Constantly Cloudy

Part of the clouds panorama by BFA student Hannah Van Ravenswaay
Part of the clouds panorama by BFA student Hannah Van Ravenswaay

People always told fourth-year fine arts major Hannah Van Ravenswaay to get her head out of the clouds, but she refused to listen.

Clouds are what inspired Van Ravenswaay’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) thesis show. Actually, it all started in the opposite direction — underground.

“The caves because stalagmites and [the] stalactites look like clouds,” she said.

Van Ravenswaay drew inspiration from her life as a commuter student. She said she would just gaze up at the sky and see giant cumulus clouds on Route 299 or when she was crossing the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

Van Ravenswaay said clouds were the only things that were constant on the drive.

“Clouds look more solid than mountains,” she said. “[This idea] of a whole other universe beyond those clouds, beyond this dimension.”

She said what inspires her as an artist is the concept of understanding the human relationship to their environment.

“[It’s] all about the depth,” she said. “To understand how small we really are.”

Van Ravenswaay said her show is a collection of 11 paintings that come together to form one comprehensive piece. She said none have titles because she wants the audience to view them as one, reminiscent of a panorama.

She advises people to get close.

“The installation is big, but don’t forget to get up close because there are a lot of little surprises,” she said.

Van Ravenswaay said she encountered a setback with her show recently when she discovered orange paint splattered on her biggest piece. She said she doesn’t think she was targeted, but another artist was experimenting and their brushstrokes were not controlled and too “Jackson Pollock-y.” She said the painter was too close to her own piece, but felt there was adequate space to avoid this. Van Ravenswaay said she was most shocked by the lack of respect.

“It was another student not respecting another’s work,” she said. “Got to pay attention to other people’s stuff.”

Aside from problems with her show, she said the hardest part of being in the fine arts program is “figuring out when it’s done” and meeting deadlines.

Post-graduation, Van Ravenswaay said she is doing an installation entrance way for Mountain Jam 2012 at Hunter Mountain. While it’s stressful, she said she’s expecting “thousands of people” to see it.

Looking further ahead, she said she hopes to take some time off but eventually apply to a graduate program for art and education.

For the fate of her cloud paintings after the thesis show, she hopes they sell at the reception. Van Ravenswaay said when you work with a subject, it tends to stop being interesting.

“Looking and focusing on something everyday, the same piece of work, things stop changing,” Van Ravenswaay said.

The reception for her BFA show will be at the Dorsky on Friday, April 27 from 5 to 7 p.m.