Art Students Build Valuable Relationships During Internship in Berlin
Megan Arné and Joselyn Torbenson explored what it means to be an artist while collaborating in Kirsi Mikkola’s studio
August 29, 2018
Megan Mitchell Arné has known she wanted to be an artist since fourth grade, when she was pulled out of her regular class to participate in an art enrichment course. Art came naturally to her, and she spent time drawing, painting and making things every day. She was accepted into the art major as an incoming freshman and flourished as an artist when she began the BFA program, which allowed her to work more closely with her faculty and peers.
For Joselyn Torbenson, the realization that she wanted to be an artist arrived more slowly. With roots in Green Bay, Wisconsin, she hails from a community fixated on football—not art. So when she found herself in the prerequisite courses for art at BYU, she wondered if she could fit into the contemporary art world. The learning curve was steep, but Torbenson persisted and excelled in her art classes while developing a strong artistic voice.
During winter of 2018, Torbenson and Arné found themselves spending hours together in the studio, working side-by-side and critiquing one another’s work, spurred by their shared advanced studio and advanced painting classes. They didn’t know it then, but they were preparing for extensive collaboration in the summer, when they would spend 20 hours together each week in Kirsi Mikkola’s Berlin studio.
“Once understanding how intuitively Kirsi wanted us to work, we started just working on different areas of the large pieces and then coming together and overlapping.”
Torbenson and Arné hadbeen interns for less than one week when Mikkola gave them directions to start a collage painting from scratch while she was traveling. As a team, Torbenson and Arné studied Mikkola’s past artworks and discussed how to approach the new piece. They didn’t commit to any ideas right away, but rather pinned sections up before making them permanent. When Mikkola returned, she described their collage as “friendly and Matisse-esk,” and used it as a starting point for one of her works.
“Once understanding how intuitively Kirsi wanted us to work, we started just working on different areas of the large pieces and then coming together and overlapping,” Torbenson said.
For Mikkola, an artist and art professor, art is more of a passion than a job or an occupation, Arné explained. Although Mikkola has received international acclaim as an artist, “she purposefully steers away from repeating techniques or methods that have been successful for her in the past, preferring to discover something new in the work,” Arné said. “Working with her was an exploration into what it means to be an artist.”
Mikkola’s attitude toward art influenced Torbenson and Arné’s work and partnership. “There really wasn’t any pressure with what we were making,” Torbenson said. “It all felt experimental, and Kirsi was extremely supportive of our process. She offered constructive ideas and feedback that made our collaboration work even better.”
Torbenson especially values the close mentor relationship she built with Mikkola, a female artist who shares her love for abstract art, color and paint. “I felt like she spoke a similar artistic language to me,” Torbenson said of Mikkola. “We also connected on a more emotional level.”
Outside of work, Torbenson and Arné worked on personal art projects and explored Berlin together with other BYU students, who were interning with artists David Thorpe and Peter Linde Buske. For Torbenson in particular, who spent her internship away from her husband and one-year-old daughter, these friendships were significant both personally and professionally.
“The connections I made with the other BYU students are going to be invaluable throughout my life.”
“The connections I made with the other BYU students are going to be invaluable throughout my life,” Torbenson said. “I know I can to go to them for feedback on my current work. I also hope we can work together in group shows.”