Arts & Culture Editor
Katie McKinnell, senior art major, loved design at an early age. Her mother was a graphic designer and would often let McKinnell propose her own designs for clients.
“I grew up just kind of in that world; I got to help with projects starting when I was in middle school,” she said. “[My mom] would have me make up little mock drafts of posters or things when she was kind of stuck. I would be in her office, and she would show me her sketches for a logo that she was supposed to be designing, and then I would be like, ‘Well, this is how I would do it!’”
When McKinnell began studying at GC, graphic design was the obvious choice. An art major, however, extends beyond graphic design and includes courses about other media and art history.
“Just getting exposed to all of this contemporary art and earlier art too—everything about it was so exciting,” she said. “I always thought I wanted to be a graphic designer and not an artist, but now I would definitely aspire to be an artist.”
McKinnell says she really values the diversity of her education at GC because it exposed her to many types of media beyond graphic design.
“When you’re an art major, you have to take all of the art history courses and you have to take drawing, figure drawing and a 3D design course,” McKinnell said. “I think that is really good because it gives you a balance.”
Studying other media has increased her expertise in graphic design and has enabled her to pull ideas from other media, such as jewelry or ceramic design, incorporating those designs into her own work.
The courses McKinnell took at the college have been extremely influential on her art and her worldview, but the community of fellow artists at the college has been no less influential.
“I think it’s super helpful to be working with other art students and see what they’re doing, especially being able to see the process more than the end result,” McKinnell said. “You can go anywhere and see an end result, but really getting to watch the process and kind of understand what’s going on is my favorite part about working with other art students.”
This March, McKinnell will present a show with several other senior art students to exhibit her work. She plans to work primarily with collage and graphic design for the upcoming show. Though much of her design work in the past has been functional, she wants to move beyond that for her senior show.
“I’m interested in more illustrative pieces and things that are functional but don’t necessarily have an advertising focus or a marketing focus,” she said. “I’m more interested in making things that show women.”
McKinnell plans to create tangible, usable items for her show.
“My two pieces that I have envisioned now for graphic design are a deck of playing cards that removes men from the hierarchy…and then I also want to make a calendar that focuses on women,” she said. “I remember reading somewhere that the very first [calendars were] made by women to track their menstrual cycles.”
Creating art gives McKinnell energy, and she gets excited about the work she does in classes because she is able to choose where she directs her focus. For McKinnell, an important way to use her freedom, energy and creativity is to portray women in her work.
“I think the human body is very beautiful, especially women’s bodies, and I think it is a practice of self-appreciation and self-respect to celebrate women,” she said. “In the current political climate, [there is a] need to celebrate women, especially women of color.”
McKinnell, along with several other senior art majors, will present her work from Mar. 31 to Apr. 19 in the Hershberger Gallery in the Music Center.