Student Spotlight: studio art major Kelsey Phares ’17

by Emma Guo | 1/13/17 2:20am


In her abstract painting based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s "Fallingwater," Kelsey Phares ’17 uses wood as a canvas.

If you wander into the Black Family Visual Arts Center at 3:00 a.m. on most weekdays, you’ll likely find a cluster of studio art students working or studying ­— among them Kelsey Phares ’17.

Phares took her first studio art class in the winter of her freshman year and liked it so much, she signed up for more.

Phares’ primary medium is sculpture, but she dabbles in other forms, such as photography and painting. Her work focuses primarily on shapes, specifically the texture, material and feelings that she believes they evoke.

Phares said that she most enjoys creating sculptures and architecture projects, especially out of wood.

Her favorite classes in the studio art department have been “Sculpture I” and “Photography I.” Though both required long hours in the VAC, Phares said that her culminating projects were very rewarding.

For her “Photography I” final project, Phares created a series of portraits of people of color, focusing on lighting and highlighting the personalities of her subjects.

Amara Ihionu ’17, who took the class with Phares, said “she centered her subjects in a very dignified, simplistic way.”

In her photography, Phares highlights body shapes through strategic placement and contrast with the background. She said that some of her favorite photographs were taken during the transition between poses.

In one photograph, the camera caught a glimmer of light shining on the subject from the corner of the photograph.

“When I ended up printing it, it looked like there were sparkles or stars coming out,” Phares said. “It was a great accident.”

Phares also noted that her art is not representational but rather driven by shapes and aesthetics.

“It’s art for art’s sake, and art for my own sake,” Phares said. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I like simplicity, and I think that other people like simplicity.”

In the studio, Phares works tirelessly to perfect her art for nights on end. Despite the sleep deprivation and dark walks home, she finds solace in her work, stating that it is not nearly as bad as staying up studying for an exam (or three).

“I’ve gotten really stressed out from other classes at Dartmouth, and it felt like studio art was the only thing to save me,” Phares said.

Due to the variety of classes she has taken in the department and the work she completed in different mediums, Phares has grown closer to her studio art peers.

“She’s great to have in the studio,” Ihionu said. “We bounce ideas off each other, and it’s great to have someone to commiserate with in the studio when you’re there for really long hours.”

While studio art may seem like a narrow field, Phares has found that it has helped her develop character and succeed in other aspects of life. She explained that within the first two weeks of “Drawing I,” she overcame her inability to take criticism. As an artist, she now takes and gives constructive criticism extensively, always seeking to improve her work and help others do the same.

Phares also stated that the value of taking courses in the department goes beyond the studio.

“Art classes help you learn about time management, collaboration and dedication,” Phares said. “You start to figure out the processes of building something, and it really comes in handy.”

In the future, Phares may pursue a career in consulting, but she is also considering a graduate program in product design in the United States or Finland.

With a background in engineering, art and business, Phares feels that product design combines all the aspects of art she likes the most.

“It also makes me feel less guilty about being an art major,” Phares said.

With a graduate degree in product design, Phares will be able to pursue jobs such as consulting and enter the business world while doing what she loves.