Student’s Vibrant Portraits Depict College’s Namesakes

Created: April 8, 2015  |  Last Updated: January 16, 2020  |  Category:   |  Tagged:

WASHINGTON, PA (April 6, 2015) – Two vibrant new portraits will hang in the Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) Admission House, thanks to the creativity of a W&J art student.

Olivia Oddo ’16 painted modern portraits of the College’s namesakes, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, to be hung in the Admission House on the W&J campus. The portraits are entitled “Fabius George” and “Revolutionary Quill.”

A studio art major with a concentration in graphic design and a penchant for modern art, Oddo was selected to complete the works by President Tori Haring-Smith, Ph.D., and Patrick Schmidt, an associate professor of art at W&J.

“We commissioned these modern interpretations of classic portraits of our namesake presidents because the Washington & Jefferson community lives in both worlds,” said Haring-Smith. “We embrace our history even as we celebrate the present and help to shape the future. Since Andy Warhol was a Pittsburgh native, his style seemed most appropriate. And having student art helps to showcase the many talents that students develop here at W&J.”

After consulting extensively with President Haring-Smith and Schmidt, Oddo created pieces that reflected the College’s past and future. Drawing from the inspirational Pop Art designs of Andy Warhol, Oddo took a contemporary approach to the busts of Washington and Jefferson. She selected bold colors that contrast well but relate to each other, employing the same colors in different segments of each portrait, and one hue unique to each painting.

The backgrounds of each were also carefully considered, and contain a distinctive pattern relating to the life of each president. The backdrop of Washington is the symbol of the masonic honors he was buried with; Jefferson is surrounded by a quill design in honor of all the documents he helped create for the new democracy.

“Olivia’s understanding of tradition and nuanced interpretation of Pop Art distinguishes her talent from her peers,” said Schmidt. “As an artist, Olivia represents contemporary culture in a way that Andy Warhol couldn’t have imagined.”

The completion of her first official commission has been thrilling to Oddo, who plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in industrial, large-scale design. “I could do art all day long … If I could just come here and paint all day or draw all day I would be completely happy.”

To Oddo, the opportunity to paint the pieces for the Admission House was also a chance to reach out to future artists hoping to attend W&J. During her original interview with the College, she sat in the Admission parlor and looked around wondering what her future at W&J would be like. Oddo said, “I’m glad that future incoming students are going to be able to see them and think that they can achieve the same thing and be as ‘bright’ as these paintings. It can be a little bit of a motivation.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work.

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