I grew up in your typical white middle-class family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina playing sports and believing I needed to be a lawyer or businessman to be successful, as my parents are. Despite this systematic influence, I would always recall with great fondness my earliest childhood memories of drawing with my best friend Jamie and marveling at modern paintings enshrined across his living room walls; a deep-seated love and admiration that would never leave my heart. At the age of six, I was drawing pictures of mice dressed as soldiers marching in lines so long that I had to tape as many as 10 sheets of paper together; I also drew reindeer pulling Santas on sleighs and fish fishing for humans along river beds. Since then I have developed a more robust interest in the arts including painting, graphic design, film, photography, fashion, music and utilitarian installations.
I have spent the last two years vigorously painting and studying art history, including but not limited to: Athenian pottery paintings, Roman marble carvings, the Italian Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age; the French impressionists that challenged the Salon, Cézanne giving birth to modernism, the eccentric color-loving Fauvists of the early twentieth century, including Matisse, and then eventually Picasso and Braque's cubism, Dali's surrealism, and finally Pollock, Rothko, and Basquiat's abstraction. Also interesting and extremely influential, yet questionable in artistic merit are Warhol's pop art, Duchamp's Dadaisms, and Bansky's stencil-based street art. With Jeff Koons now being the highest paid US painter, I feel there is a void in painting in the wake of abstract expressionism that is waiting to be filled. I hope to fill that role.
During my independent studies, I wrote a 40-page thesis on why I believe Raphael is responsible for painting at least the face of the Isleworth Mona Lisa in Leonardo Da Vinci's studio in Florence at the beginning of the 16th century (Read here: https:// www.ilonausa.com/blogs/makers-club/mona-lisa). What was first just a visual clue based on general style and color use, later became a substantiated scientific claim rooted in mathematics and color theory. I completed this thesis back in October 2016 and I am still looking to have it formally confirmed and published to this day; my hope is that the program will help me do so.
Before painting, I was primarily focused on graphic design, fashion design, photography and film. As a college student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I started an apparel company called ILONA that I use to channel my creativity in the form of graphic tees, posters, photography, promo films, as well as other pieces of apparel such as hats, bags and sweatshirts. The mission of the brand is to give independent artists a platform to create and encourage them to express their ideas and dreams through art; and in the process, achieve a great deal of self-fulfillment through the act of creation alone. The brand slogan, "Weird Kids Change the World," is designed to encourage people to be confident in their differences and act as sophisticated rebels who challenge the status-quo peacefully and respectfully, yet fearlessly. I have been running the company for five years now and have sold thousands of products all across the globe.
In addition to the fields of art I have already practiced, I have also been making songs as of recent on my laptop, accompanied by music videos. I have made several songs, including the beat, completely from scratch and others by “mashing up” current popular media. I am also eager to try sculpture and believe it is something I will feel passionate about and end up creating much of. I already have many ideas for pieces I'd like to create, for example: a version of Rodin's 'The Thinker' with a computer for a head, illustrating the symbolism of the computer as an extension of our minds, in a context of classical art.
In addition to becoming a world-class artist, I would like to eventually own my own gallery and public workshop where I can buy and sell art, and give artists, as well as common and at-risk citizens, a safe and accessible place to create. Just as we have neighborhood gyms and public libraries, I want there to be local workshops and art studios for people to come together and create value for themselves and others, in a collaborative and welcoming environment. It will serve as an incubator for budding artists and inspire creativity in those who never knew they had potential. I will take the lessons I've learned from being an entrepreneur over the last five years, combined with the lessons I will learn in graduate school and apply them to this endeavor to create a sustainable and scalable business that provides the resources, mentors and space necessary for people to express themselves, create beautiful art and find greater meaning in life.
By attending a master's program, my goal is to further cultivate my interests and improve my technique in each area of the arts, namely drawing and painting, while fully harnessing the resources at my disposal to upgrade my quality of work. Additionally, I would like to eventually own my own gallery and public workshop where I can buy and sell art, while simultaneously giving artists a safe, accessible and inspiring place to create. My immediate and guaranteed contribution to the program will be the following: to bring a genuine and deep-rooted love for the arts to the classroom each and every day, while working longer hours and asking more questions than any other student. I will push my fellow students and professors as I push myself, respectfully of course, while questioning everything along the way.