I had never been to Kutztown University, so I was quite excited when I was asked to make the trip to review a soon-to-be grad’s final project. Kutztown is a significant Central Pennsylvania University in a quaint setting. It is surrounded by farmland like many Pennsylvania towns, and inside has shop-lined streets catering to college students and university employees. A little early and in dire need of caffeine, I entered Uptown Espresso Bar…and then promptly exited after reading a sign that said, “We don’t accept cards. We’re not sorry.” Onward to the University!
When I arrived at the Sharadin Art Building, Denise Bosler, the professor of the student I’d be reviewing, greeted me in the parking lot. She handed me a parking pass, assuring me that she’d taken every precaution as the campus police could get a little excited about ticketing during finals. We walked into the beautiful gallery building and around a window-lit hallway, ending near Kalyn Kepner’s exhibit.
Kalyn invited me by the recommendation of one of her fellow graduating students and an old colleague of mine. She is also familiar with some of my friends and clientele from the Lancaster area, so we chatted about our small world for a bit. Then, Kalyn started giving me background on her exhibit. “I love people’s stories,” said Kalyn, as she explained the premise for her piece. She told me that she polled a series of friends and classmates using social media and asked them a few questions. Among these were, “What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” and “What is a story that someone told you that you haven’t forgotten?”. “You’re a documentarian,” I said, and she smiled. I smiled too. I am always refreshed by those who seek information and stories about humankind.
Kalyn led Denise and I toward a wall adorned with 3” x 5” postcards. Each postcard had a single, unique illustration on it that told an entire story she received from a respondent. Denise looked giddy as she had seen this entire process of discovery before and was excited that I was experiencing it.
Kalyn grabbed a card off the wall that featured a drawing of two cacti interacting in their respective pots. She turned the card over to reveal a small amoeba inscribed on the back. “It’s a technology called fiducial,” she said, and she spelled it out for me as I wrote it down. We walked over to a small, finished, poplar box and laid the card in it. (I assume) a small camera mounted atop the box took a picture and translated that into a unique audiovisual show on the screen. It featured a story, line by line, and a tastefully animated version of the illustration next to it. I sat and watched the words of the story appear and marveled at the execution and innovation that Kalyn exhibited in putting this piece together. It encouraged…no…demanded my interaction, and I loved it.
I spent the next half hour grabbing card after card, soaking in her illustrations and watching them turn into the supporting stories on the television. I imagined a foot-worn pathway like a forked tributary from the television back to the wall holding the 72 postcards.
“I wanted to do 100 cards,” Kalyn confessed. “I think 72 is perfect.” I said.
Kalyn told me more about her process and the technology she incorporated. She showed me some of her other artwork including a book comprised of wartime letters passed back and forth between her family members. It was phenomenal and I didn’t want to put it down.
Reviewing work of students, and for that matter teaching my craft, has always been a passion of mine. I had the good fortune of teaching for about two years at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design in the realms of advertising, motion graphics, and animation. I felt honored that I was invited to view this lovely and novel exhibit at this gorgeous university, and I hope that Kalyn Kepner’s dreams come true as she accepts the great honor of her degree and continues to do what she loves, inspiring people like me along the way.