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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Student novelist, artist entwines passions in thesis work

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Anne Gutherman ’24 showcases her artwork in the Frances M. Maguire Art Museum. PHOTO: LUKE SANELLI ’26/THE HAWK

Anne Gutherman ’24 is the epitome of ambition.

A double major in studio art and English, Gutherman is a prolific storyteller through both her writing and artwork.

Gutherman’s series of illustrations, “Flies from a Long Way Off,” currently displayed in the Frances M. Maguire Art Museum’s senior art thesis exhibition is also the basis for one of Gutherman’s novels. She’s completed six of them in the last eight years. Gutherman’s seventh novel, her Honors Program thesis, is “Chalk Fairies,” a young adult murder mystery.

While Gutherman’s interest in writing did not start until high school, art is something she has been doing as long as she can remember. In the beginning of college, Gutherman struggled to adjust to the challenge of approaching things differently that came with art and writing courses at St. Joe’s. However, these are the ones Gutherman saw the most improvement from.

“I owe a lot of it to the professors, specifically Professor [Stephen] Cope, actually. I can see a very visible difference between paintings before that and paintings after that because he rewired how I think about it,” Gutherman said.

Gutherman’s writing process begins with a notebook to throw ideas on a page. Gutherman typically starts with characters, who then begin to inform everything that happens around them.

“Even if I have a loose idea of what I want the plot and world to be like, it’s really the characters that end up making a lot of those decisions,” Gutherman said. “At the end of the day, their emotional goal is what’s going to influence everything around it,” Gutherman said.

The artist in Gutherman is there, too.

“I doodle a lot during this process because it just helps me to put things together,” Gutherman said. “Sometimes, I don’t know how to say the thing I’m thinking, but I can draw it.”

Gutherman’s illustrations “Flies from a Long Way Off,” first inspired by her discussion post on a literary theory discussed in Sophomore Seminar with Jason Mezey, Ph.D., professor of English, considers Jorge Luis Borges’ fictional taxonomy of animals. From “fabled ones” to “those that have just broken the vase” and “those that from afar look like flies,” Borges’s 14 categories try to prove that whenever humans try to classify something, it is either inconsistent or exclusive.

“I thought that was so fascinating because every time I would read fantasy, which I used to read quite a bit, I realized that I really didn’t like it and then I would stop,” Gutherman said. 

After reading Borges’ classification, Gutherman realized the concept could be used for world building in a book someday. So, she took it upon herself to do so.

“Society, in the book, is built off of the fact that the characters are organized based on these things, but these things are inherently arbitrary, because it doesn’t work. And you’re leaving people on the margins of society because they don’t fit into these categories that you aligned,” Gutherman said. “So, I just took the generic fantasy world building trope and made a book where I’m like, ‘This is why that doesn’t work.’ And I based it off of a system that was trying to prove why that doesn’t work.”

“Flies from a Long Way Off” displays scenes and characters that exist within that story and world. Gutherman noted the concept of coming up with a thesis body of work for art challenged her to be cohesive.

“They have to stand as a body of work instead of just pieces that I think kind of go together,” Gutherman said. “I’m really proud of how that turned out.”

Steve Rossi, assistant professor of art and Gutherman’s capstone instructor for “Flies from a Long Way Off,” notes how rewarding it is when students find their work has far exceeded their own expectations.

“[Anne] is extremely methodical when it comes to all aspects of planning her compositions, perspective angles, illusionistic depth and color relationships,” Rossi wrote in response to written questions from The Hawk. “When she begins a new piece, she is extremely intentional about what she wants to achieve, and she’s extremely dedicated and ambitious in terms of giving herself time to execute her ideas — ambitious in the sense that she chooses to focus on things that she knows will be technically very challenging for her.”

In addition to her final art project, Gutherman said she is proud of the murder mystery novel she is working on for her thesis.

“It’s the book I think about the most. Those characters are my children,” Gutherman said. “I feel like this is the book that could be the first one of mine that gets published.”

April Lindner, Ph.D., professor of English and Gutherman’s thesis advisor, describes Gutherman’s rough drafts as already being polished.

“Anne is very much someone who plans her book all the way out ahead of time,” Linder said. “I mean, not completely — she discovers as she writes — but she has a good idea where she’s going, which is probably especially important in a murder mystery.”

Gutherman, who already has experience as an illustrator for A.V. Guile’s children’s book, “Our Angel in Heaven,” will be working in scientific illustration after graduation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab in Princeton, New Jersey. From pottery to learning how to make a costume for her sister, Gutherman continues to expand her artistic horizons.

“I’m just an ambitious person,” Gutherman said. “It’s kind of problematic. I get so convinced that I have the skill set to do whatever I set my mind to.”

Gutherman is already planning new books, including a graphic novel she has already begun prepping.

“What you can expect from me in the future is to be able to read some of these books,” Gutherman said.

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