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Department ofArt and Art History


Charles DiNapoli in the sculpture studio next to a work table with his sculptures

Charles DiNapoli in the sculpture studio next to a work table with his sculptures

Utilizing Art as a Template for Big Questions

Charlie DiNapoli offers his #1 recommendation for prospective SCU students: take art classes!

Charlie DiNapoli offers his #1 recommendation for prospective SCU students: take art classes!

By Shantala Jennings '24

Charlie DiNapoli ’24 entered Santa Clara University on a very different path than he is leaving it. Originally a marketing major, he made the decision to follow his passion and switch to Studio Art despite the setback in academic credits that would require. He feels that doing what you love is important and embraces the fact that he would happily spend five hours in a ceramics studio over twenty minutes studying for a business test.

“Charlie is a talented sculptor who works hard to perfect his work,” says Pancho Jimenez, senior lecturer in the Department of Art and Art History. “He is consistently looking to improve and challenge himself, and has been a good citizen of the department.”

DiNapoli participated in a number of campus organizations while attending Santa Clara. He is a member of SCUSAL—the Santa Clara University Student Art League—a student-run organization on campus that aims to foster an appreciation and skill for art among students, and is a Student Fellow for the Center for the Arts and Humanities.

Despite the fact that pursuing a career in art carries a lot of risk and has less of a defined path, he hopes to continue a career in the arts. Following graduation, he intends to keep expanding his portfolio of artwork and apply to MFA programs.

Find out more about his greatest SCU memory, advice for incoming first-year students, and the topics for his senior exhibition!

What did you create for your senior exhibition and why did you choose that topic? What impacts do you want your artwork to have on the SCU community and others?

The art on display in my exhibition represents two distinct bodies of work that explore my idiosyncrasies through posture and facial expression. The medium for my work is clay, which gives me the freedom I need to accurately depict the human figure. The first body looks at my relationship to religion. In the second, I reflect on my relationship with technology.

Using the motif of a shrine, specifically the alcove shape that houses sculptures in Catholic churches, I strip away traditional religious or spiritual imagery and replace it with my own. Through each bust, I attempt to capture the feelings I find too sensitive to share, trapped in an environment I continuously fail to understand. As a member of the SCU community that grew up Catholic but has strayed away from faith, I have always felt a confusing relationship to the religious aspects of the school. I hope that other students that have a similar background in religion can relate to my work in this way.

The second body of work elevates and questions my use of technology. The positioning and posture of each figure is dictated by a device and stands atop a pillar. The first figure is sitting on a stool, scrolling; the second has headphones on, sitting with his legs crossed; and the third is talking on the phone in an anxious pose with one hand above its head. I find that my daily use of technology can be alarming, given how much of my life is spent on my phone. In a lot of ways, technology is helpful, but I will frequently have days where I get fewer hours of sleep than I do with my phone on. I want to make the viewer question our daily use of technology.

What advice do you have for incoming first years?

Take art classes! Each one of the professors in the department has molded my time at Santa Clara to be the best it could have been. On top of that they improve your ability to critically think and present your thoughts. A powerpoint slide is only worth what is on it, but a painting or a sculpture conveys an idea through emotion and complex visual and structural decisions.

What memory from SCU resonates with you and why?

This actually happened to me before I started attending. I had just gotten back to California after some college visits on the east coast. I didn't love any of them so my parents convinced me to drive to Santa Clara one more time and just see it. It was a random sunday and as we were walking in front of the admissions building my dad recognized Father Engh who was president of Santa Clara at the time. My dad told Fr. Engh that I was considering attending SCU, to which Fr. Engh responded by giving me his phone number and telling me “text or call me if you have any questions.” I was blown away and basically made my decision on the spot. I thought that if the president is that nice to random kid who got accepted, surely everyone that works here must care about the students. That has been my experience throughout my time here and I can most confidently say that that's the truth in the Department of Art and Art History.

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