The Bigger Picture: Student paints life-sized portrait of OSU president
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
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Dr. Kayse Shrum excels at empowering people.
For the Oklahoma State University president, seeing students showcase their skills and creativity is one of her favorite parts of the job.
In March, when Dr. Shrum attended the BFA Studio Capstone Exhibition for students, she enjoyed marveling at their talent and artistry. One painting, in particular, really caught her eye.
A student, Shyanne Dickey, exhibited a life-sized painting of her mother. A collage of images from when Dickey’s mother was younger was ingrained in the piece; telling the story of her life in a way words could not.
Amazed by how the images and elements came together into the painting, Shrum requested a similar portrait. She thought it would be a marvelous way for individuals to see her story and possibly a side of her they didn’t know before, Dickey said.
Unsure if she was the right person for the job, Dickey took some words of encouragement from Shrum and they sat down to discuss the details of the portrait in April. Together, they decided on the life-sized portrait so the images would be evident within the painting.
Shrum provided Dickey with a handful of images depicting significant moments in her life to be displayed prominently within the painting. The main image Shrum selected to be expressed was of her standing on the steps of Morrill Hall, a photo which was taken for the cover of the fall 2021 edition of STATE Magazine.
As the 19th president of OSU, and the first woman to lead the OSU system, the photo
portrays Shrum as powerful and visionary. Dickey felt the pillars on the front of
Morrill Hall signified strength and the steps represented great things yet to come,
important details to emphasize. Dickey even took note of little details like Shrum’s sparkling orange heels.
In May, Dickey began working in the Bartlett Center for the Visual Arts. Dickey was putting in seven hours a day on the piece, and, due to the portrait’s large size, she needed additional material to complete the collage. She researched Shrum, pulling pictures from Instagram and headlines from news articles on important career and personal moments.
With research complete and photos compiled, the collage began to take shape. Each element in the portrait was meticulously placed to tell Shrum’s story. Once the outline of the collage was on canvas, Dickey broke out her oil paints and began to bring the portrait to life.
“Everything had a significance,” Dickey said. “The placement of the pictures, if you look closely, the ones near her chest and her heart are her family.”
Throughout her clothing are images of special moments, such as her winning Woman of
the Year in 2019 and moments from her work as a
After two months of work, Dickey completed the painting and invited Shrum to view her portrait.
“One of my favorite moments was when the portrait was all finished, we had her come in and take a look at it, and it was dried, and the first thing she touched was her family,” Dickey said. “... That was a great moment as an artist to see.”
Dickey and her family delivered the portrait to Shrum’s office for it to be displayed at her inauguration for friends and family to enjoy.
“I really enjoyed when the kids saw it because they came to the inauguration and they saw the portrait,” Dickey said. “At first, they said ‘Oh, OK, this is cool,’ and I said, ‘You guys should look a little closer.’’’
Suddenly, they began to see the moments embedded in the portrait included images of themselves. They were surprised to see themselves in the piece and excited to be a part of the moment, Dickey said.
“I was blown away by Shyanne’s portrait,” Shrum said. “Her interpretation of the original photo and her representation of my life through the background images is inspiring and also humbling. I am honored that she chose to take on the project and create such a remarkable work of art. Her attention to detail and the sheer creativity of the piece are breathtaking.
“I will treasure it.”
Photos by: Phil Shockley
Story by: Sydney Trainor | STATE Magazine