This week, justArts spoke with Orli Swergold ’18, a participant from the Brandeis in Siena program this summer whose work is featured in the “New Work” exhibit.

justArts: How long have you been doing art?

Orli Swergold: I started doing art seriously in high school; I’ve been taking classes at Brandeis since my first semester. I declared my sophomore year.

JA: Why did you decide to go on the Siena Program?

OS: The requirements for painting are that you have to take four semesters of beginning and intermediate, but I skipped beginning, so I needed two more semesters of painting. [Brandeis] does not [offer] very many painting classes, and this counted as a credit for a painting class and an art history [class]. I needed both, and I had the time this summer. It also sounded like a really good opportunity.

JA: What was your favorite part?

OS: By far, my favorite part was [the social scene]. The program itself was really small — we were split up three and three to apartments. We ended up meeting a lot of local Italians and a lot of different people studying in Siena. We met incredible people, like jazz musicians, and I really did not expect to become friends with locals, but we really did.

JA: What did you paint when you were there?

OS: So, we had units, sort of. The first thing we did was paint a still life which was focused on renaissance techniques, like layering paint and under-drawings and doing tonal paintings. After that, we did a project where we went to a museum right near the school where we had to choose a Renaissance work to do our own interpretation of. It was very free, ... and we really could do what we wanted with it. The teacher (a Sienese artist) really wanted us to make it our own. We also did a big cityscape painting.

JA: What is your favorite piece that you did? Do you have all of your pieces up in the exhibit?

OS: No, we sort of chose the most finished ones. I really think each piece has its own merits; I’m not sure there is one I like more than the rest. The still life I didn’t really like because it was very technical, which is annoying to learn, but I think it came out very well; ... it looks beautiful. Then, the landscape was interesting, because it was way more difficult than I thought it would be. I think I learned a lot from doing it, but it was very frustrating. Then the one where we had to choose a piece to do our own interpretation of was also very interesting — I abstracted it a lot, and I do not usually work so abstractly.

JA: Do you have any last things you want to add?

OS: I would say it is a very underrated program — this year, there were only six of us. But it sort of changed my life. ... I know it sounds [weird], but there were so many people there who were really devoted to their craft and the arts and took it really seriously. I came back and realized I wanted that, and I wanted to take it more seriously for myself. So I actually ended up switching my majors this semester; I was studying business and art, and now I am studying art history and art. So, yeah, I really think it was kind of life-changing.

—Hannah Kressel