Eto Otitigbe, a junior from Albany, NY, plans to leave MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering, but developing his skills as an artist is very much a part of his undergraduate career -- a process that continues with a gallery talk this week.
In 1996, as a freshman, he won third place in the first annual Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts for a series of paintings celebrating the people, places, things and experiences that shaped his life as a young boy in Nigeria. As a sophomore, he won the 1997 List Foundation Fellowship in the Arts, using his fellowship for a summer studying at The Printmaking Workshop, a center for black visual studies in New York City.
An exhibition of the work resulting from his fellowship -- The Suntoucher Tragedy: Linocuts and Lithographs -- is currently on view at the Wiesner Student Art Gallery (second floor, Stratton Student Center). On Thursday, Nov. 6, Mr. Otitigbe will present a gallery talk, discussing his subject matter, his innovative printing techniques and the influences he encountered and absorbed at The Printmaking Workshop. The talk is from 5-6pm in the gallery.
The exhibition's title stems from two sources: George Bernard Shaw's statement that "there are two tragedies of life: one is to lose your heart's desire, the other is to gain it;" and the advice Mr. Otitgbe received from Corin, director of Kenkeleba House for Artists in New York, who encouraged him to "jump for the sun."
Juxtaposing these philosophies, Mr. Otitigbe pronounced the past year "the most tragic time in my life thus far," having, he says, lived out a fantasy and been invigorated to the extent that "I can touch the sun."
Art, said Mr. Otitgbe, helps him connect, maintain balance and keep focus. "So many things work in unison with each other and, for me, the creative process is a way to explain those relationships," he said.
The List Foundation Fellowship Program in the Arts for Students of Color is supported by the Albert A. List Foundation and is administered by the MIT Office of the Arts in collaboration with MIT faculty and staff from the performing, literary and visual arts. The winner of the 1998 competition will be announced on Friday, Nov. 14.
Mr. Otitigbe's exhibition is on view through Friday, Nov. 14.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 5, 1997.