Carolyn Votaw hasn’t graduated yet, but she’s already being recognized for her art.
Votaw, a senior double-majoring in art history and Italian, has just been granted the Sande H. Zirlin Art Award for her impressive work. The contest, run by General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), was open to upperclassmen attending a New York college, along with all graduate students within the state, studying art or a related field. Hundreds of students applied for the award and sent in portfolios and polished essays, but Votaw was victorious in the regional competition.
Her family consistently encouraged her interest in history and creativity. When she came to Binghamton University, she soon discovered a love for printmaking, a way to make art that employs various techniques such as engraving, woodcutting and etching on a sheet of paper. She eventually picked up printmaking as a minor.
Her printmaking professor, Alexandra Davis, was her biggest inspiration and helped her think about creating art in a new way. Davis has worked with Votaw throughout her time at the University, and was the one who introduced her to the award and encouraged her to apply. It was Davis’ support that made her believe that her work deserved to be recognized and spread to areas outside of Binghamton.
“I admire Alexandra Davis greatly as an artist, educator and person,” Votaw said. “She is ever-encouraging to all students.”
Most of Votaw’s pieces were inspired by her trips to Italy and other travels. Her goal is for the works to mirror an intimacy that she wants to have with a place and its history.
“My artwork often reflects my interest in time, space and what becomes symbolic of culture and identity,” Votaw said. “My process reflects my interest in piecing histories together.”
In her work, Votaw cycles through different techniques. Right now, she is fascinated by a process called chine-collè (a method similar to collage), but continues to learn.
For her application for the prize, Votaw continued to collaborate with, learn from and be inspired by Davis. Votaw gathered 10 recent pieces — most of which she’d made in printmaking courses here — filled out forms, wrote about her experience in art and future plans and collected recommendation letters from different professors. But the time she put into submitting her portfolio paid off when she won the award, along with $1,000 and a retreat to Saratoga Springs.
Votaw’s artwork will be on display at the BU Senior Show on May 8, where she will also be demonstrating etching at the Fine Arts Open House. Votaw graduates at the end of this month, and over the summer she will resume her studies in an Italian language-intensive immersive program at the Middlebury Language Schools in Vermont. In the fall, she plans to return to BU to complete her master’s degree in Italian.