By Corinne Steinbrenner; Photos by Kalman Zabarsky
Marc Schepens, a second-year student in the graduate painting program, makes large-scale paintings based on small shards of the past. Schepens grew up visiting his grandparents in Nahant, a community on a peninsula north of Boston, where he combed the beach for fragments of blue and white 18th-century Canton china that often wash up on shore there—remnants of shipwrecks from the colonial-era sea trade. Schepens now lives in Nahant himself and continues to collect the porcelain shards, which inspire his current work. He recently offered Esprit a tour of his painting studio.
In all graduate programs, you’re afforded some sort of studio space, but the spaces here are generous in size. The studios really encourage us to be here as much as possible and to generate as much work as possible.
In terms of painting surfaces, I’ve been using pages from books and medical journals—things we found in my grandparents’ attic after they passed away. These pages show images from the Wawel Cathedral in Poland, which I picked because I grew up Catholic, so there’s always a Catholic influence somewhere in the background inside of me.
There’s a little red up here in the corner. The painting started out mostly blue, but the color of my geraniums started to work its way onto the canvas.
I’m starting with something that is a very small piece of what was once a complete pattern, and then I’m amplifying it into a larger scale. Sometimes the images feel like things that are concrete and recognizable—like landscape or ocean. Other times they feel simply like gesture.
I’ve taken two contemporary art history courses with Greg Williams, and those classes have been invaluable. Art historians love to categorize periods—modernism, then postmodernism. It seems the term art historians are using to describe the world we’re in now is globalization. When I began working on paintings derived from these shards of china, I was struck that although we talk about globalization in terms of today and now, these shards are emblematic of globalization and cross-cultural exchange that have been going on for a long time.
When we did the studio lottery for this year, I specifically wanted to be on Commonwealth Avenue because I’d have the north-facing light, which is the best light during the day. I tend to work during the day because I have kids and try to get home in the evenings to be with them.