Senior Spotlight: Gunnar Olav Van Guilder

Posted on May 19th, 2020 by

The “Senior Spotlight” series honors graduating fine arts majors for their contributions to the Gustavus community. 

Gunnar Olav Van Guilder is a studio art major from Hudson, Wis. Next fall he plans to look for art-related work and eventually attend graduate school. Associate Professor in Art and Art History Betsy Byers saw Gunnar’s potential right away as a student in her first term seminar course. “His understanding of figure/ground and color were particularly strong for a first year student,” she says. “As his advisor over the years I watched Gunnar as he matured into those strengths. His senior exhibition demonstrates how he is able to utilize color and space to evoke moods and environments that are palpable.”

We asked Gunnar to give us a little insight into his time at Gustavus and how he’s continuing her art while living off-campus.

What do you look forward to most about life after Gustavus?
GV: After graduating, I am looking forward to settling into my art studio at home and making it more fit for my work. I am excited to have a (hopefully) more relaxed schedule and more time to work on art.

What will you miss most about art at Gustavus?
GV: I will miss walking the halls of the art building, my amazing professors, and the tools and amenities available at school.

Can you tell us about a favorite memory you have from studying art at Gustavus?
GV: My favorite memory studying art would be the visiting professors through the Groot Foundation and their friendships and artistic guidance. Most memorable being a summer intern program with sculptor Andrew Hellmund and the senior major trip to St. Louis, Mo. with sculptor Jacob Stanley.

Can you tell us a story about what it’s been like to continue to produce art at home?
GV: Being at home, I have less space and less tools than I had at Gustavus in the senior studio. I had a large painting I wanted to complete for the senior exhibition, but without a large easel, I propped the painting on a couch to paint. Not having tools to create canvas stretchers forced me to find new surfaces to work on, so I began working with wood and plywood panels. I think there have been both positive and negative aspects to being away from Gustavus.

What professor has made the biggest impact on you and why?
GV: I think each professor has made a significant impact, each in different ways. But, I have spent most time throughout the years with my advisor and painting professor Betsy Byers, so she has probably had the biggest impact if I am being honest. Betsy’s classes incorporate unexpected exercises that challenge the way we think or create. I think her classes always nurtured my own creativity and the activities and exercises challenged me to think differently about what art is and how it can be made.

Visiting professors Andrew Hellmund and Jacob Stanley have also made a large impact on my artwork during their time at Gustavus. Being able to spend a lot of time in the studio and seeing how they work as living-artists has been helpful to my understanding about how working as an artist might be like after potentially graduating a graduate school for art.

View Gunnar’s works in Despite Distance…Senior Studio Art Majors Exhibition 2020.


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