Each issue, Anna interviews a university artist in order to celebrate Sewanee’s myriad of writers, thespians, dancers, composers, and creators of fine art.
Morgan Pruett (C’18) sits in the common room of the Writing House, holding a collaged journal in her lap as her silver labradoodle methodically pulls the stuffing from a toy. She presents a large notebook, explaining her penchant for photo-journaling, the themes in each of her four notebooks, and the magazines she collects for this purpose alone.
“I’m very much a people pleaser,” she clarifies as she flips through the vibrant pages, “but this is something that’s all for me, it’s very easy to reset and get back to myself when I do [photo journaling]. It’s a way to understand my own emotions and what’s going on in the world in the moment.”
Although her interest in collaging began in high school, Pruett learned about photography from her mother from the age that the camera fit in her hands. In this sense, art has always pervaded her life as her mother hardly ever set down her own camera, and her grandfather possessed boxes filled with photos from his time in Vietnam. It seemed a given that Pruett would continue her work as an art and English major in college.
An avid doodler, sketcher, welder, and videographer, Pruett still thinks of photography as the most engaging medium. Her artistic eye and ease behind the lens make the process a familiar one. So, when her sense of repose felt threatened by the draining nature of academic art, Pruett dropped the major.
“Art to me is very cathartic and it’s very personal,” she says, “so I’d have a hard time making a living out of it or putting it out there for the world. It felt like my art was escaping me and I wanted to go back to doing it on my own terms. At the end of the day, it’s a huge part of self-compassion, self-love and understanding. When it gets away from you and you have all these expectations and limits, it becomes hard to experiment.”
Pruett also described the delicate balance between making a work soulful and protecting oneself, a line that Pruett says she herself has yet to understand. While making vulnerable works and discussing them in a broad scope still eludes her, Pruett thinks of this marriage as the most honorable element of the artistic profession.
“You’re thinking, ‘is this unique enough, is it good enough, am I going to be able to eat?’ Once you get to that point, you sell your soul and your art in a way, you’re doing it in exchange for money. It’s not yours anymore. Yet, [vulnerability] is what makes art such a noble cause, and I really respect people who go into art with everything they have. I feel like they know more about human nature than a person in any other job,” she explains.
Despite her discontinuation of art classes at Sewanee, Pruett states that the University certainly helped develop her work by expanding her view of art from a personal to a global scale. She asserts that the accessibility of the professors, the artists she met through the program, and the community at large all helped make her work more impactful.
Ultimately, Pruett only has one piece of advice for new and life-long artists alike. “Don’t feel like you have to have all these qualifications to be an artist,” she says. “A lot of people don’t feel worthy of the title, but art is such a wide span of views and ideas. You can be terrible at art and still be an artist as long as you have an eye for it.”