New artwork reflects Mercyhurst Resilience

Annie Markel, Contributing writer

A picture says a thousand words. It is an artist’s job to weave a story between the strokes of the paintbrush and fabricate a message to be understood by the viewer.

Many of us see the artwork placed around campus as something pretty to look at in passing, or something used to decorate the halls. However, taking a step back during these unsettling times and contemplating the meaning of art can bring hope and peace to strenuous thoughts.

Last year, vice president for Mission, Greg Baker, commissioned a Mercyhurst alum by the name of Jamie Borowicz to create a piece of art for the campus. Little did Baker know it would have more meaning in the next year than he ever expected.

Jamie Borowicz is a local artist who is also heavily involved on the Mercyhurst campus along with his wife, Alice Edwards, professor of Spanish. Borowicz is originally from Mercer, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Mercyhurst in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in art and has been creating art ever since.

Borowicz has taught art and art history at the Mercyhurst Preparatory School for 36 years now. Borowicz also coaches the girls’ soccer team. Above all, he is a seasoned local artist, and his first exhibition took place right after he graduated.

“I have been working for the past year with architectural and geometric forms and composing complex images based on multiple architectural elements and then rearranging/superimposing them to suggest built structures,” said Borowicz.

If you have not already seen the art piece while walking around campus, it is hung in the Old Main building and is expected to move to the Old Main Heritage Room which was dedicated last winter.

The piece illustrates a figurative pattern of rooftops, steeples, windows and rafters recognizable from Old Main. It is also made up of rich, earthy tones such as brown, gold and red to represent simplicity, tradition and passion.

The viewer can see different words such as “progress” and “change” strung in between harsh lines of black to give the piece contrast and structure. Thus, it generates a “Post-Modernist tactical complexity” said Borowicz.

To say the art piece is spectacular would be an understatement.

“I thought the image practically painted itself. Like the innovation and creative thinking required to make it through challenging times, this image asks you to see Old Main in a new and different way. I think the message is actually Sr. Carolyn’s message, just visualized as an image that all who are connected to Mercyhurst can relate to.”

When looking at the piece, there is a quote on the bottom which says, “Each decade brings with it the need for a specific type of progress involving radical change.” This quote is from Sister Carolyn Herrmann just before her resignation as president of Mercyhurst University in 1972.

Just like today, this quote reflects when the world was in turmoil in the early 70s. Mercyhurst had recently become a co-educational school and undergone huge changes. The fight against racism and violence in society was ongoing and still stands as strong as it did in the 1970s.

When commissioned last year, we had no idea what 2020 would bring. Now Mercyhurst is weathering a new storm in the form of COVID-19, and the artwork’s message of resilience is more apt than ever.

The image represents resilience against COVD-19 by showing the progression of the university into a new decade, full of both challenges and hope.

As Old Main stands strong, Mercyhurst University will stand steadfast in its efforts against the coronavirus.