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Senior Nika Grusby confronts “uncomfortable” through art

Nika Grusby
“Shelf Life” (left) and “Excess” (right)

As you step into North’s art room, you’re greeted with a whirlwind of talent. Glimmering canvases line the walls, speckles of paint adorn the tables, and students work diligently to finish their pieces. Among the crowd is senior Nika Grusby, whose work seems to draw you in with a sense of raw vulnerability. Through her time in North’s art program, she has found and honed her creativity. 


Grusby has been an artist her entire life, though she only started North’s art major classes her junior year. “I really enjoy being in a space with a lot of other creative, like-minded people, and the art program at North specifically has given me that space,” she said. 


Her art journey has not always been linear. In the past, she said she’s taken months off of art due to a lack of motivation, created by a disinterest in her subject matter.


“Now I try to do pieces that are a bit quicker,” said Grusby. “Sometimes I do take a long time to finish them, but I find if I spend too long on one piece, I just kind of, I’m not interested in it anymore, I feel like I’ve evolved already from the original idea. I can make something better.” 


By letting go of her old methods, she’s been able to find fulfillment in new forms of art. “More recently, I’ve been turning to making art as statement pieces, as me trying to get my voice out there, express my personal experiences, and just, you know, really trying to say something with my art,” she said. 


With more time in her schedule and further direction from her teachers, according to Grusby, she’s been able to experiment with her craft, evolving from hyperrealism to more expressive pieces.


“I remember going into the Art Minor room and seeing her do some drawing and I was blown away,” said art teacher Ms. Slattery. “Basically, I told her, “You’re coming with me.”


According to Ms. Slattery, she veered from her usual style of teaching with Grusby, focusing less on her technique. “Because Nika is already so technically skilled, we have talked together a lot about concepts within her work,” she said. “Recently, I’ve noticed she’s been doing a lot of stuff in her portfolio around this idea of women, culture, ideals of beauty, and social pressures on women.”


Grusby is part of a movement in the younger generation that uses their voices as catalysts for change and subversion. “I like to, in my art, express a lot of things and topics that are uncomfortable to talk about,” she said. “I think art’s a great way to get that out there. If it’s uncomfortable to talk about, I think it should still be discussed.” Through her art, she comes face to face with ideas such as weight and gender, emphasizing the debilitating standards that are pushed on today’s women. 


According to Grusby, she finds inspiration in the thought-provoking political undertones of Jennifer Packer’s work, which is exemplified in her latest pieces, “Excess” and “Shelf-Life.” 


“Excess” bears deeply saturated, almost bloodied swashes of red, beckoning the viewer to not only look at but listen to the subject’s grievances. Holding scissors, the focused figure of the portrait loathingly grasps her stomach, intent on self-destruction. “Belly fat being a major insecurity of mine, this self-portrait poses the toxic question — if I don’t want it, and I don’t need it, what harm could a few snips skinnier do?” said Grusby. 


“Shelf-Life” reflects on the “expiration” of women, as their worth, defined by society, is based on their appearance. Through this piece, Grusby again poses a question to her audience. “At what point are we past our prime? What is the age that fruitfulness and beauty start to wane, and woman, like rotten fruit, is tossed to the side?” she said. 


“I’ve been doing art my entire life, although I started taking it more seriously in middle school. Maybe seventh grade,” she said.


Next year she hopes to take her talents to the next level at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Hopefully there, just because I love the campus, I love the program, everything about it seems amazing.”

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