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Senior Fellows Pursue Diverse Interests

Every year, an eclectic group of students wins senior fellowships, allowing each senior to pursue a year-long creative project outside the regular curriculum of classes and majors. Of the six fellows this year, one is working on a graphic novel and another is researching minorities in East Asia.

Detail from art by Mitsui '04
Detail from art by Mitsui '04

Daniel Mitsui '04 is writing an experimental graphic novel, a 60-page book that he is illustrating in black and white. While the format of the book is based on early American newspaper comics, the main source of inspiration for his artwork is medieval illuminated manuscripts, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels from eighth-century Northumbria. "I admire that kind of visual complexity," Mitsui says. "I think much modern art is too simple. I love detail."

Mitsui finds inspiration from other types of sources as well. Skulls imitate anatomical engravings from medical textbooks from the 17th century. Crowded cityscapes are based on aerial photographs. Mitsui uses heraldry and fractals, as well as Gothic art inspired by early 16th-century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, or Antonio Gaudi, a Catalan architect who revived the Gothic style in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "I lift from diverse sources that go along with the black-and-white style," Mitsui says.

Despite the historical models of his art, the story of the book "follows the thought process of a single contemporary character," Mitsui says.

"When we think, there's a lot of stuff going on. There's clutter in everybody's head," he adds. This is represented by the complex artwork; the detailed drawings hide smaller images that are found only with scrutiny.

"I think good art is full of surprises. You should be able to look at it for a long time," Mitsui says.

Sharon Yoon '04 is researching how Korean minorities in Japan and Chinese minorities in Korea form their own identities. "No one thinks they're minorities. They're small in number and invisible because you can't tell from how they look," Yoon says.

Yoon '04
Yoon '04 (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Yoon spent five months researching in Tokyo, Seoul, and smaller cities in Japan and Korea. She conducted interviews with 40 minority individuals, asking how they see themselves in relation to the ethnic community and to society. Yoon says the interviews were difficult. Some were so emotional that the interviewees walked out because it is a touchy issue, particularly for the Korean minorities. "The majority of Koreans living in Japan are third generation. Their appearance, language, names, and cultural identity are all Japanese, yet they are not accepted by their society," she says.

Because of this, many are compelled to hide the fact that they are Korean. "They carry a burden in their hearts, thinking, 'One day, I will have to tell my friends who I really am,'" Yoon says. "There is so much shame [for them] in the Korean identity."

For Yoon, who is Korean American, this research has been "a life-altering experience ... It's impacted me so much that I want to do this for the rest of my life," she says. She hopes to become a professor in anthropology or sociology, explaining that "the hope that I can change how people perceive things is motivating."

In addition to Yoon and Mitsui, four other senior fellows are working on projects this year. Iga Czarnawska '04 is making a documentary film on eating disorders. Jerome Green Jr. '04 is researching the Baha'i faith in the African-American community prior to 1940. Brian Griffeath-Loeb '04 is writing an opera. And Veronica Savory '04 is making a documentary and short film about race and urban adolescent identity.

- By Shiori Okazaki '04

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Last Updated: 5/30/08