, and had the opportuity to speak with both her and her husband, Brian.  Brian is a wonderful person and has a way of explaining things that just makes sense.  In the end, I walked away with a new respect for Heather and her work and a slightly better opinion of the Pakistani people.  While I still disagree with her opinions on drones, I respect her courage and determination to work on such a controversial subject.

Kenneth Adkins


Kenneth Adkins lecture was, in a word, amazing!  I loved his whole attitude and his approach to art.  It was like he came here and turned the Houghton art world upside down, inside out, and burned the whole thing throwing gasoline on the flames!  To me, he was a welcome breath of fresh air.  How often, as artists, are we demanded to explain “what does it mean?”  Mr. Adkins remarked that his art doesn’t mean anything.  It just is!  This rang a chord with me as I have struggled for decades to explain what my art means.  The fact that it exists should be meaning enough!

I loved his description of burning the couch and entering it into a fancy art exhibit.  Just the visual of him bringing this burned up, reeking, oily, dripping….thing….into a show, it makes me want to laugh and clap in joy.  Anyone who can change it up that much, make that much of an impact (and coincidentally winning the show!), is a true artist in every sense of the word.  Because art is not in the eye of the beholder.  Art is in the heart of the artist!

Heather Layton

Heather Layton affirmed all my dreams as an artist. Her coming to Houghton was basically a Godsend in my life as I try to plan out what I want to be as an artist. She should probably speak to every scared artist; she assured us with phrases like “try your own projects, you don’t need to wait for approval for them”, “find your spaces, maybe your work is better in a barber shop than in a gallery” “always submit, always put it out there, always take that chance” and her warming, glowing personality and personal narrative. Her great concerns for global unity and justice were even more inspiring than her encouraging words.

I love her “Parables for a New Generation”. As a Christian this really speaks to me. Its a series that asks questions about our values and hopes to inspire empathy and community. I love how she placed the series on blank backgrounds “so it could be imagined happening anywhere”, let’s imagine that happening here! Community is a huge topic at Houghton (and hopefully in many other Christian circles). I hope that Christians especially get on board with the dream represented by this series and show the world how loving God is.

I also was moved by her exhibit “Home Drone” which reversed the drone bombing sights from a map in the Middle East to Massachusetts and played political tapes in America about drones juxtaposed against people in the Middle East speaking about their affect on them. In my opinion this is the work of artists: to take what people really need to hear and let them see and experience it. And that is what Layton did there and in her work at large.

Overall, I loved her work. I hope that I can be a Christian artist who connects her work and her pursuit of social justice to the mainstream of Christianity which sometimes misses out on these important messages. She has inspired and encouraged me to at least try! 

-Emma Brittain



Heather Layton

Thursday night, I was completely blown away by the work of Heather Layton. She is an amazing drawer, but her talent goes far beyond that. Her ability to take current, social issues and be able to express them in  an artistic way amazed me. I was also amazed by her ability to draw out metaphoric situations for what she was feeling. For example, she talked about her one piece as a metaphor for what she thought it might be like for her parents, as her mom stayed home all day with the kids, and her dad worked all day. I also felt encouraged by the fact that she didn’t get where she is right away. It took her several years of trying out different things, and taking different classes for her to find her niche, and eventually her career.

One piece that I particularity thought was great was her piece called “I Know it Happened and it Happened Like This”. This is the piece where Heather took the coordinates of 54 homicides and visited each location. She then photographed a vase of flowers in front of each location. what I thought was most interesting was that she said that she didn’t even intend for the project to end up as big as it did. She just did it as a way to handle the information that she had realized. I am fascinated with the way that she is able to take these types of situations and use her talent as an artist as a way to cope. This project then lead to the project “I Know It Happened, and It Happened Like This”, which ended up having a huge impact on her community.

All-in-all I found Heather’s talk, personality, and talent to be encouraging and helpful.

-Rachael Cronk

Kenneth Adkins

The students sitting behind me commented on his tattoos while nervous snickers questioned his use of explitives in the classroom of a Christian college. From Omaha Nebraska, Kenneth Adkins brought refreshing realness with his presence and his art, a realness that awakened me again to the power of incarnating personal emotion in art. He brought no facade, and stated that his work represents nothing; it just is. This gripped me, along with the images he displayed– sometimes violent images that were not nice or cozy, but rather genuine and visceral. They were startling in a way that seemed true to human experience, not fabricated simply for shock effect or attention. Adkins allowed his audience to reject his work, which drew me in, both fascinated and filled with respect.

Adkins’ story was inspiring, as he reflected on the value of the process of art. He believes and expressed that the proccess and hurt and challeged of making a picture is what really matters, that it is about the possiblity of failure and having the guts to make attempts. An artist should have no expectation to turn in results. And yet Adkins produces results– incredibly unique works made of his own wedding attire and wood glue, obituatry photos and craft glue. He brought to life the potential of materials that are used daily but often overlooked, transforming them into pictures about seeing things as they are– no ‘fluff’ or niceties, but as part of a real world filled with both beauty and pain.

-Rachel Hummel

Faculty Art Show (reposted)

Faculty art show

During the last five years I’ve picked up on the different teaching styles and artistic instruction of each of the Art Professors. I’ve needed each of their different perspectives and insight like the necessary tiles in a mosaic wall. Which is why it’s so intriguing to experience their professional works and see how they apply their teaching. Observing this show has informed my own artistic horizons, especially in the case of Baxter’s series of ceramic bowls/vessels. For a person with a concentration in ceramics, watching the process of this series from beginning to completion has inspired and given awareness to my own process. However, nothing has helped me grow as an artist than listening to how Baxter talks about his pieces and the environmental influences for most of his work. The intellectual aspect of his fish bowls resonates in my own interests. The time lapse of water evaporation is a creative way portray that time will eventually run out for endangered flora and fauna. Humanity has in their hand a button for the destruction or the renewal of creation. Some have decided to be ignorant of this concept, some are caught up in the bystander effect, and some simply don’t have the time to care. The truth is that we are stewards of the Earth and will be held responsible for how it has been looked after no matter a persons faith or religious associations. His fish bowl series is extensive and has a firm and diverse foundation of conversation reading into his pieces. The pieces themselves reflect the nature of the subject matter in all it’s regality.

Sarianne Hereld


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