Alum Finds Untapped Inspiration, Hard-Earned Success After Cross-Country Move
It’s been said that chance favors the connected mind, so when Aneka Ingold learned that her husband’s new teaching job in Tampa, FL meant she’d have to leave the creative support system she’d developed here in Grand Rapids during her time in the MFA Drawing program at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD), she felt anything but lucky.
“I really missed everyone at KCAD and the environment in my program; I’d developed strong relationships with my peers and professors,” says Ingold, who graduated in the spring of 2014. “I felt isolated, like my life had been flipped upside down in a whole new environment. I kept asking myself, ‘What am I doing with my life and with my art?’”
KCAD alum Aneka Ingold ('14, MFA Drawing)
Interestingly enough, it was in her new and unfamiliar surroundings that Ingold found the answers to both of those questions. Adjusting to a new way of working was a challenge, but thanks to her experiences at KCAD and the continuing mentorship and support of Drawing professors Deborah Rockman and Stephen Halko, Ingold adapted quickly.
Ingold’s art is largely a metaphorical exploration of how the human brain receives and catalogs visual information. Drawing upon her own reception of visual imagery, she channels her experiences into visual narratives that always incorporate a female figure, animals, inanimate objects, flat color patterns, and imagined landscapes.
"Aberration" by Aneka Ingold
In Grand Rapids, Ingold was able to bounce ideas and concepts off of others at a moment’s notice. But outside of that collaborative environment, she found that her increased isolation actually enriched her creative process.
“I had to find things I could create a narrative from, so I would take walks and look at the diverse plants and wildlife in my neighborhood that I wasn’t used to in Michigan, and I also spent a lot of time looking through books and even found images and inspiration in my son’s storybooks,” she says.
Ingold working in her studio in Florida
Since relocating to Tampa, Ingold has been producing some of the strongest work of her career. “Cardiogenic,” a piece she created back in January of 2015, earned her a place in “Immortality and Vulnerability,” a national juried exhibition held at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. Ingold and the other artists featured in the exhibition also had their work profiled in a special issue of Poets and Artists magazine.
Prior to “Cardiogenic,” Ingold had almost exclusively produced large-scale work, reveling in the amount of space in which she could embed a narrative. But large pieces require long hours of labor, so Ingold decided to begin experimenting with creating smaller pieces in a shorter amount of time.
“‘Cardiogenic’ was a nice breakthrough for me; it’s only three-feet by four-feet, and I worked through it so fast,” she says. “It was refreshing to not have to spend months on a piece, and when I got this really great response, I was excited and started to think, ‘maybe I need to continue to do this.’”
"Cardiogenic" by Aneka Ingold
“Cardiogenic” went on to take third place in “Love,” a regional juried exhibition at the Carrollwood Cultural Center in Tampa, FL. Meanwhile, Ingold continued to work on a smaller scale, focusing on being intentionally connective with her art.
“The smaller pieces were my first foray into more portrait-type work. The figures are a little fuller in these pieces, and I depict more of the body and don’t do as much with the background,” she says. “I wanted to see how that would feel. My larger work is so layered and charged with confrontational things; ‘Cardiogenic’ was still edgy but wasn’t as intimidating. Sometime people see my work and don’t know what to do with it.”
For Ingold, the change in scale wasn’t about dumbing her work down or making it more commercially viable, but rather trying to invite as many viewers as possible into the narratives she creates.
“I wouldn’t do the smaller pieces if they didn’t have the same integrity as the larger ones; if I’m not getting anything out of them then I wouldn’t keep doing them and submitting them to shows,” she says. “My goal is not to sell art; my work is very personal, and if people will accept that and want to learn something from it, then I feel like that’s all I really want.”
Work by Aneka Ingold - (above): "Imperfectly Understood Changes"; (below): “Anastomosis"
If her CV is any indication, Ingold seems to be meeting her goal. This past September, one of her small-scale-pieces, “Anastomosis,” was featured in “Strange Figurations,” an exhibition at Limner Gallery in Hudson, NY. In January of 2016, she’ll be the special guest artist in “Women in Art,” a national juried exhibition at the Las Laguna Art Gallery in Laguna Beach, CA that will feature several of the small-scale pieces Ingold has created in 2015. She’s also been invited to create a limited edition print for the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery at the University of Tampa, which selects one artist each year to create an original piece to represent the gallery to major university donors.
Ingold’s large-scale work has started to gain more traction on a national level as well. A piece she created during her time at KCAD was purchased by Chicago entrepreneur Howard Tullman for his art collection, one of the largest and most diverse in America. Another piece will be featured in the forthcoming third edition of Drawing Essentials: A Guide to Drawing from Observation, written by KCAD Drawing Professor Deborah Rockman.
And this coming January, three of Ingold’s large-scale works will be included in the International Drawing Annual 10 publication from the prestigious Manifest Creative Research and Drawing Center, which will feature some of the world’s best contemporary works of drawing.
“I was really excited to get accepted, partly because of how well recognized Manifest is, but especially because it’s hard to get the large work out there,” Ingold says. “Because it will be printed on a small scale, it will get out there and more people will see it and I can connect to more people. Knowing that there are other people out there who feel something from my work makes me feel whole.”
Beyond her own artistic practice, Ingold also teaches art at the University of Tampa
After earning her MFA, Ingold also began thinking seriously about teaching. Upon landing in Florida she started making connections at the University of Tampa, where she’s now taught Intro to Drawing, Mixed Media, and Beginning Design classes for the past year.
“At first, I was nervous, but then I realized how much I had to offer and it was so satisfying to share things I knew that I didn’t realize were that important until I told my students,” she says. “I felt like teaching was the next logical step for me.”
As for the step after that, Ingold says she and her family are content to stay where they are for the time being. But given how transformative her last trip outside her comfort zone proved to be, she says her days of ruling things out are over.
“Never say never. If we did this once, we can do it again.”
See more of Aneka Ingold’s work at anekaingold.com.