The 5 Ws of Prof. Joelle Dietrick’s ‘Chasing the Sun’ Mural

Davidson College Prof. Joelle Dietrick poses by mural project at Dickinson College

Who: Joelle Dietrick is an accomplished artist and assistant professor of art and digital studies at Davidson College. Dietrick grew up 25 miles from Three Mile Island, the site of the most serious nuclear plant disaster in U.S. history and a large inspiration for her latest mural project, Chasing the Sun.

She later traversed the globe, pursuing a BFA in painting at Pennsylvania State University, working and studying at various other universities, and following artistic opportunities and residencies in countries around the world.

What: Chasing the Sun is an artistic installation designed by Dietrick. The design features: an extinct plant previously found in Pennsylvania, Elodea schweinitzii Casp. (also known as Schweinitz’s waterweed); abstract, dilapidated buildings that reference a net-positive house by Arielle Condoret Schecher; and concentric circles. The circles represent two ideas: Dietrick’s daughters’ fascination with time zones and “chasing the sun so we never have to sleep,” and the nuclear radius of the Three Mile Island accident.

In an article for The Sentinel newspaper, Dietrick says, “It’s also so many other things—the influence of Swiss design, COVID spread, cancer spread, everyone in my immediate family having cancer, discovering radon in our basement during an eighth-grade science fair experiment, Three Mile Island evacuations, climate change, climate grief, personal decisions that make an impact, public design that causes change, the butterfly effect. Art often works this way. Tapping into many topics in a fluid, gut-level way that is beyond what words can describe. And anyone viewing the mural will bring their own set of associations.”

Where: The mural is housed at the Goodyear Project Wall, which is part of the art and art history department at Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

When: Dietrick installed the mural Sep. 27 through Oct. 2. Dietrick prepared design elements and mural techniques months in advance in anticipation of the project’s quick turnaround time. She worked with Dickinson College students to complete the project.

Why: Dietrick drew inspiration from the impact of humans on the environment, as well as her daughter’s thoughts about time zones, expressed after Dietrick was awarded a Fulbright that would take the family to Germany, Chile and Hong Kong. Her daughter’s comments, she says, “spoke volumes about our innate curiosity about the world, the internet’s escalation of that wonder, and its cultivation of excessive longing for other places.”

Dietrick documented the mural journey on Instagram: @jdietrick.


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