Studio Visit appears in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, Melissa Merli visits with artist Eszter Sápi.
Q: I read that your artwork concerns immigration and the gay experience. Did you and your family immigrate to the United States?
A: No. My parents and extended family are in Hungary, but my older sister lives with her family in Minnesota. She's married to an American and has been here since 1996. I came here in 2004 to attend Macalester College.
Q: Have you become a naturalized citizen yet?
A: No, I'm still on my student visa, and this is my OPT — optional practical training — year. It's when people who were in the United States on an F-1 student visa can stay for a year after they finish their degrees and work in their fields of study to gain more skills and experience.
Q: James Barham told me you just walked into the Indi Go Artist Co-op and he hired you as director. When did that happen?
A: I started working there in the beginning of October. I was looking for a volunteer position and looking around town to see what arts organizations I could get involved with. I read about Indi Go, and it popped right off the map. It's a place that offers to work with the community and artists and is open to hosting a whole range of events, from fairly traditional painting shows to installation work to anything experimental as well as music events.
Q: Will you ever show your own work there?
A: I haven't talked to James about that. I would love to, but believe it or not, we're booked through June.
Q: Tell me about your work.
A: I think of myself as an interdisciplinary artist. The medium I mostly work in is silkscreen. I present my prints as silkscreen installations, but often, I use the prints to create animation as well. I'm also working on a couple of collaborative projects. One (http://asukaohsawa.com/ ) is with 11 other artists; it's organized by Asuka Ohsawa, a New York-based artist who was my professor for a year in grad school. She invited me to be part of her illustrated trading card project. The other was organized by F. Marek Modzelewski, an artist of Polish descent who is doing an opera production. He invited artists from Poland and the U.S. to design posters for the opera that will be part of a visual art show in February at the Horton Gallery in New York.
Q: Why did you decide to go to Macalester College and what did you major in?
A: The education system is incredibly different in Hungary. Once you go to a university, you are locked into whatever you're studying. At liberal arts colleges, you have time to explore and become a well-rounded person. Macalester is a liberal arts college and is especially welcoming to international students: Something like 20 percent of their student body is international. I was actually majoring in economics as many international students do and that didn't work out. So I majored in studio arts and did a minor in educational studies.
Q: And then you went to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University in Boston for your master of fine arts degree?
A: There was a year in between — another OPT year. I went to Baltimore to teach at Park School (a nonsectarian, independent, coeducational day school). I was teaching fifth-grade home-school and first- through fifth-grade art, and then I went to Tufts. The museum school was a great choice because it's interdisciplinary. You choose your concentration. You choose your path. The ideas and the concepts are what really drive your education.
Q: How and when did you first get interested in art?
A: Some time during my first year in college. But I was always doodling and was always interested. I went to music school first through eighth grade, so art was always part of my life. But it was not a viable career choice until I went to Macalester. That's another reason I'm working to stay in the U.S., because a career in art is possible here.