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campus scene

A quiet passion Prof. Tad Kuroda honored
Fashion police
How songbirds dress for success
Creative Genius
Heather Hurst '97 wins MacArthur grant
Front man at the Tang
New museum director
Winning number Of odds and iPods
Sharing worldly words Acclaimed poet Rita Dove
Smooth operator
The "voice of Skidmore" retires
Professoriat What the faculty are up to
Hall of Famers make history
Sports standouts inducted
Sportswrap Thoroughbred highlights
Horn of plenty Joshua Redman in jazz residency
Beatlemania 2004 The MU 345 tradition rocks on
Books
Faculty and alumni authors

 

Creative genius

A MacArthur “genius” grant, says Heather Hurst ’97, is “the most crazy, wonderful gift you can imagine.” Hurst won the rare honor for her work in archaeological illustration, including reproductions of ancient Maya murals from Central America.

MacArthur Fellows are nominated (often without their knowledge) for exceptional creative achievements, and winners receive an unrestricted stipend of $500,000 over five years. Twenty-three MacArthur fellows were named this year, in fields from marine robotics to ragtime piano. (It was theater innovation that earned a 1995 MacArthur for Elizabeth LeCompte ’67, Skidmore’s first recipient.)

As a student at Skidmore, Hurst was encouraged by Professor Susan Bender to work on a dig in Honduras. “I was terrible at digging,” Hurst recalls, “but I was the only one who could draw.” She ended up double-majoring—in art and in a self-determined program of architectural archeology. Bender says Hurst has “an incredibly inventive intellect” with “the visual sense of an artist and the classically analytical sense of a social scientist.”

Working in jungles and under ruined pyramids, Hurst integrates expertise in architectural engineering, Maya myth and history, and pre-Columbian art materials to prepare her reproductions. As Scope described her work in a 2003 cover story, “A successful recreation—one that is accurate artistically, scientifically, and culturally—is highly dependent on the illustrator’s knowledge and skills in a realm ‘where the camera lens fails,’ says Hurst. ‘The human eye is the best lens; the human mind surpasses any computer; and the human hand can put these together better than any printer.’”

Her work has been exhibited at Yale University and the National Gallery of Art and published in National Geographic and Arqueologma Mexicana. She’s currently a PhD candidate in anthropology and archaeology at Yale. —SR, KG