Colby Museum Student Photographer Creates Photo Essay Inspired by Recent Studio Visits with LIAA Residential Fellows

Museum student photographer Amanda Mao 26 reflects on her experience photographing the current cohort of Lunder Institute for American Art Residential Fellows Heather Flor Cron, Tessa Greene O’Brien, and Dylan Hausthor in their Greene Block studios. 

LIAA Residential Fellow Heather Flor Cron in her studio at Greene Block + Studios in downtown Waterville. Photograph by Amanda Mao ’26.

Heather Flor Cron

Heather is the first artist that I visited. From the moment I walked into her studio, I could sense the unique nature of the art she makes. Through my conversations with her I learned that she is dedicated to making art using plants. Her sources of inspiration trace back to her experiences farming. Out of all the pieces that she showed me, I most appreciated the series in which she pastes slices of fruits or vegetables together. The colorful patterns of the dried foods were methodically placed as gradients, and she managed to prevent them from decaying or drying out. I have never seen someone who utilized plants as art, growing her materials so creatively. I never imagined that this could even be possible. The way she used the natural color of fruit to make art is phenomenal and knowing that these colors are directly drawn from nature makes her art feel truly authentic and special.

LIAA Residential Fellow Tessa Greene O’Brien in her studio at Greene Block + Studios in downtown Waterville. Photograph by Amanda Mao ’26.

Tessa Greene O’Brien

Tessa’s studio is covered in artwork and I sensed her character within all her paintings. I really admire Tessa’s application of color. Even though her palette is very bold and expansive in range, the colors always look harmonious. She told me that she loves to draw inspiration from her own life, and her self-portraits in front of a mirror exemplify this perfectly. The paintings are rendered without much color, but she emphasizes the lines she uses to sketch the contours of the human figure. After talking with her for a while, she showed me a painting that she initially didn’t have out, and that painting turned out to be my favorite. The painting is of a house on the opposite side of the street, and we as the viewers are looking out from the angle of the porch that seems to be our own house. Tessa told me that she got inspiration for this painting from the common night-time chats she would have with her friend on the porch of her house and this painting captured the feeling of her experience on those nights. I felt inspired by this because she showed how artists’ inspiration often comes from real life, and the job of an artist can be to translate this beauty into something permanent. 

LIAA Residential Fellow Dylan Hausthor in their studio at Greene Block + Studios in downtown Waterville. Photograph by Amanda Mao ’26.

Dylan Hausthor

As a fellow photographer, I was thrilled to see the photos that Dylan took in their studio. Most of their photos are in black and white due to their choice of camera. Because of this, their artwork often gave me a sense of timelessness. Even though I primarily use a digital camera to take pictures nowadays, I also have a nostalgic feeling towards antique and vintage film cameras, so I completely understand their persistence in not using digital cameras. I could feel their passion for photography as I listened to them introduce their artwork, and they had a strong confidence while describing their photographs. Dylan is very interested in taking photos of animals and insects like spiders and moths. I was extremely impressed by the work where they captured a few complete spiderwebs and placed them into glass frames. There were a lot of photographs in progress in their studio, and I would love to visit again soon to see how they turn out.