Student Brings Memories to Life Through Art

A memory is a tricky thing. Though grounded in real experience, a memory is changed—fragmented, filtered, colored and shaped—by the very process of remembering. A memory is therefore both old and new, both known and powerfully mysterious. Indeed, memory is art—and the images we remember can produce life’s masterpieces.

Just ask Gardner-Webb’s Elisa Beekman. The senior art education major won a prestigious Nolle Scholarship at the Alpha Chi National Honor Society conference in Baltimore, Md., for a collection of collages, acrylic paintings and watercolors inspired by memories from her childhood—a childhood most Americans can’t even imagine.

Beekman grew up in Papua, Indonesia, an archipelago nation of 13,000 islands full of tropical rainforests and volcanic mountains, teeming cities and tribal villages, where more than 170 million people speak over 250 languages. Though technically an American (Beekman’s parents are American missionaries in Indonesia), Beekman was born in Papua and lived there almost exclusively until she moved to the U.S. as a 19-year-old to attend Gardner-Webb, where she is preparing to teach art in the North Carolina schools and, eventually, in an international school for missionary kids.

“Sometimes I forget that most Americans just don’t understand my childhood,” she says. “It’s not their fault. They just don’t know what Papua looks like. With my artwork, my motivation is really to share those experiences and help others better understand who I am. Hopefully, as they look at my art, they’ll get a little glimpse of what I’ve seen, and they’ll see the glory of God in it.”