Photograph by M. Walker
My name is Stacey (Zebith) Thalden. I graduated from Goddard College, Vermont Campus, in 2012 with a degree from the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts (MFAIA) program.
As a nature illustrator, I delight in the bold shapes decorating the shell of a beetle and the iridescent sheen illuminating the feathers of a bird. These details in nature not only inspire my creative practice but also led me to pursue a graduate degree. I exhibit my work nationally and create artwork for nature centers, natural history museums, scientists, book publishers, and outdoor enthusiasts. I have also had the honor to expand my practice as an Artist-in-Residence at Zion National Park, creating artwork immersed within Zion’s extraordinary natural environment. In addition to my creative practice, I also teach a variety of classes on art and design.
Goddard’s MFAIA program was the perfect fit for me. I was looking for a college where I could establish a creative praxis merging art with science and build upon my previously acquired skills. The program exceeded my expectations. Their mission supported my chosen academic focus while the self-directed curriculum allowed me to expand my intellectual philosophy, utilize the techniques I had learned in art school, and even work directly with entomology labs. In addition, the low-residency program enabled me to keep a teaching position while fulfilling degree requirements.
One of the greatest benefits I gained from attending the MFAIA program was the focus on the creative process, in addition to celebrating the end product. Experiencing this shift in perspective, led me to establish a more balanced, integrated and enjoyable artistic practice. This ideology also provided me with the freedom to experiment, explore and delve deeply into new skills and subjects as I worked, which in turn enhanced my creative philosophy, outlook and technique. The most notable of these influences, was during a semester that I devoted to enhancing the realism of my insect illustrations. The result of my studies and observations not only taught me a great deal about life essence but also inspired me to expand beyond the 2D platform, which had been my main focus, and begin creating 3D sculptural forms. Since graduation, I have evolved this concept to the point where I now create highly detailed and incredibly life-like 3D, as well as 2D, paintings of beetles and butterflies.
In addition to the research and artwork that resulted from my time at Goddard, I greatly benefited by being a part of the thriving and diverse community of students and faculty that make up the program. They brought an incredibly rich quality to my education in the form of positive support, inclusive networking, and expansive thinking. Each semester, I worked with an advisor that was simply outstanding and all of whom encouraged me to enrich my practice far beyond what I could have imagined, created on my own, or obtained in a traditional college setting.
Attending Goddard College was one of the best decisions I have made in my life, I am deeply grateful for all that I gained while I was there and the ways that my current practice continues to benefit from everything that I learned.
[Compiled by Devora Neumark]