Video feature: Creating 'Chrysalid,' a senior thesis

Senior Thesis Maura index

A video documenting Maura O'Brien's senior thesis in art and archaeology follows her as she works with wood and paint.

Video stills from Amaris Hardy, Office of Communications

In a studio at Princeton University, senior Maura O'Brien is once again navigating the woods of northern Minnesota — this time through art. This video captures some of that journey as O'Brien creates her senior thesis project. 

O'Brien, a Program 2 major in art and archaeology, is making a set of art forms illuminating her connection to the Minnesota wilderness. A native of Minneapolis-St. Paul, O'Brien since age 12 has explored the forests and lakes of her state. 

"I want people to see something beautiful that I saw as beautiful," O'Brien said. 

Her thesis, titled "Chrysalid," includes oil paintings, woodcuts, multimedia and installations. After months of work, it is on show April 14-18 in the Lucas Gallery of the Lewis Center for the Arts at 185 Nassau St. 

"The show deals with memory and its transformations under the pressures of physical and temporal distance," O'Brien said. "More practically, the pieces are an investigation of smaller details of nature and how they capture me. My goal is to impart some of the beauty I find in these more quiet moments of nature, such as pigments in a rock or a felled tree."

As she developed her project, O'Brien tapped what she has learned from her classes and from working one-on-one with practicing artists at the Lewis Center. For example, she said sculptor Pam Lins, who works across a variety of platforms, helped her "communicate better." O'Brien took Lins' "Painting Without Canvas" class last fall, which she said was "one of the first moments I dove into more abstract painting, and doing so on a large scale."

Of the many discoveries O'Brien has made while creating her senior thesis: "Wood never does what you want it to do."

A video documenting Maura O'Brien's senior thesis in art and archaeology follows her as she works with wood and paint. (Video by Amaris Hardy, Office of Communications)

The senior thesis: Quintessentially Princeton

Inspired by learning experiences both in and out of the classroom — around campus and across the globe — all Princeton undergraduates tackle a monumental academic challenge by completing a senior thesis.

The thesis, considered the capstone of Princeton students' academic journey, is an independent work that requires seniors to pursue original research and scholarship under the guidance of faculty advisers.

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