ELLIE NGO is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Florida pursuing a dual degree in art history and chemistry with the anticipation of eventually becoming an art conservationist. In her student statement she wrote: I would consider myself an academically driven student. I graduated summa cum laude with an International Baccalaureate degree in 2019 and have since been accepted in and am still enrolled in the honors program at UF. In addition to pushing myself academically by pursuing a dual degree I have also been involved in several extracurricular activities.
I have had experience working with people in art-centric environments having volunteered at both the Dali museum in St. Petersburg and being involved with the Museum University Student Educator (MUSE) program at the Harn museum. During my time at the Dali I worked at the museum audio guide desk managing and distributing the audio tour technology, I also served as general guest assistance answering any questions about the gallery. At the Harn I worked closely with other MUSEs to plan, create, and run local museum nights which entails trying to engage and teach crowds of all ages and all skill levels in art related activities. Currently I am also an intern at the Harn museum in the registrar department.
Additionally, I have been involved in two research projects that have focused on an interdisciplinary approach to art. I aided in a project where we recreated a Kandinsky painting using organic molecules. I also worked on a different project with that same lab and was published as a co-author on a paper which I have attached a link to below. I am currently working on a research project with Dr. Eakta Jain here at UF where she is eye-tracking how people look at paintings and comics to analyze how people process visual information.
Despite focusing on art history because it is my primary passion, I also have a background in technical art. Previously I attended extracurricular sketching and painting classes at the Morean arts center in St. Petersburg as well as having been enrolled in two years of IB higher level art classes. As further testament to my technical skill my accolades include receiving a scholastic gold key in districts for the art competition as well as winning the top award in the visual metaphors show at the Museum of Fine arts St. Petersburg.
Overall, I think that I am a very driven individual who is willing to always put my best into everything I set out to do. This scholarship would also help me greatly because I am currently paying for college by myself and am trying to do so without being a financial burden to my parents. And so, I hope that you will consider me for the Spring 2021 scholarship.
Here is her winning essay in response to this prompt: Compare Frederic Whitaker’s 1966 watercolors, painted during a disastrous fire season in California : “Crown Fire , Grazing Sheep” and “Fire in the Mountains.” *
Frederic Whitaker’s paintings “Crown Fire, Grazing Sheep” 1966 and “Fire in the Mountains” 1966 most likely depicted the Loop Fire of 1966. This can be concluded from the fact that the Whitakers moved to La Jolla, California in 1965 which is only about two hours from where the Loop Fire occurred in Angeles National Forest (Cox). Further supporting this is the title bestowed upon one of the paintings “crown fire” which reflects the method that the fire was spread. Crown fires are known for being especially malicious spreading much more rapidly than normal fires from treetop to treetop blown by the wind. With this established, Whitaker depicts this disastrous event from two different evaluations through the use of brush technique, composition, and symbolism to juxtapose the inherent qualities of tragedy and hope associated with fire.
It is clear that Whitaker used different techniques to achieve the effects in his paintings “Crown Fire, Grazing Sheep” has an overall much smoother look to it suggesting that Whitaker primarily used a wet-on-wet method to paint this, conversely “Fire in the Mountains” has areas where the brushstrokes are visible signifying that Whitaker went over this painting with dry-brushing techniques to add some of the detailing to this piece. The dry brush has the effect of making the smoke look much denser, combined with the darker coloring it gives one the impression that this smoke is suffocating and is a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, the light coloring and whimsical blending of the smoke in “Crown Fire, Grazing Sheep” is idyllic in comparison and could almost be mistaken for clouds were it not for the flashes of red in the mountains. This represents how from afar fire is a beautiful and majestic thing, but “Fire in the Mountains” reminds us of how cruel it can be.
The composition also serves to represent the duality of fire. “Crown Fire, Grazing Sheep” is composed mainly of horizontals with a lack of verticals or diagonals that generally would create tension in a piece, resulting in a serene and fairly smooth landscape. Long orthogonal perspective lines put distance between the viewer and the fire giving one a sense of security. In stark contrast, there are no orthogonals in “Fire in the Mountain”, perspective is blocked by the smoke thus eliminating all sense of distance and putting the viewer directly in the fire. There is an abundance of dynamic diagonals both in the sloped landscape and the plumes of smoke which move in all directions as opposed to the uniform smoke of the other piece. The shortening of space combined with the increase in movement creates an almost claustrophobic environment that conveys the peril of the situation.
Finally, there is possibly some symbolism within these paintings alluding specifically to the situation that occurred during the Loop Fire of 1966. The Loop Fire is infamous for being particularly deadly resulting in the death of twelve of the firefighters sent to battle it (countryman). Whitaker has chosen to make “Fire in the Mountains” much more blue based and cool-toned in contrast to “Crown Fire, Grazing Sheep”, but has also amped up the intensity of his oranges creating a color palette based on complementary colors in which the fire seems to be in opposition with the rest of the painting perhaps symbolizing the fight against the fire itself. Something else that must be discussed is Whitaker’s inclusion of sheep in “Crown Fire, Grazing Sheep”. Why particularly sheep and not any other type of livestock? Out of all animals, lambs have a particularly strong symbolic association that started with Christian connotations but has become so popular that it has become a pop culture symbol of innocence (Protas). This is perhaps a tribute to the innocent lives lost during the fire including the twelve firemen. And so, the symbolism in “Fire in the Mountains” represents the active battle whereas “Crown Fire, Grazing Sheep” is the more passive side, honoring those lost.
Overall, Whitaker’s paintings taken jointly represent a sort of yin and yang depiction of the Loop Fire of 1966 with each depicting a side of the fire but still containing parts of the other. “Fire in the Mountains” characterizes the brutality and force of fire, but it is still depicting the undeniable splendor and grandeur of fire. Whereas “Crown Fire, Grazing Sheep” focuses on the beauty of nature and shows how even terrible things from afar are lovely, but the fire in the background still communicates a small sense of foreboding. These two paintings together illustrate the complexity of emotion associated with fire and together they tell one whole story.
Countryman, C. M., Fosberg, M. A., Rothermel, R. C., & Schroeder, M. J. (1968). Fire weather and fire behavior in the 1966 loop fire. Fire Technology, 4(2), 126-141. doi:10.1007/bf02588629
Cox, Barbara (2019). The Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Foundation. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from https://whitakerwatercolors.org/frederic/biography/
Protas, A. (2001). University of Michigan Dictionary of Symbolism. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from http://umich.edu/~umfandsf/symbolismproject/symbolism.html/L/lamb.html