A passion for art developed early in life for Harlee Mollenkopf ’17. As a child, she would visit the darkroom with her grandmother, who worked as a graphic design professor at a technical college and always encouraged her granddaughter’s artistic endeavors.
“When I said I wanted to be an art major, she didn’t say, ‘You’re not going to make any money.’ She said, ‘I’m so happy for you,’” Mollenkopf, a studio art major from Mount Gilead, Ohio, recalled.
Mollenkopf’s dedication to her craft has been recognized by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (AICUO), which honored her this year with its Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts (EVA). Mollenkopf and Morgan MacDonell ’17, a studio art major from Gambier, were chosen by the Department of Studio Art to enter the statewide art competition.
Mollenkopf works in a variety of media, including photography, textile printing and cyanotypes. Her art has been shaped by her experiences with Kenyon faculty members. In a “Photography of Invention” course last spring, Professor of Art Greg Spaid ’68 pushed his students to experiment and take risks, which motivated Mollenkopf. “It was a really good jumping-off point for my body of work now,” she said.
Professor of Art Marcella Hackbardt worked with Mollenkopf for the last two years and was her advisor for the studio art senior seminar last fall, helping Mollenkopf develop both her technical skills as well as her artistic vision.
“That semester I really found my voice,” Mollenkopf added. “Sometimes you can make art and it’s just about things in general, and you try to speak for a lot of people. But you have to find this voice for yourself, and that ends up speaking to a lot of people more. That semester I made art that was a lot more personal, and Marcel helped me to keep going with that.”
Hackbardt attests to Mollenkopf’s dedication to her craft. “All of the studio art faculty admire her work, her open and positive personality, her integrity and creative excellence,” Hackbardt said. “She is curious, intelligent, thoughtful and diligent. Professor Greg Spaid once aptly told me, ‘Harlee pays attention to the smallest detail and the broadest concept.’”
Spaid also has noticed Mollenkopf’s commitment as an artist throughout her career. “Harlee has one of the strongest work ethics I have seen in a Kenyon studio art student,” he said. “She is very focused on her goal and puts in the time needed to bring those all-important refinements to her art work.”
A sample of Mollenkopf’s work is on display until May 20 at the Gund Gallery’s senior exercise exhibition. In the fall, Mollenkopf will attend Mills College in Oakland, California, where she will pursue a master of fine arts.
—Elana Spivack ’17