Student Artist Spotlight: Erika Nally ‘22 discusses abstract art as a therapeutic outlet during the pandemic

Erika Nally ’22 uses her background in engineering and architectural studies to emphasize structure and space in her artwork. (Photo courtesy of Erika Nally ’22)

Erika Nally ’22 might have entered Lafayette as an engineering student—but she quickly realized that something greater was missing from her life. That something was art.

“I actually switched over completely to studio art as my major,” she said. “The space I’ve been given here is a great opportunity to continue from where I left off with my experience in high school, and I can now visualize my career path and my future.”

For many years, art has been an important creative outlet for Nally. However, it wasn’t until she came to Lafayette that she realized it was the path she wanted to take for her life. 

“In high school, I focused a lot on painting and some sculpture. But in my mind, it was really more of a side hobby than it was something to really pursue,” Nally explained. 

Nally’s background in engineering, along with her current pursuit of a minor in architectural studies, has given her a unique perspective on the importance of structure and space in art when it comes to “influencing people and setting the tone for scenes.”

During her time in Lafayette’s art program, Nally said she has developed a love for abstract expression.

“In the past, I’ve been focused more on descriptive, detailed, natural scenes. But I’ve realized that, the better I get at realistic paintings of animals and nature, I’m craving this more abstract outlet,” she said. “So currently, my body of work mostly focuses on breaking that urge I have to make this hyper realistic painting, and letting the process take more control of the outcome then a piece of reference.”

Nally has used her more “technical art skills” to create prints for Durham Press, which she hopes will provide her with a “sustainable way to move through the world.”

Looking towards the future, Nally said she hopes to have her art displayed in galleries in New York one day.

“I live near Manhattan, which is pretty much the art hub of the United States,” she explained. “I’m very privileged to live in an area that has galleries and museums for me to reach out to.” 

For all art students, the pandemic has made studying and creating art difficult. For instance, the virtual school year has made it so that Nally’s pieces could not be displayed as they normally would.  Despite this, Nally said she still has a positive attitude about the experience and is looking forward to the future.

“It has been a good challenge to push myself to make more stuff on my own terms,” she said of the virtual semesters. “And hopefully, for capstone and thesis coming up next year, I’ll have spaces downtown in the gallery.” 

The quarantine period has also reaffirmed the therapeutic relationship that Nally has with art. 

“The burnout was there when it was just the same monotonous day over and over again, and it really was hard to break that cycle,” she said. “But once I came back into online school last semester, I realized that I need art more than ever to keep pushing me emotionally and physically.”

Examples of Nally’s art can be found on her Instagram

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