UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | April 15, 2024

Anna Oakden photographs, sculpts way through college

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Artist Anna Oakden isn’t afraid of a little self-promotion. 

Oakden, a senior art major from St. George, will graduate in May with an art degree emphasizing on ceramics and sculpture. However, Oakden said she began as a photographer. 

“I started out really young with my first camera, my little Kodak 110 Instamatic, which I still have,” she said.

Oakden shares her passion for photography with her father, who will be showcasing his art in a future exhibit at the Sears Art Gallery.

“We’re able to spend time not just talking about photography but going out shooting with each other,” she said.

Oakden chose to return to school after being laid off from her factory job.

“I’ve kind of had a real work life already,” she said. “Through changes in life you find different directions. I think you kind of know what you need to do and until you do that, I think you don’t feel much contentment.” 

Oakden credits the DSC art faculty for allowing her to develop and execute her own ideas. She lists assistant professor of art Shane Christensen, art professors Dennis Martinez and Glen Blakley and adjunct professor Mark Breinholt  as prominent figures in her artistic development here at Dixie.

“They’ve all been really key in helping me develop my skills as an artist and my conceptual ideas in my art,” she said. “They’ve provided me this really cool space to do that, kind of guiding me along the way but letting me express myself as I need to at the same time.

Blakley said Oakden is always exciting to have in classes because of her desire for knowledge.

“Anna is one of those students that is just so full of life and energy and works really hard to accomplish her goals,” he said. “She has been functioning as though she was a graduate student.” 

Oakden also lists the Sears Art Gallery and Curator Kathy Cieslewicz for providing exhibit opportunities. Oakden showcased in an exhibit at the Sears Art Gallery last fall and said it was an emotionally trying time after the loss of her stepmother.

Oakden said: “I was able to honor her in the creation of the show. I think most people looking at the show wouldn’t have the same experience, but it was done in her honor.”

Oakden enjoys her photography for various reasons.

“I have favorite photographs I’ve done on film, not just because of the end product, but because of the experience taking the pictures and with what I was shooting with,” she said. “[Breinholt] loaned me one of his cameras. That meant a lot to use his camera, and the work I created is emotionally tied to my relationship with him because he’s been really influential to me.”

Oakden, who works as a hiking guide for Red Mountain Resort, said she loves anything outside and has combined that love with her love for art by working on photography projects for the science department, which arose out of her determination to take upper-division elective credits that would allow her to use her artistic knowledge and talent. 

Oakden, describing herself as tenacious, said through a combination of approaching her professors and hearing about opportunities, she was able to begin the projects.

“I can do anything I want to do; I just have to figure out a way to do it,” she said. “I was told I wouldn’t be able to graduate, that it wasn’t possible last fall. I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, I really don’t. I think limitations, others’ limitations, are not mine.”

Oakden said that through school, she’s become more assertive.

“I’ve had to be,” she said. “I’ve learned that it serves me. If I want things to happen, I need to advocate for myself. I’ll do the footwork; I don’t mind that, but I don’t want limitations because I personally don’t have any. It’s up to me whether I let something get in the way of me achieving the goal I set.”