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Finding color in culture
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Paintings and sketches by UGA student Celan Hardman fill the walls and halls of her parents' Covington home.

As an English and painting major, 21-year-old Hardman combines art with journaling in her brilliantly colored modern impressionistic pieces. She has traveled to countries such as Costa Rica and Panama documenting the daily lives of the indigenous people of Latin America.

"I wanted to see a new culture and learn a new language," Hardman said, "and Spanish was it for me."

During the summer of 2006, Hardman departed for Costa Rica as the first recipient of UGA's Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) fellowship.

"The program is so supportive," Hardman said, "and they really focus on research in all areas - humanities and sciences."

While in Costa Rica Hardman photographed or sketched the residents of the Central American country, later transforming them into vividly colored mosaic-like oil paintings.

 "Through a series of my paintings, I wanted to show the old parts of Costa Rica - the fruit markets and street vendors - and how this is now being replaced with goods from large corporations like Nike," Hardman said.

Hardman said she jumped out of a taxi taking her to one of the two shops in San José where she could buy oil paints so she could sketch an elderly woman on the side of the road selling stickers and pencils for pennies.

She was amazed at the generosity and hospitality of the people Costa Rica, especially the ones who had very little to give.

Although she jumped out of a taxi to meet "Maria," she said she most enjoyed meeting and painting Fernando - a long, white-bearded man in New York City's Central Park. Fernando had organized a golf-like game played with hands, blocks and bullet casings for the city's children every day for 35 years.

"Whenever it would rain, he would find someone with an umbrella to come over and hold it over us while we chatted," Hardman said.

Because she likes to tell stories through her art, it's no wonder she names Russian-born French painter Marc Chagall as her favorite artist. Chagall often portrayed Belarusian folk-life and conceptualized themes found in the Torah.

"I admire his use of colors and imagination and just the overall presence of his pieces," Hardman said.

Hardman graduated from Eastside High School in 2004. During her studies at UGA, she received the Mary Rosenblatt scholarship for painting and drawing, had one of her pieces placed on permanent display in Moore College and participated in a number of other service and social organizations.

Once she graduates, Hardman would like to attend graduate school - she is currently reviewing schools throughout the United States and in Europe.

She would also like to continue traveling through the Spanish-speaking world illustrating how those cultures maintain their heritage while embracing Western trends and customs.

She would like to complete her graduate thesis in India through an artist residency. After a friend traveled to the country, she decided on the idea.

"The translated stories from my literature classes and my friend's beautiful photographs really drew me to India," Hardman said.

However far Hardman travels, she said she will always remember Newton County. The home she grew up in from the age of three has a daylily farm on one side and a nature reserve on the other. The greenness of the area seems untouched by the county's recent rapid growth.

"The natural environment of Newton County is just wonderful for inspiration," Hardman said.

She also appreciates the quaintness preserved in Covington's downtown square, where people can safely stroll along the sidewalks and talk with friends old and new.

"That's what makes a community," Hardman said.