In a dialogue with art, UI graduate student gives her perspective on woodworking

UI graduate student N.E. Brown uses the versatility of wood to create her art.

Madison Lotenschtein, Arts Reporter

Tucked in the back corner of the painting and drawing section of the Visual Arts Building, artist N.E. Brown’s studio boasts an array of woodwork, paintings, and prints. A giant wooden spoon with wood flowers atop it rests on the floor, and paintings and prints hang from the white walls of her tiny studio.

Along with wooden spoons, Brown’s workspace is home to a few wooden arches that resemble the high ceiling of a church.

“I grew up Episcopalian, so I use the arches of a church through woodwork,” Brown said. “But a lot of my work is about identity. Being human is complex, and I like to articulate where I’m at in life through my art.”

Working with wood requires many techniques, and she uses two of them frequently: wood joinery and wood bending.

“For wood joinery, you don’t use any screws,” she said. “It’s all about bringing wood apart and together. Working with wood is so versatile. You can draw on it, paint on it, and it’s replenishable.”


On the latter end, wood bending is how to bend and manipulate the wood.

“The petals are accomplished by a wood-bending process using water and heat,” Brown said.

The Pittsburgh native embarks on her artistic process through the several strokes of a pencil and a blank sheet of sketchbook paper.

“I try to figure out how to lose control without a definitive image,” Brown said. “Though I do make a lot of defined things [spoons, for instance]. I also think that having a shared dialogue within your art is important.”

Despite the beautifully finished pieces in her studio, Brown said, the number of failures outweighs the positive outcomes.

“I am always experimenting,” she said. “When I go in to work on a piece, the question of whether or not it’s going to work is always there.”

Brown’s love for art stems back to the fourth grade, when she began drawing.

“You never stop growing, as an artist,” Brown said. “I think that’s the best part about it.”

After graduating from Temple University, she decided that graduate school was the best route for her to take. Not only has she taught students, she has also diligently worked at the Office of Graduate Inclusion.

“I can see myself doing work for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Brown said.

Graduating from the UI this month, she mulls over what path to take in regard to her future career. She is held back by only one thing: the physical size of her art.

“Please, someone buy my art, it’s too large and heavy for me to move with,” she said and laughed.