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Summer 2001

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Body of Work: Health challenge refocuses artist’s outlook

     When Virginia Lupi, UWW ’01, learned she had ovarian cancer, she was just a few days shy of her thirty-sixth birthday. “The diagnosis made me think seriously about what I wanted to do with my life if I didn’t live very long,” she recalls frankly, “and I kept coming back to my art.”

     Although she had always made art and had taken classes at a local arts council, Lupi, who grew up near Saratoga Springs in Charlton, N.Y., wanted a more profound engagement with art. “I needed to start from the beginning again, to grow in my art over time,” she says. “Skidmore always had a highly rated art program so I visited, talked with people, and found out about University Without Walls,” Skidmore’s nontraditional, nonresidential bachelor’s program.

     Lupi was unusual even by UWW standards, because in the 1980s she’d already earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in political science from the College of St. Rose in Albany. Lupi’s background included a career in public policy and a lifelong involvement with politics. She was once active with the New York State Teenage Republicans. “Although my allegiances have changed since then, I received a terrific education from them,” she says. Lupi worked in both houses of the New York State legislature, including as a policy analyst on health, mental health, and substance abuse. She later directed a statewide association of mental-health centers and most recently was director of operations for Family and Children’s Service in Ithaca, N.Y.

     During her five years of study at Skidmore, Lupi continued to work off and on, but whenever she could, she spent time on campus. “I was at a place in my art where I needed to be in the studio with other students and my teachers,” she recalls. Faculty members Joanne Vella, David Miller, John Moore, Deborah Morris, and John Galt, she says, “encouraged me to follow where my intuition guided me. At the same time, I was challenged by them, many times, on a formal level, and that was incredibly helpful.” Another great benefit, she adds, was having “one full year when I was able to be in the studio at least half-time”—an “immersion,” Lupi says, that “helped me refine my painting and sculpture skills to the point where I could express myself more fully.”

Ginnie Lupi, UWW ’01, poses with her senior-thesis exhibit at the Tang Museum in June.

     Lupi’s experience with cancer has certainly informed both her painting and her sculpture. “What I express in my work is both the emotional and the spiritual experience of being embodied,” she explains. “My work about the body ranges from the figurative and literal—a woman’s torso with surgical staples—to taking it inside with, for example, an abstract painting in varying shades of red.”

     Lupi’s final UWW project was an exhibit entitled body language, on view at Skidmore’s Tang Museum in late June. “I wanted to have my show at Skidmore because I received so much from the college community and from my mentors there,” says Lupi. “To have it at the Tang was a double blessing, because it’s such an impressive space, and to be in the company of the artists who have shown there so far is humbling and gratifying.”

     For Lupi, who has spent the last twenty years juggling divergent (and sometimes critical) priorities, the exhibit was both a culmination and a beginning, marking her new focus in life. This fall she’ll enter the M.F.A. program at SUNY’s University at Albany, and then, she says, “I plan to grow and learn as an artist, to make my own work, and eventually to teach art.”

Katherine Anderson is a poet and freelance writer who is also director of development at Family and Children’s Service in Ithaca, N.Y.

 


© 2001 Skidmore College