Student Spotlight: Multitalented artist Emily Neely '17

by Mikey LeDoux | 11/3/16 12:00am


Emily Neely ’17’s love of art started as a child when she would hand-copy pictures of horses, her favorite animals, from encyclopedias and books. Her mother noticed her proclivity for drawing and painting and suggested she attend an arts high school, where she concentrated on visual art. As a studio art minor at Dartmouth, she has continued to develop her style and technique while trying to find the intersection between her interests in sociology and art.

When she matriculated to Dartmouth, Neely wanted to take a break from art since her high school was so intensive. However, in her freshman winter she decided to take Drawing I with Enrico Riley.

“I realized then how much I missed it and wanted to do a minor,” Neely said. “Art is something that I’ve been involved with for most of my life, but I just didn’t think I was going to do it in college.”

Neely has always been attracted to drawing animals, so taking Figure Drawing with Brenda Garand was out of her comfort zone, but getting to constantly practice with models was invaluable.

Taking Painting II with Riley also pushed Neely to grow as an artist because she had been on a hiatus from painting. At home, she does not get to paint because of the many materials and lengthy set-up it requires. Dartmouth is the one place where she can explore this medium, utilizing all of the resources available through the department and Black Family Visual Arts Center.

Neely is particularly inspired by artists like Kiki Smith and Enrique Martínez Celaya. Martínez Celaya is currently the Roth Distinguished Visiting Scholar and will be working and teaching at the College for 10 months. As part of her studio art class, Neely was able to visit his studio and see his works in progress.

“The common theme in their work is that they depict figures and animals ­­­— I am drawn to that,” Neely said. “They handle them in a way that is unique and not photorealistic, which is what I want to do in my work.”

Danielle Jones ’17, Neely’s friend and longtime roommate, has enjoyed seeing the happiness creating art brings to Neely.

“I know it’s very labor intensive, but I know she enjoys doing it,” Jones said. “I think that shows through [her art] somehow.”

While on the art history Foreign Study Program in Rome, Italy her junior spring, Neely enjoyed seeing the details of works by the old masters in person. She learned from the skill and technique demonstrated in the art and has tried to incorporate those lessons into her own work.

“[In the program], we focused on the artists — how they think and make art,” Neely said. “Looking at frescoes, which you have to paint very quickly, we realized that the artists had to know what they were painting, and they did it with such skill.”

Neely has made an impression on the studio art professors she has taken classes with, such as studio art professor Colleen Randall, with whom Neely took Drawing II and is currently taking Painting II.

“What I was first impressed with when I was working with her last fall was her sense of imagination and humor,” Randall said. “She’s also able to place detail in the context of a larger picture — that really characterizes her work.”

Randall found Neely’s Drawing II final project particularly striking. Neely created a 3-D sculpture using huge drawings of elephants and oriented them in a circle, reminiscent of the effects of a kaleidoscope.

“She’s very insightful and sensitive to reading visual images, both her own as well as her classmates’ work,” Randall said. “She has a very thorough comprehension of the underlying principles and structure of what drives the work of art that she’s working on.”

Neely’s creative mind is not only exercised in studio art classes but also permeates her life and how she interacts with others.

“Her creativity doesn’t stop at just her amazing art skills, but I see it in her style, in group projects or classroom discussions,” Erika Johnson ’17, a friend of Neely’s and fellow sociology major, said.

As a sociology major, Neely has become interested in community outreach work, especially related to the arts. Fortunately, as an Outreach Intern at the Hopkins Center, she has been able to gain hands-on experience, which has exposed her to the business and administrative side of art.

Being involved with the Hop has been fulfilling for Neely and has reinforced her interest in pursuing an arts-related career in the future.

“The Hop is such a creative environment,” Neely said. “There’s a mentality there that is different and open.”

Brandea Turner, senior events manager and internship coordinator at the Hop, has worked with Neely throughout her time as an usher, house manager and now as an outreach intern. The internship program provides experience in departments across the Hop and also involves writing for the center’s blog. The program culminates in a trip to New York City, which gives the interns insight into how arts administration works in other places.

“This internship has opened [Neely’s] eyes to [an] arts career,” Turner said. “It has allowed her to explore the idea of what arts can do in a community and what her role could be.”

Turner appreciates the creative skills Neely brings to the Hop. Neely designed the invitation for the Great Hop Halloween Hunt, the scavenger hunt sponsored by the Hop's interns, Turner said.

“She brings her knowledge [of art] to the Hop, and then she is learning from the Hop to direct her future steps,” Turner said.

Neely’s internship has solidified her desire to work in a field that will allow her to explore arts as a way to serve communities, she said.