Professor Nancy Ohanian dissects creativity and art at Digital Scholarship Center

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In the hopes of dissecting the elusive concept of creativity, Rowan’s Digital Scholarship Center (DSC) hosted graphic artist and art professor Nancy Ohanian for a talk titled “The Art of Play, Experimenting and Mistakes.”

Held Thursday in the Campbell Library, the event was organized by DSC Coordinator Mike Benson.

“I wanted to give people the opportunity to meet Nancy, someone who lives a real creative life and is at the top of her game,” he said. “I wanted people to know what it means to live a creative life and understand a little better about what the process of creating is.”

To give a peek into her own creative life, Ohanian had her artwork hung throughout the room and displayed on PowerPoint presentations. Much of her art is comprised of cartoon-like graphics done with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

A typical Ohanian piece takes a prominent political figure  President Donald Trump, for instance  and lampoons them in an outlandish but recognizable manner. One piece presented at the talk, titled “Mr. Putin You Got Mail,” showed Vladimir Putin maliciously looking at emails, with Trump at his feet depicted as a set of Russian Matryoshka dolls.

“I’ve gotten the question, ‘How can you do these drawings,’ and I say you can do anything if you have a smile on your face,” Ohanian said, referring to the raw feelings and responses that may rise to the surface as a result of her politically charged works. “If nothing is real — these are cartoons, after all  then all things are possible.”

On the subject of creativity, Ohanian stressed looking outside of one’s self and developing habits for a new perspective.

“As we grow up, we make unconscious choices and develop all these patterns, habits and routines that we don’t even think about,” she said.

Getting out of this self-imposed rut, according to Ohanian, involves asking yourself questions: “Do I have to do it that way? Do I have to think that way? Where did that thought come from, and why did I start thinking like that?”

This line of reasoning extends to how Ohanian views mistakes in her work, diverging away from the normal concept of what a mistake really means.

“Mistakes are just stuff I didn’t use this time,” she said.

Sophomore music performance major Steve Solkela found a kindred spirit in Ohanian.

“I was enlightened to hear a person who makes a career with art and shares a similar mind-type to my own,” he said. “Someone who’s a creative thinker and not critical about the creative aspects of her mind.”

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