November 18, 2002
Bohdanna Kesala vividly remembers the first painting she shared with a large audience. As a freshman at Indiana University, she took a course on the Vietnam War.
Her readings on the war inspired her to start a painting, which she gave to the professor at the end of the semester. Three years later, the professor called her to ask about putting the painting on the cover of a new book he'd written on teaching students about Vietnam.
"That was my first exposure to the world. It was an incredible feeling," she said. "It was the first time anyone had really supported me, and I thought, 'Maybe I'm good enough to do this.' That was the first thing that sparked the idea."
Kesala, 31, had studied fine arts as an undergraduate, but majored in merchandising and business, thinking she needed "something to fall back on." After several years splitting her time between painting and working as an event planner while her husband finished school, the Chicago native and five-year San Francisco resident turned to painting full time. She's halfway through SFSU's 3-year MFA program in painting.
"In a year and a half, my work has gotten much better, much stronger," she said. "I wouldn't have improved as much, as quickly if I had not been here."
Her successes have included a nomination to show her work at the fourth Biennale Internazionale dell'Arte Contemporanea in Florence, Italy, next December. A seven-member international jury nominated her, but Kesala said the nomination process remains a secret.
"My work is in the book 'The Art of Northern California,' which features about 140 artists, so somebody could have seen my paintings there," she said. "I asked, but they refused to tell me who nominated me. All I know is that I get 3 meters of space, and close to 600 artists from around the world will exhibit there."
With about 12 months to prepare, Kesala said she's trying to save money for the trip and work on her art.
"I'm just trying to paint the best paintings I can. I want something new and fresh," she said. "Whatever I take with me I want to be representative of the time. I'll be bringing something current."
An abstract painter who works in oil and wax (see 'my new blue ring' upper right), Kesala has two paintings on display at the 13th Annual Stillwell Student Art Show, a venue for second-year MFA students and undergraduates to exhibit their work. Her paintings "Reflection" (left) and "White Legend" are exhibited at the campus show, which runs from noon to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays in the Fine Arts Gallery through Dec. 5.
Kesala's art is also displayed on her Web site.
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