Students show passion in senior thesis art show

GVL / Audra Gamble - Rikki Paepke

Audra Gamble

GVL / Audra Gamble – Rikki Paepke

Claire Fisher

“Meraki” is a Greek word used to describe doing something with soul, creativity or love. It is also the name of the senior thesis show by art students Kellyn Sanders and Rikki Paepke. For Sanders and Paepke, the word represents their passion.

“We were both in different majors before this and we finally found something we’re really happy to be doing,” Paepke said. “(Meraki) is a word in Greek that basically means doing stuff with a passion and what you love. It represents both of us. We’re both passionate about our subject matters and just finishing the art program overall.”

Paepke and Sanders senior thesis show, “Meraki,” will be on display in the Craft House gallery in Grand Rapids April 10-15. There will be a reception held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 15.

Before joining the art program, Sanders and Paepke both explored other majors. Sanders started her college career in pre-nursing and said she decided art was something she wanted to pursue as well as science.

“I had some doubt when I was in nursing,” Sanders said. “I knew that I wanted to do something in medical but I wanted to be able to express my creative side as well. I am still able to fulfill my love for both by being double majored in art and in biology.

“I have always had a love for science, medical and art, but never would have thought that I would be doing what I am today.”

Paepke said she tried out several majors before eventually deciding to study art. Moving from pre-med, to nursing, to radiological imaging and stenography, Paepke said she eventually decided to apply to the illustration program.

“I guess I was just doing the other (majors) for the wrong reasons,” Paepke said. “I was too afraid to pursue art as a career. Every time I switched (majors) I would just realize I didn’t know why I was doing this to myself. This isn’t me. So I finally decided to apply and I got into the illustration program after a year of doing foundations.”

Paepke said despite her fear to pursue art as a career she believes her love for art, her motivation and her hard work will help her to succeed after graduation.

“I don’t want to say art didn’t feel like work because sometimes it does still feel like work, but it’s work that I enjoy doing even if it’s hard sometimes,” Paepke said. “For the other majors if I was studying or something, I just couldn’t see the point in why I was doing it. I wasn’t enjoying any aspect of it.

“Whereas art, even though it can drive me crazy sometimes, with the workload and the hours I have to put into it, I’m still happy to be doing it.”

In addition to a passion for art, Paepke and Sanders have a passion for the subject matter they chose for their senior thesis show. Although they are both finishing the art program with an emphasis in illustration, their subject matter and their mediums are very different.

“Our artwork works together because we are both using our memories and important events to express how our artwork has been shaped and our passion for those memories,” Sanders said. “My artwork is actually a contrast to Rikki’s work. She uses loose brushstrokes and for this show is focusing on painting environments. My work is very meticulously drawn with crisp, detailed lines of architecture.”

For the show, Paepke created three expressionistic, oil paintings that represent three different memories from her childhood. From the cottage on the lake, to the inside of a truck and a classic farmhouse, she said she chose these memories because they represented important emotions in her life.

“My show is about memories and special places and the nostalgia that comes along with that, while also working on making the spaces in my paintings believable,” Paepke said. “Growing up on a farmhouse, I had a big yard to play in and this big house. I had horses, animals, and this barn to play in.

“I feel like it was a set up for who I am today. I still love being out in the country, I still love animals. It’s a just a place that followed me as I got older.”

Sanders based her work for the show off of Detroit. Using edge-lit acrylic, photography and pen drawings, she layers multiple mediums she said represents the many layers Detroit has.

“By using LED lights, I am figuratively and literally bringing light to specific architecture in Detroit that is newly renovated or has plans to be renovated,” Sanders said. “Growing up in metro Detroit, I have always loved experiencing all the amazing things the city has to offer. I’m using the growth that Detroit is experiencing right now as a parallel with my life and the growth and positive change I’m experiencing.”