The Wonderous Works of Nicolas Leach / John Mark Pinter

Since around the age of 16, Nicholas Leach has been practicing his hand in the world of art. Currently, Leach is a junior here at Mississippi College pursuing a degree in studio art. When asked what prompted him to pursue a career in art he stated,  “I’ve always been creative and have enjoyed doing creative projects and such, but as far as drawing and painting, I didn’t actually have any interest in it until high school.” 

Leach, as most future art majors tend to do, began his journey by drawing a big realistic eye during class. He went on to add more features and began drawing faces. It wasn’t until later when his great-grandmother commissioned him to draw a portrait of an old family photo that had begun to fade that his interest in art blossomed.

As the years went by, Leach continued to pursue this passion. Inspired by artists such as John Singer Sargent, Van Gogh, and Tintoretto, Leach has been able to develop a unique and captivating style. “I enjoy emotive paintings that tell a story and show good craftsmanship, ones that were thought out rather than spattered on. It’s what I’ve based my personal style on.” 

Leach works in a variety of mediums. His most skillful use of a medium is in graphite. “I did a self portrait recently that felt, to me, like the pinnacle of what I can accomplish using graphite,” Leach said. He went on to describe how he aspires to become more skilled in oil paints. Recently, he has been using POSCA acrylic paint pens to create portraits of people close to him. He described one of his favorite pieces using this medium: “I did a piece for my two friends. They commissioned me to do whatever I wanted. So, I took a picture of them in my Jeep where they’re writing on the ceiling – I get everyone who rides with me to write or draw something inside my Jeep – and the light from my car was shining on their faces in an intriguing way.” This piece is just one of many in a series of POSCA portraits that Leach has made in the past few months. 

While most of his works are a traditional size, on occasion Leach will work on large-scale projects such as murals. “I’ve done three murals on walls and one on my own car.” If you have walked around campus, you may have seen his car mural for yourself. A scenic geometric landscape spans across the driver’s side of his Jeep, capturing the attention of passersby with soft candied blues and yellows flowing behind a dark blue mountain with orange highlights.

 “The other three were all for churches. Two of which were from the church I go to now, Soul City Church.” One of these two can be found in the baptistry right behind where the preacher does his message. It serves as an homage to everything that Soul City Church has done for its community. The other is a graffiti work that says ‘splash city’ just outside of their community pool. 

“The other mural I’ve worked on is in my home church for the youth group. It was in the corner of two walls and shows a cross coming up with arrows spewing out of the cross containing all the names of God. It is like, a message of raising up the youth in that youth group and then sending them out with that message.”

Out of all that he does, Leach enjoys capturing people’s likenesses the most. He finds that making a portrait of someone can be just as narrative as telling a story about them. “Art, for me, is just my job. But it’s also a way of worshiping and showing the beauty of creation and using that to hopefully glorify God.” He went on to describe that people, with their uniqueness, captivate his attention and allow him to express his abilities. “If I do too many drawings of a building or a pasture, I’ll probably get bored and quit. But I can draw someone’s face 1,000 times over. Everybody’s so unique and it’s crazy to me that, with just a few marks of a pencil, I can create a likeness of a person.”

You can find Leach’s artwork on his Instagram page @nicholasleach_art or his website nicholasleachart.com.

  Live Radio Play Ushers in MC’s Holiday Season / Gracie Lee

Performances of “It’s a Wonderful Life” ushered in the holiday season before students and faculty left campus for Thanksgiving break. The radio play, directed by Dr. Phyllis Seawright and members of the Play Directing class, ran Nov. 19-21 in Jean W. Pittman Hall. 

Joe Landry’s script, based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s self-published story, The Greatest Gift, presented a fresh take on the 1946 holiday favorite starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. It featured charming retro aspects of a traditional broadcast, complete with commercial breaks and stand-up microphones.

A play is not complete without actors, however, and the script required many students to play multiple roles. Jake Parker jumped into his role as Freddie Filmore, while also performing Nick, the bar owner; Joseph, the angel; and a bridge keeper. The cast was led by Emma Ellard playing Mary Hatch, Todd McInnis playing George Bailey, and Emily Grace Boutwell portraying Violet Bick.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is none of these cast members’ first rodeo. Ellard, a freshman English Writing major from Madison, Mississippi, got her debut in middle school and high school productions. “[They] were some of the most fun and enlightening and memorable experiences that I ever had,” she said. “I love being on stage and I love telling stories and I wanted to come back and do it again in college, and I’m so glad that I get to do it with these people.” In addition to these thespian accomplishments, Ellard also won best actress at the Mississippi High School Drama Festival in 2019. 

McInnis, a junior, also got his start in middle school and church productions, before playing the bishop in his high school’s rendition of “Les Miserables.” The political science major from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, also appeared in MC’s Fall Scenes in 2019.

Boutwell, a junior International Studies student from Brookhaven, owes her passion for theatre to her first performance at 16, in Brookhaven Little Theatre. “My first role was as an Indian in Peter Pan, and from then on I was hooked,” she reminisced. She is currently finishing up her minor in theatre at MC, along with four other students. She was candid in her struggle to balance the busy practice schedule with her schoolwork. The cast met three times a week for rehearsals, with a fourth day scheduled for costume fittings, as needed. 

The process of developing their characters also came with its share of challenges. The plot’s flashbacks and “what if” experiences, specifically, were details McInnis found difficult to keep track of during rehearsals. “He [George] goes through such a range of life events and experiences and emotions,” he said.  “Remembering oh, this is the influence for this scene. He’s sad now–why is he sad? Just trying to encompass that insane emotion.” 

The classic story is also full of humor and sentiment. “‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is such a charming little comfort movie,” Ellard said. It’s this nostalgia that brings such a strong emotional connection to its viewers. Spiritual themes shine through in George Bailey’s journey and search for fulfillment and happiness in life. He ultimately learns that a person’s influence on the lives he touches is far more important than the success of a business or childhood dream. Clarence, the angel, tells George: “You really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

  “The message is so poignant and so important especially in today’s day and age, where it’s just so easy to get caught up in the flow and go of things,” McInnis said. “The message that everyone is important, no matter your circumstances or situation, is such an important reminder, and it’s easy to forget.” 

Service Toward Others Over Social Media / Kienna Van Dellen

Finals week is approaching and many of us are turning in projects and doing final edits of term papers. Higher stress levels lead students to want a break from the ever-growing pile of homework and assignments. In the midst of the noise of life, social media brings even more clutter into our minds. In the recent case of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, the data scientist spoke out for the safety of Facebook’s users. Through her research, she found that Facebook in particular knew that the social platform had a negative impact on the mental health of youth and teens yet still they continued to push the product out to the public. The use of technology has become integrated within the very routine and nature of our lives, and it’s dangerous how connected we have become; for example, if you use your phone as an alarm clock, it’s the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. 

In a world where time equals money, our attention spans have decreased, and our time is a rare commodity that we give other people. We give our attention to what distracts us and what is most appealing in our eyes at the moment. We want to be new and continuously updated, trying to recreate ourselves just like the latest iPhone. Although we often don’t like to admit it, a glance at a phone to answer a text or email can lead to endless amounts of mindless scrolling as we lose ourselves in the feeling of connection. When we have free time, all too often we throw away solitude and quiet for distraction and business to fill our minds. Yet with all of these “connections,” we still find ourselves in loneliness. 

Throughout this December issue, you will see all the different ways that we as Christians can serve our communities and build relationships away from the screens and shiny pixels. I would encourage you to step away from the world of social media and see the beauty in the minute details of life as we return to our families and spend time with loved ones. Serve others even in the smallest of ways by giving them your full attention and quality time. Service is not always going to a foreign country to do ministry, but rather it often looks like each of us using our unique gifts and abilities to serve those around us. 

1 Peter 4:10 

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

Festival of Lights: MC’s Musical Tradition / Gracie Lee

MC Singers is performing Festival of Lights on Dec. 2-4, at 7:30 p.m. in Provine Chapel. Director of Choral Activities Dr. Damion Womack is directing the Singers in their preparation for the holiday tradition that began in 1986 under the tutelage of Dr. Richard Joiner. Womack joined the MC music faculty in September 2021 after the departure of Dr. Mark Nabholz. His doctorate degree in choral conducting gives him the necessary abilities to lead the MC Singers and Choctaw Chorus. 

            The program incorporates music of the season with Scripture verses. Every year, the proceedings end with the song “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” while the choir leaves the chapel holding candlelight. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $10 for faculty, and $5 for students. 

It is beloved and anticipated by students every year. 

I’m most looking forward to simply sitting in the presence of the choir as they sing Christmas hymns. Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and choral music really speaks to me,” Maria Guay, a sophomore, said. “I’ve been watching videos of the Festival of Lights since I came to MC last year, and I’m so excited that I’ll get to experience it in person.” 

Stephen Griffin, a senior, joined Singers in the fall of 2020, shortly after students returned to hybrid classes during COVID’s peak. “That fall we were not able to have Festival of Lights and recorded a ‘Songs of Thanksgiving’ concert instead. So, this year will be my first and last Festival of Lights,” Griffin said. “My favorite thing about Festival of Lights is seeing how the music is able to bring people together and unite us around a celebration like Christmas. Christmas is really a special time of year, and Festival of Lights helps it to feel even more special.”

A big part of the event’s nostalgia lies in the pieces that the choir performs. It incorporates old spirituals and new arrangements of classic carols. This year’s selection includes old favorites, like Morten Lauridsen’s “Sure on This Shining Night,” as well as Rachmaninoff’s “Bogoroditse Devo”- a Russian Orthodox piece which translates to “Rejoice, O Virgin.” 

Regardless of any past experience in choral activities, students can audition for and enroll in Singers each semester. Rehearsal times are, tentatively, Monday/Wednesday/Friday at 12:00-12:50 p.m. and Tuesday/Thursday at 1:30-2:45 p.m.  

“Because I’m a transfer, this is my first time. I’ve never performed in it before, but I am excited for it,” Ambie McCoy, a music major, said about Festival of Lights. This annual event symbolizes MC’s anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s birth. 

After 2020’s dim Christmas festivities, Griffin is excited to have a voice in the Lights’ return. “Festival of Lights is probably one of MC’s most treasured traditions. I might go as far as to say it is the centerpiece of Christmas celebrations at MC,” he said. “It was always special for me just getting to be there, and I’m so, so honored that I get to be a part of it now.” 

Dune: A Blockbuster that Deserves the Hype / Bryan Matthews

In 1965, author Frank Herbert released his magnum opus novel named Dune. The book was widely praised and won the Hugo Award and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. It chronicles the royal family of House Atreides as they survive in a dangerous intergalactic empire as other houses vie for control of different planets. Since its release, there have been many sequels to the book and two, one attempted and one successful, movie adaptations. On Oct. 22 of this year, filmmaker Denis Villeneuve brought American audiences a third film adaptation that lived up to the glorious heights that were set by its source material. 

Denis Villeneuve is no stranger to being responsible for delivering science fiction stories with established fan bases. He directed Arrival in 2016 and Blade Runner 2049 in 2017 which were both based on existing properties, a short story and another film respectively, and they were both met with universal acclaim. Villeneuve was then hired by Warner Brothers to direct an adaptation of Dune. After three years of waiting, it was finally released in cinemas and on HBO Max this past month. It has been praised for many aspects by fans and critics alike. The chief topics of these praises are the visuals, musical score, worldbuilding and performances. 

One thing is a constant across all of Denis Villeneuve’s films: the cinematography is to die for, and Dune might be his best shot film to date. The gorgeous landscapes in the film are utilized in every frame. Sweeping cities, barren deserts and limitless space are all center stage, giving them their own characteristics that grow with the characters that inhabit them. The galaxy feels larger than life – even for a sprawling space epic – but the cinematography captures every moment in its beauty, grandeur and chaos, making it feel even larger and also more intimate. The creators can then explore this universe that has been presented to the viewer. Dune’s vast number of people groups, societies, militaries and customs are what make the story engaging for the viewer. From the nomadic tribes of the desert dwelling Fremen to the royal, military family of House Atreides, the world is inhabited by cultures and societies that feel as real as our own. The religious Bene Gesserit, antagonistic House Harkonnen, the matchless Sardaukar and the other people groups give the story world a freshness that viewers will not find anywhere else. The musical score by Hans Zimmer is masterful in capturing the intricacies around each facet of the vast story. His use of vocalists, bagpipes and instruments that were created from scratch specifically for the film’s score are all perfect ways to dissect a galaxy that is truly like no other. 

The actors who play the characters inhabiting these places and groups do a phenomenal job. Timothée Chalamet is captivating as the protagonist, Paul Atreides. He navigates the emotions of his character with ease, showing us the strong-willed leader that Paul could become while also revealing his human moments of doubt and fear. Other notables are Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica. Momoa provides an emotional performance as one of the pillars that Paul Atreides has in his life. Momoa’s charismatic take on the character makes him likeable from his first frame, and that does not change throughout the course of the entire film. Oscar Isaac from Star Wars fame has left the galaxy far, far away and has made a large impact in a new one. His performance as Paul Atreides’s father is compassionate, resonant and courageous, and unlike so many other performances in blockbusters, it doesn’t feel cheap. He is a big talent in the industry, and only time will tell where performances like this will take him. Rebecca Ferguson plays the mother of Timothée Chalamet’s character. Her take on a witch who is a part of the religious Bene Gesserit was incredibly interesting and provided Paul with an emotional support that he could fall back on. Her character could have easily become an exposition-heavy character, but Ferguson’s immense talent brings emotion to her words that would otherwise fall flat. The other actors in the film do a splendid job in their roles, and they all have their own moments to shine throughout the story. 

While the film is not flawless, this visual masterpiece delivers a brilliant adaptation of its source material and has lived up to the building anticipation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The film itself is labelled as a Part One, and Part Two will be released in October of 2023. Anticipation is already building for the sequel in hopes that it will live up to its predecessor.