Art student spotlight: Mary Kate Noonan

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, November 1st, 2017 at 6:27 PM
Art student spotlight: Mary Kate Noonan by Mike Lantinen

Edinboro’s East Hall doesn’t quite feel like any other building on campus. Dried clay has worked itself into its most hidden crevasses. Abandoned projects are scattered about the room, some a little more odd than the rest. Large tables connected end by end cover two thirds of the room, while the rest is occupied by spinning wheels, where Mary Kate Noonan sat, a junior in the art program. 

A painter at heart, Noonan has found a new love in pottery. 

“A life lived without creating isn’t one worth living in my opinion,” she said.

From painting to sculpting, Noonan has lived by that phrase whether she always realized it or not. She scraped away at her wheel, ridding it of any dry clay before she began adding decals to her piece. 

Noonan drew her first portrait when she was three years old, “with magic markers,” she recalled. Her parents framed it and hung it on the wall. “I’ve thought about getting it tattooed,” she joked. 

Her Jimi Hendrix T-shirt covered in whatever stray clay lost its way, Noonan has come to terms with the clothes she decides to wear when she comes to her studios. 

Banter would pick up as debates about Van Gogh style painting commenced.

Noonan considers herself an observational painter, unlike Van Gogh, while taking influence from Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer, who specialize in painting from a visual perspective, or observational painting.

“Painting can be painful, but it’s necessary...I think about stopping (painting) everyday.”

“I think everybody does,” fellow student Kristen Santiago added, who sat across from Noonan as they worked. 

Noonan continued: “I could sit down and do a painting everyday and they would be alright, but that’s not what I want. I want to paint for political reasons; I try to take on an issue.”

At the moment, she is working on a project — “Man Made vs. Nature”where she’ll challenge the concepts of those relationships and where they actually begin and end. 

“It’s evident when people have been somewhere, but it’s prevalent when nature takes over,” she said.“You can’t stop erosion, [and] you can’t stop the growth of vegetation.”

Using surrealism as her scope, Noonan looks to test the boundaries, bringing nature into the least eroded and battered rooms.

With so many influences at her disposal, it can be difficult to hone in and focus on one single thing. 

“Van Gogh had a special talent with color mixing,” Noonan added.

As he torched his most recent sculpture to speed up drying time, student Tyler Podomik chimed in: “I hated Van Gogh, until I actually saw his paintings (in person). It’s one thing to see them, but in person it’s something completely different.”

Noonan continued, “It’s visual, people just remember it easier.”

As an artist, there is balance you must find. You won’t be entirely pleased after you complete something. There will always be doubts, but it’s something you have to live with.

“I try to prove people wrong, but ultimately it’s about me and my work,” she said. “You can’t spend your time worrying about what others say about your work.” 

Noonan is a junior in the art program at Edinboro and her journey, like many others, will continue here at her home, a place she admits she never expected to be.

“I’ve built a sort of foundation and relationship with my professors here that I can’t replace...they will even call me over the summer to ask me about how my painting is going.” 

Mike Lantinen can be reached at

Tags: art

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