By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — Katherine Fliegel is not your average student. She speaks and carries herself in a way that makes those around her listen carefully. Her words are chosen just as thoughtfully as she decides which medium to use in her next art project.
“Fliegel is the best art student I have ever had the pleasure to work with [over the course of 22 years],” said Shenendehowa art teacher Christopher Murray.
Fliegel, just 17, is excited to begin studying illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence this fall.
Art hasn’t always been the obvious choice for Fliegel. “I always wanted to be a nurse. My mother was a nurse,” said Fliegel. Her parents were forced to stop working after an accident left them both paralyzed when Katherine and her older brother Robert were young. Robert now studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Though she is the only member of her immediate family who has a passion for creating art, Fliegel said she recently discovered her grandmother loved to take photos in her free time.
In ninth grade, an art teacher named Ms. Engel pulled Fliegel aside after the last day of school and told her to not stop making art, even if she wasn’t the best in the class at the time.
“She saw something in me that I didn’t recognize,” said Fliegel.
Like many budding artists, Fliegel’s high expectations of her own work are rarely met. “It makes me less confident but it leads me to never be egotistical and makes it so I can always improve,” she said.
Fliegel said she has taken just about every art class offered by Shenendehowa with the exception of ceramics which she would have taken if her schedule wasn’t already full. This year she is taking photography and fine arts courses. She has been able to take Advanced Placement Art twice, a course which allows her a great deal of flexibility and autonomy.
“Art to me mis something I want to create not just to learn more about myself but to present information like a story. I want to be able to inspire others and make them feel more comfortable with themselves,” said Fliegel.
She added, “I want to express love and affection to those who don’t have that. I hope I can do that without being with them but in a way I am with them in spirit.”
The young artist took part in the New York State Summer School of the Arts at the State University of New York at Fredonia the past two summers. During the month long program, Fliegel studied sculpture, drawing and 3D media while living in the university’s residential halls.
Fliegel said she hopes to do as much work as possible and fully utilize the resources offered by the Rhode Island School of Design once she begins classes in the fall. She’s excited to attend lectures, visit museums and study under accomplished artists.
Vincent Van Gogh and the austrian painter Egon Schiele are a couple of Fliegel’s influences.
Q: How do you decide which medium to use on each piece?
A: I use acrylic for heavier [feeling] pieces. Watercolor lends an illustrative quality you might find in children’s books.
Q: Do you listen to music while you work?
A: Yes. Sometimes Bo en, Dvořák or Tchaikovsky.
Q: What is your favorite book?
A: Metamorphosis by Kafka. I empathize with the main character because he deserves better. It’s like a bad day. Nothing goes his way. It’s something I look back on once and awhile and it keeps me grounded.
Q: Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
A: I would like to be working, perhaps I’ll have the fortune to do what I want with my work. I know that’s a difficult process but I’m willing to work for it to get there of course. Whatever comes my way, I’d like to stay positive and help others. I think that goes into my work, too.
Q: How has this past election influenced your work, if at all?
A: It inspires me to do more. It’s difficult. It feels sort of like a dream but once January comes I know we will have to say hello to somebody new and take that with our best efforts to get our greatest outcome.
Q: If you could travel anywhere, where would you choose?
A: Anywhere that I have the ability to learn and grow from — I’m open to everything.
Q: Do you have any advice for young artists who may be discouraged with their work?
A: Keep working because even if nobody recognizes its beauty, it’s still a part of you and whatever you end up with is better than not having it.