Blair Katherine Betik is a rising junior studying Art History at Southern Methodist University, hailing from Ennis, Texas. She chose to create a video based on an Albert Bierstadt painting from 1870 called Rocky Mountain Landscape. Her final product, titled “Rapturous and Romantic: Albert Bierstadt and Christina Rossetti’s Natural World” featured a voice-over of the 19th century British poet’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?” as well as historical information on the paintings of the Hudson Valley School, coupled with shots of a serene woodland setting.
Lauren Blankenship took a different yet similarly personal approach in her video reflection on Georgia O’Keeffe’s Mountain at Bear Lake – Taos (1930). As a local student at Portland State University, she drew on the personal connections she felt to O’Keeffe’s nature-based painting by recording her grandfather singing a traditional logging song while showing scenes from her local landscape. This “soundtrack of the past,” as she called it, helps to express her relationship with her surrounding environment today.
Choosing to reflect on a much more recent acquisition to the White House’s collection, Mekia Machine filmed the process of rendering “Alma’s Portrait,” a painting produced by the videographer herself that depicts artist Alma Thomas, whose Resurrection hangs in the newly-renovated Private Dining Room of the White House. She was enrolled at Columbia University as a political science major in fall 2005, when she left school to teach music to children. She has since re-entered the university in the Visual Arts department, and her video featured a song called “The Sunshine” by her young music students.
Natalia Gabrielsen, a graduate student of Art History at the University of Arizona, was eager to use the competition as an opportunity to investigate O’Keeffe’s artistic practice through the lens of her native environment in Arizona. “The first paper I wrote in graduate school addressed art in the Oval Office as a vehicle of political display, so I was thrilled to work on this project,” Gabrielsen wrote in her accompanying personal statement. “As someone who has spent a significant portion of my life in the Southwestern United States, Mountain at Bear Lake – Taos… deeply resonated with me. I wanted to speak to my region and represent its beauty to the country.”
Sotheby’s graduate student Qiong “Voyo” Wu chose the most contemporary of the works, Robert Rauschenberg’s Early Bloomer [Anagram (A Pun)] (1998), to inspire her video “America = Combines.” In comparing Rauschenberg’s “combine” technique to America as a whole, she argues that his amalgamation of different media into a cohesive piece parallels the way the country is composed of immigrants from different backgrounds and cultures that form one diverse community.