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May 27, 2021

Sculpting a Career

Guilford inspired New Jersey native Natalia Petkov ’16 to pursue the study of art and open her mind to all the possibilities it contains.

“He [Professor Mark Dixon] opened my mind to the different possibilities that art could be and that it isn’t just traditional figurative paintings. That made me want to explore it further."

Natalia Petkov '16
Art major

She found herself taken with nature on campus as well as with a variety of courses. Specifically, a 3-D design class with Art Professor Mark Dixon set Natalia on her current path. 

“He opened my mind to the different possibilities that art could be and that it isn’t just traditional figurative paintings. That made me want to explore it further,” she says.

During her time at Guilford, Natalia played on the soccer team while exploring the world of art as she worked toward her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture.

She works in nontraditional materials typically in sculpture and installation, creating environments from everyday materials that might not be thought of as art. At Guilford, she worked in grass clippings. More recently she has incorporated salt and steel wool into her pieces.

Natalia also credits Professor Roy Nydorf with shaping her understanding of art and its transformative potential. “He’s such a wonderful teacher and really taught me how to be dedicated to an art practice and make art from your soul,” she says.

Considering the Future

After graduating from Guilford, Natalia took a few years off in Miami to discern what she wanted her life to be outside of academia. “My time off between school was really valuable because it helped me see what I want and what I don't want,” she says. 

Ultimately, Natalia decided to pursue graduate school at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, where she’s earning her Master’s in Fine Art.

“Guilford was such a nurturing education experience and being in graduate school is definitely not as nurturing. It’s kind of like being thrown to the wolves! But it's super intense and really wonderful,” Natalia explains. “It got me to start thinking about myself and my art practice outside of the scope of galleries and exhibitions and think more widely about how I can be involved in the world through art.”

Natalia is also working in electoral politics with a civic engagement fellow at the Pratt Institute. Together, they’re examining ways to “bring art to the community to get the public excited about voting and changing unfair systems.”

After she completes her master’s degree in May, Natalia would like to teach sculpting and a course in nontraditional materials while continuing to create. 

Her advice to art students: “Take time to figure out what you want out of a career as an artist because there are a lot of avenues you can take. Keep your mind open because there are a lot of ways you can take a career as an artist. From what I'm learning, there is no cookie cutter way to do it. It might be difficult, but you can choreograph your own path.”

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