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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Grinnell chapter.

A Conversation with Eden Marek

I arrive in the Dining Hall promptly at 8:30 a.m. for my breakfast with senior Eden Marek: renowned artist, soccer phenom, and this week’s Campus Celebrity. By the time my tray is filled with an inappropriate number of mocha chocolate muffins, I receive a text indicating she will be a few minutes late.

Although Marek had expressed excitement about the interview opportunity, her girlfriend Cristal Coleman later revealed to me that Marek was secretly apprehensive of my propensity to ask ‘deep’ questions, for which she wouldn’t have any answers. I take the time to jot down a few curveballs so as not to disappoint.

When Marek arrives we make ourselves comfortable at a date table, while Coleman takes a seat at the corner end of the nearest long table, placing several folders in front of her in a feeble attempt to make us think she is doing anything other than shamelessly eavesdropping.

Marek is currently pursuing a degree in art, and plans to attend architecture school post-graduation. She cites an early love of playing with blocks, her experience reading a mystery called The Wright 3 about Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, and an affinity for working with her hands as contributing factors to her passion for 3-D design.

Marek’s latest exhibit, Organic Tensions: Study of Paper, is the product of the first half of her MAP, which focuses on papermaking as applied to structural forms.This topic was inspired by two classes Marek took last semester, Chemistry of Artist Materials, and Buildings, Towers, and Skyscrapers.

[Organic Tensions’ closing reception will take place Wednesday, November 5th at 7:30 p.m. in the Smith Gallery. Marek will present her final MAP paper at the Conard Environmental Research Area on Saturday, December 6th from 1:30-3p.m. Shuttles will be provided to and from the event, and students will have the opportunity to participate in a papermaking workshop following the presentation.]

So what were these classes about,” I ask, as an alternative to inquiring why she is eating her breakfast sandwich with a knife and fork.

“Well Buildings, Towers, and Skyscrapers, was a lot of physics and engineering, and the Artist Materials one was about making materials you use to…make things,” Marek says. For Marek, these courses produced an interest in bridges, both in the physical and metaphorical sense.

“You can think of it as what a physical bridge might mean to the community it’s in, or more along the lines of: what does bridging mean as a term applied to anything,” Marek explains.

As part of a semester-long project, Marek’s class was awarded the opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom and visit the specific bridges that they had studied throughout the course. Marek’s focus was the Gateshead Millenium Footbridge that spans the River Tyme, a steel suspension bridge linking Bankside and the city of London across the River Thames. “It was a really cool experience to have learned so much about an object and then suddenly see how it’s placed in the community, to walk on it, and touch the materials,” Marek explains.

“So did you have a spiritual awakening?” I ask.

“No,” she says. “But it was cool. You kind of have that moment where it’s like ‘Oh, everything I’ve read makes sense’. But I think that goes for anything you learn in school and then get to experience up close.”

This interest eventually evolved into Marek embarking on a material study of paper, with a specific focus on paper’s kinetic qualities.

“Why choose paper?” I ask. “Probably because it’s so versatile,” Marek replies. “It’s super light, but so strong; but also fragile. There are so many things you can do to it; so many different ways to manipulate it.”

According to Marek, the individual pieces on her current exhibit’s South wall are the best examples of her ‘study of material’, as they demonstrate her experimentation with what forms might result from combining paper and wire, and what tensions the wire might produce. This type of work falls under the category of process art, where an artist leaves some of the ‘making’ up to the material. “I can set the guidelines, but the material will do what it wants. I like to think of it as drawing out the truth of the material,” Marek explains.

“But wouldn’t an artist want more control over the material, not less?” I ask. “Not necessarily. I like the surprise and the variation. There are so many things the material can do differently each time if I just leave a little bit up to chance,” Marek explains.

“So you like to leaving things up to chance?” I ask. “Yes, because I learn more,” Marek says. “Each time it’s a new experiment. If chance is a factor, I can get results that I may not have thought of myself.

Marek claims that she is proudest of this piece of work; a close second is a giant fish she made out of cardboard for an art class her first year. She describes the fish as having big wire fangs with ‘reflecty eyes,’ and reminisces fondly about using it creep people out around campus. “So it was more about you being a weirdo than the art,” I deduce. “No. I liked making…the fish,” she says. “It was one of those times where you want something to turn out a certain way, and it does. And it’s jaw moved. And it went on my head.”

Marek explains that she likes to divide her productivity into two steps: first crafting the product without mental engagement, and then going back to analyze the work. “I like being able to disconnect from meaning, but then go back and reattach it,” she says. And, since she doesn’t consider herself particularly good with words, she relies on this medium for self-expression.

It’s important for everyone to translate some internal idea or design into something external,” Marek says. “Well what would you say to the fact that some people are boring and don’t have anything to express?” I ask. “I think everyone notices things differently, so that translates into different products,” Marek adeptly replies. “Plus, you need to have the boring work in order for other people’s to look cooler.

Marek comments that her bread tastes weird; I refrain from pointing out that maybe if she ate it with her hands, this wouldn’t be the case. Instead, we shift gears to discuss Marek’s soccer career. As a first year defender Marek was named Freshman Athlete of the Year, and her team captured the Midwest Conference Title. During her following two seasons she anchored the Pioneer defensive line, until several concussions sidelined Marek for good.

“So what was it like being a Bucksbaum to the Bear kid?” I ask.

To be honest, I didn’t realize how unfair the departments are to each other until I came into position where I wasn’t doing both,” Marek says.

Marek describes the spring soccer season following her career-ending injury, when, suddenly not saddled with any athletic responsibilities, she was able to attend artist talks which she had been forced to miss throughout her Grinnell career. “I’m sort of bitter about it,” Marek says. “They need to do a better job of scheduling things at 7:30 p.m. or over the noon hour.”

Marek claims that there is a significant body of athletes who would be interested in engaging in these types of art-centered activities, but because they are typically scheduled during practice times, are rarely available.

All the adults get on us about being two separate communities, but it’s a consequence of the poor scheduling,” Marek says. “So they started it.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Coleman blurts out randomly from across the aisle. Marek and I ignore her.

“So you’re going to be an architect” I say, because Marek’s sandwich remains unfinished, and for symmetry purposes I refuse to end the interview until it is.

“Yes. Or a famous artist,” Marek confirms.

“What would be your first piece that captures the attention of the public and propels you to stardom?” I ask.

“Well it’s not about one piece,” Marek informs. “It’s about making a huge body of work. If the public likes it that’s great. But eventually the public will like it, even if maybe you’re dead. And then you will be famous. So it’s just liking what you do and making a lot of it. But also I do like the glamour of being famous. Which I know about from being a Campus Celebrity.”

Closing Thoughts on Art, Architecture, and the Meaning of It All:

Alissa: “So are you going to build houses?”

Eden: “Yes. I like 3 dimensional things that have a purpose. I like envisioning people walking around”

Alissa: “You like envisioning people walking around…?”

Eden: “Like when you’re on a plane you see all the little houses. I also played with a lot of blocks as a kid.”

Alissa: “So child Eden just played soccer and blocks?”

Eden: “And Playmobil plastic people.”

Alissa: “Again with the little people?”

Eden: “You would be like creating whole lives for them. You’d make these kingdoms and intricate places and then take pictures of them, and then start over…I had friends. I wasn’t doing this by myself.”

Alissa: “So you’ve been an architect for a long time?”

Eden: I started my portfolio young. They were badly taken photos! I didn’t take any art classes in high school, but in 5th grade I became obsessed with Frank Lloyd Wright, which was my formal introduction to architecture. I made a documentary on it. I was really into movie making in high school. I like being given a set of guidelines and doing with it as much as I can.”

Cristal: “Ain’t that the truth.”

Eden: “If I have the freedom to do whatever I want it gets too overwhelming. I need some set of parameters. If I’m not given them, I make them up,”

Alissa: “Is art a personal journey or a journey to give something to the world?”

Eden: “I just like doing it.”

Katy is the Her Campus Correspondent for Grinnell College. She is a junior psychology major and plans to go to graduate school for clinical psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, skiing, shopping, expanding her music collection, traveling and of course, coming home to her dogs (and the rest of her family).