As an undergraduate student, Rosemary Jesionowski spent most of her days – sometimes more than 40 hours a week – in the dance studio. But after a serious injury dashed her dreams of becoming a professional modern dancer, she traded in her leotard, black tights and bare feet for the chemical-stained jeans, T-shirts and rubber-soled shoes of a photographer.
“I was the kid in the darkroom or studio at 2 a.m.,” said Jesionowski, now an assistant professor of art at the University of Mary Washington.
Since her unexpected career shift at Ohio University, Jesionowski has made a name for herself in the art community and in the classroom. In fact, her work has been exhibited across the country, including in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
“I enjoy the challenge of [photography] because it is a medium that everyone has access to and everyone has experience with,” said Jesionowski. “I have a career that allows me to continually learn and expand in a field that I really love.”
For her MFA thesis, she took hundreds of color pinhole photographs, printed them as 3,000 postcards and sent them across the country. Each postcard asked a question about how people defined home, a theme that continues to show itself in her work.
Recently, Jesionowski has been working on a series of paintings that reference the medium of photography through their tonality, or the scheme and interrelation of tones in a painting. The paintings look like aerial photographs of land. An exhibition of her work, “Mapping Nowhere,” is on display at Randolph Macon’s Flippo Gallery in Ashland, Va., through April.
“I’m really toying with combining mediums and challenging the viewer’s senses,” said Jesionowski. “They’re based on reality but they are not realistic. I’m playing with the medium through another medium.”
In less than five years at UMW, Jesionowski has made her mark on the Department of Art and Art History. As last year’s recipient of the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, she continues to strive for excellence. She runs the department blog, curates exhibitions for the UMW Galleries, co-sponsors the Student Art Association and teaches classes in printmaking, photography and digital media. In class, Jesionowski teaches her students techniques that are being applied by practicing contemporary artists.
“She serves as a model artist-teacher to our students,” said Joseph Di Bella, distinguished professor of art and art history.
Mattson Fields, a senior and studio art and mathematics double major, walks away from class Jesionowski’s classes with new perspectives.
“She will demo a technique then push to apply it in a new way, rather than just regurgitate it,” he said. “It creates dialogue with the photographic and printmaking tradition rather than simply continuing it.”
Jesionowski encourages her students to participate in undergraduate research projects and internships outside of class and acts as a mentor and adviser to aspiring artists.
“From day one she has brought energy and enthusiasm to her classes and the department,” said Carole Garmon, professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “She is an exceptional addition to an already enthusiastic and committed group of faculty here in art and art history.”