NPHS Senior Artist Spotlight: Rosa Savelson

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Phoebe Eis, Staff Writer

For three years, I’ve looked up to the high school’s AP Studio art students with wonder and amazement, admiring their creations on the school’s walls and relishing interactions with them during open studio after school. Now, to my own surprise, I am actually one of them! I want New Paltz High students to attach a name and face to the pieces they walk by each day and get a sense of these people I’ve known for years as the artists they are becoming. I decided to start with my classmate and friend, Rosie Savelson.

“Headless Self Portrait,” Acrylic paint.

Rosie Savelson is a 17-year-old artist currently in her senior year at NPHS, whom you may have seen wandering the school halls with a small stuffed leopard– we’ll get to him later. She often works with ballpoint pen, which she likes because “you can get really messy and expressive but you can also have super clean lines.” Her trademark intricate doodles and scenes possess a uniquely gestural quality within each confidently applied mark, often without any sketching or premeditation. Because of this, her pieces have a liveliness and character about them, at once composed and wild. You can see a sample of her works done over the summer in the display case by the Nurse’s Office, along with the rest of the AP Studio Art class.

Common subjects for Savelson are faces and fantasy imagery, her go-to doodles– eyes, flowers and abstract lines fill the margins of her notes, her binders, even the fabric of her desk chair at home, creating intricate trippy patterns. Rosie says she’s especially inspired by “dreams and fantasy,” which is no surprise coming from the librarian’s daughter, who is rarely without a book close to her and always excited to talk about her latest read. Right now, she’s enjoying Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which is often placed to the side of her desk, next to the stuffed leopard I mentioned before. By the way, his name is Alfajiri, which means dawn– she named him after one of her own characters from a story she wrote in the fourth grade. Her last piece was a pop-art inspired portrait of him in bright pink and blue. While some people outgrow their idiosyncrasies in favor of assimilating to society’s expectations, Rosie is unapologetically herself, embracing past and present quirks. She doesn’t hide herself in day-to-day life and she displays her personality even more proudly in her artistic endeavors, inspiring myself and others to do the same. 

Besides nourishing her mind with literature, Rosie looks to historic artists for inspiration. “I love impressionism,” she says, “ever since ninth grade;” a class project introduced her to the brushstroke-heavy, dynamic 19th century art movement, about which she says, “it makes me happy.” Rosie is drawn to “super expressive paint,” in general, especially work that is “almost a mess of colors but you can see a figure clearly. I’ve always wanted to do that” she says. These impressionist influences are evident in her work, which balances realism and technique with style and personality, conveying a distinctly Rosie-esque world, which one can’t help wanting to dive into– bright colors and bold brushstrokes, stylized faces and swirling lines infused with emotion. 

“Memory Triptych” (2/ 3), Mixed Media

Ms. Pountain’s 3B AP Studio Class is already abuzz with activity, from huge half-painted canvases to the smell of oil paint to the faint sound of carving out linoleum reduction prints. Rosie approaches the rigorous work with enthusiasm, passion, and humor each day; dancing unabashedly to her playlist she’s put on and smiling at her classmates throughout the block. She says she looks forward to “exploring larger themes over multiple works,” which is the focus of the end-of-year AP studio portfolio. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do yet, but if her current skills are any indication, it will be beautiful and thoughtful, revealing personality and vitality.

For now she’s focusing on building a technical portfolio and arsenal of skills; she says, “I’m trying oils,” gesturing to the stained apron she’s donned and the table in front of us, littered with palette knives, tubes of paint, and jars of turpenoid. “I’m not great but hopefully it’ll get better,” she sighs, although her blue-toned still life is impressively smooth and carefully crafted, down to the highlights on the glass bottle. 

Rosie Savelson doesn’t just draw and paint; she thinks about the implications of art itself. She detests the way art has been “forced to fit within” society, especially when it’s “seen as an upper class thing. It’s expensive.” The barriers we make between what is art and what isn’t are mere suggestions for Rosie, who applies her creatively analytical spirit to all areas of her life, from photographing friends casually, to writing English papers to choreographing dances. She feels “lucky” to attend a school that allows her to pursue her creative passions more seriously, but cautions against “narrowing all the perspectives that could possibly occur.” Creating art is essential, but it’s too often seen as a luxury; she says, “of course there should be art. [society is] just doing a bad job of fostering that.” 

Rosie loves listening to new music while she works. Listen to her personalized playlist here!