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UNT design student creates art from modern technology and vintage imagery

UNT design student creates art from modern technology and vintage imagery

UNT design student creates art from modern technology and vintage imagery
April 29
11:00 2021

A UNT student scrolls through public domain websites, searching for vintage imagery to make the subject of her next piece. She downloads various elements found from retro advertisements, old National Geographic magazines and art from the ‘60s and ‘70s, then uploads them to Adobe Photoshop to play with the layers and turn them into a work of art of her own.

“Basically, I like to mix modern technology with vintage imagery, so a lot of my art is like, some people describe it psychedelic, some people describe it [as] retro [and] some people see it as surrealism,” design management junior McKenna Applewhite said. “I feel like it’s more up to the person viewing it to see what they want for it.”

Applewhite’s interest in this style of art sparked when she was involved with her high school’s literary arts magazine, eventually becoming editor-in-chief in her senior year. Through this program, she was able to hone her skills in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop.

In high school, she used to make more physical collages using paper and old-fashioned scissors, but once she discovered how much more she could do using a computer, such as manipulating layers and bringing in more elements, she shifted her focus to a digital format. 

When making a piece, Applewhite does not go in with a particular vision, but she lets the pieces that she finds online guide her work, describing it as a “scavenger hunt.” Some pieces she makes are for her aesthetic connection, that may hold a different meaning for other people, and other pieces are connected to events and feelings within her own life.

“This beginning stage is so important to my process and in many ways therapeutic to me,” Applewhite said. “It feels like I enter my own realm filled with vibrant colors, starry skies and butterfly wings.”

She also introduces icons in her pieces who played a role in her upbringing, such as Dolly Parton, Diana Ross and Sharon Tate. 

“I think the biggest theme that runs along all of them is the female form and divine femininity, and I just really love using different imageries of all different types of girls in my art, like I’ve been obsessed with fashion and art and magazines and it-girls for forever, and celebrities and stuff,” Applewhite said. 

Applewhite’s fascination with the ’60s and ’70s came from her mom who grew up during that time. Applewhite was raised watching boxed sets of cartoons and shows and listening to music from that era.

“With technology, I think of it this way as like my art is this bridge of the past and the future,” Applewhite said. “I pull these past images from decades that I love and I use modern technology to bring it to the future.”

As her design endeavors have progressed, Applewhite has done more personal commissions, and so far has commissioned three album covers for new musicians. One album cover in particular she made was for musician and Northfield, MN resident Bryn Battani for her EP titled “All I Have To Offer You Is Anything You Want.” Battani was interested in Applewhite’s work because of the vintage imagery that caught her eye.

I noticed that a lot of her work features the female face and form, which was something I knew I wanted for my cover art,” Battani said. “She also uses circles to draw attention to the subject and often centers the subject, which I was drawn to as well. There is an element of movement in all of her work that fits with my artistic ideas about speed and intensity, as does her use of rich color and crisp, graphic shapes.”

Applewhite also creates artwork for Radio Commune, a Denton radio show that strives to bring together likely and unlikely musical pairings from around the world, hosted by her boyfriend Jack Lundsgaarde. In her creations for the show, she makes preview graphics and highlights musicians featured on the show.

“[Applewhite] will take these artists and create a totally unique [picture] that not only incorporates them but also represents that particular show as a whole,” Lundsgaard said. “The cover that [Applewhite] makes for each show adds not only an important element for listeners but fully completes the music as a visual reference. The ethos of [Applewhite’s] work, ‘collective images for the collective mind,’ is not only the perfect way to view her work but also explains why creatively the two pair so well together.”

Going forward, Applewhite hopes to pursue a career in design, and in the near future, wants to continue doing more personal commissions. Those interested in viewing her artwork can do so on her Instagram, @pyritegirl.

Featured Image: McKenna Applewhite poses with her piece titled “Dream Lodge” on April 14, 2021. Image by Maria Crane

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Maria Lawson

Maria Lawson

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