Colleen Woolpert: Belonging in Syracuse

Artist feels at home in the Salt City

Art is self expression; And, through the process of observing or creating it, one is often able to get a glimpse of the illusive self. Great art transcends the artist's self and speaks to others deeply.

Now what if the artist is a twin? What differentiates one twin from another? Are twins duplicates? Or one half of each other? Or just as individual as anyone else? Where does one twin start and the other leave off? What if the twins are artists?

Meet artist Colleen Woolpert, whose life began in Michigan, the mitten state. She is a twin; both are artists. It was more recognizable in her sister Rani early on, and because people often need to label twins to differentiate them, Rani was "the artist."

"My interest in various art forms became focused on my clarinet practice, thus I was 'the musician.'" Colleen said. "Under the shadow of my sister's talent, I didn't explore the visual arts until we left for separate colleges, where I studied photography."

Coming to Syracuse

Colleen came to Syracuse with her husband who was accepted into the English Department's Ph.D. program. Her deep connection to Syracuse began when she opened a photography studio in the Gear Factory. Meanwhile, her husband left SU after one year and Syracuse, as well. Colleen literally stayed put.

As 8-year-old girls the Woolpert twins visited their father in San Francisco. "This is when dad took us to Musee Mecanique," Colleen said.

This became her most magical memory, a visit to the Musee Mechanique at the Cliff House. Although, the memory was set aside until a return trip to the bay area decades later where she stumbled upon the museum in the midst of its move to the San Francisco pier.

She was transported back to that little girl and charmed all over again by the early mechanical machines especially the mutoscope -- a precursor to Cinema film. Fast forward to Syracuse, where she discovers the mutoscope was invented and built in the building that hosts her studio.

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