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Clarke Hall
Virginia Wesleyan College
1584 Wesleyan Drive
Norfolk , VA 23502
Phone: 757.455.3359
Fax: 757.233.8743


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Student Research Projects

The Ocean's Cathedral (Wave imagery as a metaphor)

Student Ellen Bryant
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Art
Course ART 450: Studio Art Seminar


The great painter Thomas Moran (1837-1926) was one of the first to document the unseen west in the United States. Moran captured the grand scale and the shockingly beautiful hues of this land on his canvas; his passion for the land was expressed clearly in his paintings of the Grand Canyon. Painters in the Hudson River School believed that nature itself was an ineffable manifestation of God.( Though the artists varied in the depth of their religious conviction all sought to capture a sense of awe in their work. Other painters have tried to capture this same sense of awe through other means. Colorist painters such as Mark Rothko and Joseph Albers were able to relate such content through subtle relationships between large expanses of nonrepresentational color.

In reference to American masters such as those listed above it is my intention to make a series of paintings in an attempt to relate a sense of awe or appreciation of nature, more specifically “the wave”, which is how I feel about the ocean. One cannot argue that these wind powered forces aren’t beautiful to look at, therefore, my goal is not to create decorative work, it is for every person to look at my paintings of the ocean waves and to feel something of what the surfer feels when she is at the ocean’s mercy. Surfers and surf culture are both widely known to have a spiritual affinity for waves. At the heart of the renowned surf culture in Huntington Beach California is a painter by the name of Howard Kirk. His function as a “culture creator” has him included in the surf hall of fame there. An avid surfer himself, Mr. Kirk’s portrayal of waves successfully relates the same sense of awe of Hudson River School landscapes.

I traveled to Howard Kirk's studio in San Clemente and spent a week working with him in his studio to inform my own series of wave paintings. It was not my goal to learn his style, but to borrow from his work habits, references, and use of color to inform my own particular approach to depicting waves. What I learned from Howard Kirk was more valuable than any painting technique could ever be. He opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. A new way of thinking that positively affected my paintings, and myself. From this, I have created a series of wave paintings for my senior thesis body of artwork that explores the possibilities of color and wave imagery to create a sense of wonder and awe in relation to nature.


VWC Undergraduate Research Grant

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