This past summer Rachel McDonald '12, a visual arts and art history major, created a body of work inspired by the Maine Coast. McDonald's exhibition is on display in the Fishbowl Gallery located in the Visual Arts Center.

McDonald received a Rusack Coastal Studies Fellowship, which allows students in various disciplines to explore the coastal environment.

The fellowship enables students to conduct research or create art that explores the relationship between the countless forces affecting the coast.

McDonald narrowed her focus to concentrate on light and water as both her subject matter and the process in producing her pieces.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Meggan Gould acted as McDonald's advisor this summer.

"The [pieces] that I am most drawn to are the more abstract pieces, where the intersection of light and water in the underlying image and in the process itself mingle[s] in their abstractions," said Gould.

The exhibition includes 20 pieces in which McDonald combined cyanotype photography with watercolor. These pieces are McDonald's first extensive project using these two techniques.

"I'd only used the cyanotype process once before," said McDonald. "I had worked with watercolor in the past, but combining the two processes was completely new to me and took a good amount of experimentation to create a style and effect that really appealed to me."

To create these pieces, she initially took digital prints and then converted the images into negatives.

She then painted a cyanotype solution, which reacts to natural light, on the paper where her final images would appear.

After placing the negatives on top of the paper, she put the pieces outside in the sun for 15 minutes.

McDonald's dependence on nature caused some difficulties due to the erratic nature of Maine weather.

"I was basically living for the sun this summer," said McDonald. "We all know how unpredictable the weather is in Maine, so that became something of challenge.

"My last week or so of the project was filled with partly cloudy days in which I had to seize every possible sunny moment, no matter how fleeting," said McDonald.

The weather was not the only difficulty McDonald came across during her artistic process.

"It took me quite a while to figure out how to use both media together without one overpowering the other or seeming unnecessary," said McDonald. "I never quite knew what it would look like until after I developed the piece so that element of surprise was exciting, if frustrating at times."

Gould added, "There was a long period during the summer when we weren't sure how, technically, she was going to be able to successfully integrate media, and the process took a substantial amount of trial and error."

Although the process was tough, McDonald's work this summer was both an academic and personal success.

"I think the summer as a whole was a substantial accomplishment—to propose a project without really knowing how it will turn out, and to feel one's way through conceptualizing and executing a body of work like this is, an amazing experience," said Gould.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the project," said McDonald. "It was a wonderful experience to get to spend the entire summer just focused on my art. That's something I've never done before. I was really excited to get a taste of that. I had the most amazing summer ever getting to know the coast of Maine inside out and taking my art in new and exciting directions."

The exhibition will be on view in the Fishbowl Gallery through September 14.