Inside The Studio: An Exploration of Bucknell’s First Visual Artist-in-Residence Shani Peters’ Workshop

Peters explaining her work to Bucknell students
Peters explaining her work to Bucknell students

Behind the canvas, the frame, and the lights, is the studio where the artist creates. It is a rare opportunity to go inside an artist’s studio and even rarer to talk with the creative individuals themselves. When such opportunities present themselves however, I have always found exploring the artist’s workshop is the most fulfilling way to discover new artwork. By observing how they work, the media they employ, and their strategies and styles, I see the percolation of ideas, the inspiration, and, most interestingly, the rejection. After noticing images depicting contemporary and historical civil rights activism on display in Academic West, I discovered that this artist is currently working here at Bucknell. Last Wednesday, I was granted the opportunity to see inside Bucknell’s first visual artist-in-residence Shani Peters’ studio right here on campus.IMG_3122

Shani Peters, a Lansing, Michigan native turned Harlem hipster, focuses on video, printmaking, and public projects. Her work reflects “interests in social justice histories, cultural record keeping, media culture, and community building.” 1  She employs and juxtaposes historical and modern cultural and social tensions in her artwork through her messages, symbolism, and duality and contrasts of color. By comparing historical to contemporary problems, she instigates in the viewer a meditation of life cycles.shani

Many of her images investigates and celebrates the concept of self-determination. For example, the Crown Project in Academic West imagines “crowns as symbols for self-determination and the complexity of the experience of the African people following the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.” 2 Half of the photos on the crowns have historical photos of Black Americans engaged in political protests, whereas the other half showcases contemporary images, still engaged in similar protests. On the Westernized crowns, as a satire of African headdresses and diaspora, Peters’ also depicts African American tribal people contrasted against the public figures in the Western world such as the late Notorious B.I.G and the late Michael Jackson. While raising awareness about the struggles the black community face, she also strives to show the pride in the black community.

Shani’s inspiration comes from her father who was a black history professor. IMG_3129Her father studied and taught through various mediums, such as literature, theater, and music, because he wanted to do more than just teach history – he wanted to create narratives around the subjects’ lives. James Baldwin, whom her father introduced her to, was especially influential in how Shani processes her work. Baldwin famously stated, “Our crown has already been bought and paid for, all we have to do is wear it.” Shani’s crowns reflect this message by urging us to acknowledge our personal worth, take ownership for the life given to us by the sacrifices of our ancestors, and find meaning and comfort in our lives.

Her own studio at the Art Barn gives us insight into her own consciousness and techniques as she makes, remakes, layers, and undoes her work. The works that make it out of the studio are the ones that “open up a strand of thought.” In her exhibits, she wants to facilitate a space of healing, freedom, and self-reflection for all the viewers – especially for Black Americans. However, her work appeals to all, because, no matter our background, many of us understand the difficulties of the human life. With Shani’s studio at Bucknell, we have the chance to explore this perspective in depth, actualize the fullness of ourselves and backgrounds, and share stories with the artist herself.


**Shani’s studio at the Art Barn is open until May 1st.

  1.  “SHANI PETERS.” Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. N.p., 06 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
  2. Stuart, Greg. “Shani Peters: Nesbitt Artist in Residence : Samek Art Museum.” Samek Art Museum RSS. N.p., 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

The Unbreakable Ellie Kemper

Bucknell Speaker Series featuring Ellie Kemper, famous for her role as Erin Hannon in the NBC series The Office and current star in the Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. 

Actress and comedian Ellie Kemper, who gained IMG_3001prominence for her role as Erin Hannon in the NBC series The Office and now stars in the Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, spoke at Bucknell’s Weis Center for the Performing Arts Monday night. She is the final speaker in Bucknell’s forum series “Revolution Redefined,” which brings in speakers with multidisciplinary and diverse viewpoints to explore how society has – or has not – evolved over time. The various speakers grant us unique perspectives on how we can have meaningful impacts on society. In this particular talk, Kemper focused on her journey to success as a female comedian, encouraging the Bucknell audience to take risks, challenge opposition, and be agents of change.

Philosophy professor Sheila Lintott, who has taught courses on feminist philosophy and the philosophy of laughter, moderated the conversation. Lintott began the discussion by asking Kemper about how she got into comedy in the first place. Kemper, with her expectedly sweet and bubbly charm, answered that she had always had an interest in acting. In fact, in high school, Jon Hamm taught her improv in her theater class. However, she enrolled in Princeton to study English Literature and play field hockey, letting acting fall to the wayside. After too many games on the bench though, she quit field hockey because she believed her time could be better spent elsewhere. She honed her comedy skills and joined the Princeton’s improvisation group Quipfire! and the musical theater group, Triangle. Yet again, she didn’t think she would pursue comedy in the future. Instead, she continued her studies of English at Oxford after graduating. After a year, however, she left Oxford for New York when she took the risk to make her dream of acting into a reality.

Throughout her story to success, she kept using the word “quit.” Though a word loaded with negative connotation, Kemper explains we don’t need to view it that way: “There is no euphemism for quit. But, sometimes it is okay to take a step back to consider what your strengths and weaknesses are in order to reevaluate your decisions.” This is often a key step to discovering true passions. Many studies substantiate that the risks taken when quitting are often worth it. Every step Kemper took led her to land her role as a co-star of The Office. In an audience full of questioning college students, Kemper’s story resonated deeply.

Kemper, rather than considering her gender as an obstacle to overcome in order to achieve success, uses her gender to promote feminism – and with a humorous twist. In the discussion, Lintott referred to Christopher Hitchens’ 2007 article for Vanity Fair “Why Women Aren’t Funny” that “investigated” the “humor gap.” He ponders, “Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny?” Predictably, this article received serious backlash from the female community. Kemper explains why she wrote a response to this in GQ in 2013. After Bridesmaids came out in 2011, people regularly asked her, “How did it feel to be in a movie with so many funny women?” This question, Kemper explains to the Bucknell audience, “makes no sense to me because all women are different. Some are tall. Some are short. Some women are funny. Some aren’t.” In her satiric “investigation” for GQ, she incorporates evolution, science, and logic in the same completely backwards way that the Hitchens did to challenge his senseless conclusions. Kemper aims to stop such gender stereotypes from perpetuating in order to create more opportunities for females.

During the Q and A with the audience, Kemper answers that her favorite IMG_3004scene was the airplane scene in Bridesmaids – “it was like having front row seats to a circus. Throughout the scene, there are various actors cracking up who weren’t supposed to be.” She also finally settled the question for devout Office fans, on what it was like saying goodbye to Michael Scott as a character and Steve Carell as an actor. Kemper says, “It was a very dramatic moment for me. In one scene, I am just in the background at my desk crying and I am not even supposed to be a part of that scene. I was just so choked up. Steve Carell is such a kind person, which is the reason why Michael Scott is so ultimately endearing. I am so lucky to have been able to work with him.” On this nostalgic note, Lintott concluded, leaving us in anticipation of Kemper’s second season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt coming April 15th.








Art, as a series of rejection, absorption, and relentless uncertainty, portrays the mystery of humankind. Bucknell’s Samek Art Museum currently hosts Salthouse by Stephen Althouse, featuring unconventional photographs that capture such paradoxes. In his seemingly sculptural works, he embeds passivism, religion, the blindness to atrocities, and the lamentations of suffering and sorrow. He seeks to “acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses” while pondering human contradictions. I visited the gallery with Greg Stuart, Samek Art Museum public programs manager, to experience the physical presence of Salthouse and fully comprehend how he accomplishes this mission.

Upon entering Samek, I noticed the photographs’ intimate level of details that could not be portrayed on the internet. Looking in person created an entirely new experience. “Althouse spends hours getting his camera into the right focus,” Stuart explains, “Then, after capturing many images with different focus points and exposing them for eight minutes, he photoshops the images so all the different focuses are together in one image.” This technique creates a seemingly sculptural three-dimensional work.

The presence of bold shapes set in negative space, with the tonalities of grey and black, sets a meditative environment. Knot III, a photograph of horse armor set in the distance, ignites a tranquil yet emotional response. Althouse, as a Quaker and conscientious objector to the Vietnam war, sends an antiwar message through this image. On the helmet, braille script reads, “Are we not blind” and “My harp is broken.” Interestingly, we must remember that this is a two-dimensional image so someone who is blind cannot trace their fingers to read this and those who have vision cannot read braille. Stuart explains that this adds to “a sense of mystery and a power of the unknown.” Additionally, the helmet appears worn signifying an unknown war story behind the object itself. We are left in the dark, like the object itself, so we embed our own emotions and interpretations into the historical story, adding our own personal meaning.

I asked Stuart what resonated with him when Stephen Althouse visited Bucknell: “Stephen talks about the little moments in life, like the Broken Bow image. He was exploring a city and heard beautiful violin music playing. As he followed the source, he found a poor man playing. There was such a contrast between the beautiful and the impoverished.” Like the horse described above, none of these objects are inherently beautiful but are objects of everyday moments. Althouse uses this contrast in his photography to capture the beauty in atrocities. And the atrocities in beauty.





Open until March 20. Location: Third Floor, Elaine Langone Center, Bucknell University

*All photos provided by Greg Stuart of Samek Art Museum