Beyond the Hill

From astrophysics to fine art, this Ivy League student did an academic 180

Courtesy of Harry Galiano

Harry Galiano is a sophomore at Ivy League school University of Pennsylvania. He recently underwent a change in majors from astrophysics to fine-art.

At the end of his freshman year, Harry Galiano switched majors from astrophysics to fine art with a minor in architecture. Now, a few weeks into his sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania, he is working out of passion instead of obligation.

Galiano realized he wanted to make the switch when he was sketching late at night while hanging out with some friends.

“I was thinking about what was really keeping me from making that transition, because I saw everyone around me pursuing what they were truly passionate about,” he said.

The only worry on Galiano’s mind was his parents’ reaction. But, after calling them, he was encouraged to go for it.

“Once they let me know they were comfortable with my decision and they supported me, it was the final straw in my decision,” he said.

Galiano’s biggest worry was the lack of job security in the arts because the job market is so saturated. He decided to take architecture as a minor as a back-up plan for a “real job,” but it still gave him enough time to paint everyday.

“It would allow me to be happy and do what I feel I do best and what I could most fortuitously give to the world,” he said.


Courtesy of Harry Galiano

To the surprise of others, Galiano puts the same amount of time and effort into his art major that he did into astrophysics. He dedicates time in the studio outside of classes and about three to four hours on the weekends. Instead of memorizing equations, Galiano spends his time drawing, painting and researching different artists.

Since his decision, he hasn’t looked back.

“I figured if I wasn’t going be able to give the world what I was truly best at, then I don’t know if I would want to do this at all,” he said.

To improve his technique, Galiano focuses on his own facial and body features to tell his story. At first, his art was almost cartoonish and would be caricatures of himself.

“It’s a lot of introspection,” he said. “Features that I would notice in myself and drawing myself in different aspects.”

Even if Galiano weren’t drawing from himself directly, he would subconsciously incorporate different characteristics of his face and body.

“A lot of the scenes in my paper are sometimes isolation, contemplation and sitting down, or a lot of it is family,” he said.

Over the summer, Galiano finished a portrait of his father sitting in a restaurant talking on the phone. It was important to capture his father’s spirit and determination as the caregiver, breadwinner and provider of the family. The piece shows Galiano’s father concentrating on the phone call, every detail of his face and flesh reflecting the moment. Critters line the painting to “represent demons that he has to fight on a day-to-day basis,” Galiano said.

In the time since Galiano’s big decision, he’s made significant strides toward his career. He landed an internship at Artist-In-Residence, a program that offers six artists free studio time and space. As an intern, Galiano helped with installations, exhibitions and reached out to other networks for marketing and advertising opportunities.

“I’m a fan of staying busy, but sometimes that’s all work, but now I feel like it’s going toward something,” Galiano said.

Looking ahead, Galiano is working on producing a photo book that exposes poverty against luxury in Los Angeles.

“It’s kind of different when you’re working towards something because you have to and working towards something because you want to,” he said.


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