Grace Sun, Artist and Scientist

Senior exhibits her art from March 19 to April 19

“In my art, there comes a certain vulnerability in each piece. My art has this running message of being human and the struggle of defining what it means to be human,” explained Grace Sun (‘23). “Of course, this question doesn’t have a definite answer, and that’s what I want to explore.” On the afternoon of Friday, March 10, Grace unveiled her senior visual arts exhibit; the display will last until the 19th.

“I have always wanted to have an exhibition of my own… it has in a way, been a life goal,” said Grace Sun. Because she has taken visual arts all four years of high school, Grace was offered an opportunity to present her work by Visual Arts Department Chair Ms. Elizabeth Wepsic. “I think an exhibition is a great testament to all of the effort and work you’ve put in,” explained Grace as she stood by her grandmothers’ and parents’ sides. “It’s not only a way to have others see your work but also a way to pat yourself on the back—it’s really easy to get lost in the process.” (PC: Ms. Cathy Morrison)
“I didn’t start out doing art having a theme, I just wanted to experiment with all the things offered to me,” said Grace Sun (‘23). In her artistic journey, she started off drafting portraits focused on humanity and people, tackling questions such as “what makes us human” and observing those around her. Then, earlier last year, she began to experiment with “science art.” As someone who will be pursuing biochemistry in college, Grace saw many parallels between her scientific passions and art. “If people walked through my earlier pieces, they might seem a bit random, but as you progress to more recent collections, you will notice human-focused and science-focused themes.” (PC: Ms. Cathy Morrison)
One of her headline works is called Abiogenesis. For this piece, though she did have her own intentions in making it, she hopes that people can enjoy the art with their own interpretations. “I was initially inspired by the word ‘abiogenesis,’ which describes the origins of the evolution of life and living organisms from seemingly inanimate or unrelated substances,” she explained. The ferns and leaves towards the bottom of the piece, representing the “most primitive of predecessors,” adds to the illustration of the current and final evolution of humans from the flora and fauna that existed before them. “At the same time, she is Mother Earth, raising her arms triumphantly over the kingdom of millions of diverse organisms and species, expanding over eons of time,” she said. (PC: Grace Sun (’23))
Another one of Grace’s pieces is titled “Julius,” which focuses on the ambiguity of emotions on her friend’s face. “The chemical molecule framing his face is not a part of the painting,” she explained. “It is a shadow of the hormone dopamine, which is the main cause of feelings of nostalgia.” She painted the molecule on a clear glass sheet and then used backlighting to display the shadow on the piece. “In exploring the themes between science and art,” she continued. “I wanted to show how these minuscule, insignificant hormones can play such a large role in determining our emotions, almost as if they cast a restrictive shadow on ourselves every day.” (PC: Grace Sun (’23))
Though she has never had thoughts of becoming an artist as a profession, Grace expressed that art has always been sort of a companion for her. “I’m a big perfectionist,” she noted. “Sometimes you can’t find an ending for a piece, and so the best thing to do is just stop.” She paralleled this experience of self-growth with other parts of her life such as school, projects, and tests—it’s important to know your boundaries. “Know who you are and be accepting of that without trying to be the most perfect artist or student,” Grace said. (PC: Ms. Cathy Morrison)
Pictured are Grace and the Wu Tsai Endowed Chair in Science Dr. Lani Keller, whom Grace has always viewed as a role model who believes that life sciences can be taken beyond the classroom. “Bishop’s as a school culture has a very connected feel and community that really supports the work of artists,” said Grace. “Through that, I was also able to connect with the science and performing arts departments.” The visual arts department has been some of Grace’s biggest supporters, and their promotion of her art contributes to the many meaningful relationships she fostered with other campus communities. She mentioned, for example, that she designed the poster for the most recent jazz band concert. Grace continued, “Being able to collaborate with other departments gives my art meaning and grounds me in terms of what connecting with others looks like.” (PC: Ms. Cathy Morrison)
“Ultimately, I want people to understand themselves better in the context of my art,” explained Grace. “I know art is described as pretty self-centered a lot of times, but I hope to change that stigma around art; I want my art to be approached by anybody if possible.” And when asked about what advice she’d give others looking to host an exhibit in the future, Grace emphasized the benefit of learning more about yourself and the impact of your work on others. “Treat this opportunity as a time to inspire others… and remember to feel proud of yourself,” She paused, smiling. “Allow yourself to feel proud of your art.” (PC: Ms. Cathy Morrison)