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Schmitz’s 'departure' receives Best of Show at Monmouth exhibit

Barry McNamara
Samantha Schmitz ’16 of Elmwood Park, Ill. has reason to smile. Her work "I'm Not Hungry" (pictured) took home Best of Show in the College’s recently concluded juried art exhibit.
Monmouth College art major Samantha Schmitz ’16 of Elmwood Park, Ill., deviated from her normal routine, and the result was capturing Best of Show in the College’s recently concluded juried art exhibit.

Schmitz, who said she is “mostly a painter with some three-dimensional tendencies,” last year completed a series of sculptures that explored the problem of eating disorders.

Her winning work, I’m Not Hungry, is a six-inch sandwich made of cast aluminum and cut and bent sheet metal. Created for her “Critique” class last fall, one could say it was an acquired taste.

“It was not well-received in class, actually,” Schmitz said. “I didn’t know if it would get into the show, to be honest.”

But the juror, Monmouth Emerita Professor of Art Cheryl Meeker, was struck by the piece, even though its intended meaning was not apparent outside the context of the rest of the pieces in the series.

Schmitz said she finally felt she was “at a point in my life when I could make art about” eating disorders, which claimed the life of one of her friends and “is something that has kind of followed me throughout my life.”

“It was important for me to do this,” she said. “It was a real departure from the majority of the work I do, which is primarily abstract geometric work. That’s more of my personal aesthetic and what I’m drawn to.”

Schmitz’s journey at Monmouth is just a few days away from completion, as the transfer student will graduate after finishing her ninth semester of college. She started off at an art and design school in New York City, but after one year she realized she wasn’t yet ready to choose the required specific path.

After attending community college for a summer, she enrolled at Monmouth in fall 2013 and has come to appreciate what the College has to offer.

“I really loved the campus and the whole liberal arts idea,” Schmitz said. “I think it’s really important to gain inspiration from other fields outside of art.”

Schmitz credits the College’s art faculty for doing “an incredible job.”

“I feel very prepared to enter the art world,” she said. “I’ve been put into a lot of situations, and I feel I can handle just about anything. The professors have also become really good friends. It’s nice when you can make such close bonds with your professors.”

Schmitz hopes to land a job at a community art center or a small-town gallery.

“I’m looking forward to being an advocate for art within a community and helping other artists, while also continuing to create my own art,” said Schmitz, who designed this year’s Monmouth College Christmas card.

Hannah Weis ’19 of Aledo, Ill., won a pair of awards at the juried show, having the top entry in the drawing and painting categories.

Other award winners included: Nick Calloway ’18, design; Ellen Johnson ’17 of Kewanee, Ill., photography; Gabrielle General ’17 of Skokie, Ill, sculpture; Kendall Thompson ’17 of Galesburg, Ill., ceramics; and Lily Guillen ’18 of Round Lake, Ill., mixed media.