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Arts & Entertainment

Facing Your Genes

by Jackson Bicknell, staff writer

Freshman Emily Bader. Photo by Jackson Bicknell

I have a big family. Growing up, we were all privileged to live within close proximity of each other in New England. Often I look at members of my family, who share a portion of my genetic code, to help me explain attributes of myself. I have been graced with the stubbornness of my mother and the impulsivity of my father. Of course I didn’t inherit everything from my parents. I notice this during the holidays when I am surrounded by the rest of my family. Some are lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, models, construction workers and artists. With confidence, I can say that I contain a little bit of everyone and they a bit of me. I’m thankful that I have a reference for my insanities.

“It’s something I have been waiting my entire life for,” said Emily. Emily Bader, a freshman at the college, has never met her biological parents. Emily was adopted by Ginny and Andy who reside in Boston, Massachusetts. Specifically, Harvard Square. Emily doesn’t like the mentality of a city. “People are always too anxious and busy to pause and be genuine,” she said, “there is nothing intimate about it.” Drawing people is congruent with her need to feel a connection with people.

“There are so many expressions that a face can have,” Emily said. It doesn’t matter what the person at the time may be feeling, but “I always end up subconsciously drawing how I feel.” Emily projects her mood into the subject of her paintings. She says, “It’s quite therapeutic.”

“The mood I’m feeling subconsciously surfaces in the faces of my subjects,” Emily said. Looking over Emily’s drawings I cannot help but feel a deep connection between her and the subject. It’s almost as though a subconscious dialogue helped Emily to manifest herself in the subject. “I like to feel connected to people,” she said.

Abstract impressionism is how I choose to categorize Emily’s art. One of my favorite pieces of Emily’s is her abstract TV painting. “I used to watch a lot of TV when I was younger. “Deviating from television helped me to realize how seriously it is taken by others…” said Emily.

“The faces aren’t real on TV,” Emily said, “there is no connection.”

Emily had a period of time, before attending the college, where she was creating a lot of ceramics work. “I used to make my mom these bizarre teacups with faces on them,” Emily said, “sometimes they were a bit disturbing.”

“Faces are what stay in my memory the most,” said Emily, “there is so much expression in a face.” Emily’s facial features in her artwork are highly detailed and often over exaggerated to foster an impression. 

When Emily draws people from life, she explains an inherent dialogue that exists between her and the subject. She captures the essence of the individual, while planting some parts of herself within the work.

“The expressions of a face are always different,” Emily said. “Expressions resonate so differently with people.” 

Emily is fascinated by how a facial expression can be interpreted. She believes that the way we internalize faces is directly correlated to our mood. It’s through Emily’s interpretation of people’s faces that allow her to express her mood. “Subconsciously I usually end up drawing facial expressions that parallel how I am feeling in that moment,” she said.

“I really want to meet my biological parents,” Emily said. “I feel like seeing them would help explain the way I am.” Emily just got in contact with her birth parents this summer. In a letter Emily found out that her artistic gene was no accident. “Everyone on my birth father’s side is making a living off of art and are quite successful. Some are photographers, a few are teachers at RISD [Rhode Island School of Design] and my Grandma is a sculptor.”

Hearing this, I immediately thought of the countless times I would make fun of my dad for acting like my Grandpa Birdly. In which case he would respond, “You know Jackson, you cannot escape your genes, no matter how hard you try.” Emily is living proof of this.

“I haven’t written him back,” she said, “I’m afraid.” Emily has lived her whole life without knowing where she got her big eyes, or her facetious sense of humor.

Although I may never outgrow some inherited qualities, for better or for worse, I am proud to be a Bicknell male.

“I have been waiting my entire life just to understand,” she said. “I have never been so terrified and so excited all at once.”

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