For senior Dinah Steele, learning to rest in the Lord is more than the theme for her art Senior Integration Project (SIP). It is her reality. A mono diagnosis seven weeks before graduation forced Steele to rest despite the huge quantity of work standing between her and the completion of her art and music majors.
“I had a certain idea of how my time at Covenant was going to end. When I got mono, I had to cancel my flute recital,” said Steele. “This has been my struggle to let go of the need to create my value through my efforts and accomplishments.”
Tired but recovering, Steele continues to work on a human-sized nest which will be displayed on campus beginning April 25. A specific location is yet to be decided, but Steele hopes that the nest will be placed near or in a tree. There will be a reception for all the senior art majors on April 25th at 7 p.m. in the art gallery on the second floor of Kresge Memorial Library.
Being forced to slow down and rest made Steele’s theme ironically relevant. “We, as artists, tend to treat our concepts as abstractions,” Art Professor Jeff Morton explained, “Dinah had to meet her theme head-on as she learned that her art is really an extension of her life.”
The evolution of Steele’s theme began last semester, but her idea to create a nest came from her sculpture class with adjunct Professor Ray Pedron. Pedron challenged his students to think about what is sacred to them. Steele’s theme of rest stems from what she described as an “inner restlessness and desire to be satisfied.”
“I started with the idea that art is not about trying to prove my identity through what I produce but instead it is an expression of who I am in Christ,” said Steele. “This year has been God freeing me from the pressure to produce something grand in order to feel good about myself.’”
The ongoing process of creating a 2.5 by 4 foot nest made from wire, rope and donated t-shirts pushes Steele to become more creative both aesthetically and conceptually.
Morton said, “She’s building a nest, so she needs to think like a bird.” And so she has been imitating a mother bird, collecting t-shirts from friends and those who wish to be involved with her project. Her nest represents resting in the realization that God is the only one who can satisfy and fulfill her if she will only let go of her desire to do it herself.
Sophomore Emily McKeon, a close friend of Steele’s, offered another perspective on the theme: “A nest is also a symbol of starting something new. Birds rest, but they don’t stay there forever.”
The nest is interactive art. When displayed, students will be able to climb in it and think about their own interpretation of rest and what it means to them.
Hannah Freel, Resident Assistant on Dinah’s hall Fourth South, said, “I believe Dinah’s theme is one that is intricately connected to the gospel. It’s about trusting enough to believe in God’s grace.”
Steele’s project reflects a similar theme among other senior artists at Covenant.
“One of the most common things about our SIP class is how social the artists want to be. They want to connect with the community,” said Morton.
“For me, Dinah’s project represents her coming to terms with her own limitations and fully giving over to God for His provision and grace to her, and more importantly His love for her. And he is faithful,” said senior art major Tim Goldsmith.
Despite her struggle through her sickness, Steele remains optimistic about the completion of her project and upcoming graduation.
“Covenant has been my nest for the past four years. This project is the weaving together of the lessons, memories and people who made up that nest. I think God is more glorified if I graduate realizing that my worth comes from him saying I am valued rather than me trying to prove it,” said Steele.