Student Spotlight: Deja Whitney

For those who haven’t spent much time around the art building, it’s certainly well deserving of an afternoon spent studying for finals on the benches near the small lake. It’s also where you’ll find Deja Whitney, Sonoma State University Art student double majoring in Communications with an emphasis in Video Production and Art Studio Photography with a minor in Art History. 

Not only is this her second year featured in the Student Art Exhibition at the University gallery, Whitney has also just been accepted in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program on campus which provide classes that help students get into grad school. 

Junior Art and Communications double major superstar Deja Whitney strikes a pose in front of the Art Building. (STAR // Emily Kowalski)

Junior Art and Communications double major superstar Deja Whitney strikes a pose in front of the Art Building. (STAR // Emily Kowalski)

“My work is called ‘Robert Butler,’” said Whitney as she spoke of her art pieces featured this year in the student juried exhibition. “It’s a portrait of a guy that lives in my neighborhood which is part of a larger series that I did called ‘Garage’ where I went around and asked people in my neighborhood what was in their garages.” 

Whitney asked each participant to take pictures of their garages, each with a unique story behind them that was used as an avenue for the creative photography and art work behind this year’s project. 

While currently enrolled in 20 units, she still finds time to participate in Sonoma State club memberships. Whitney is both a part of the Women of Color Collective and the Queer Student Alliance (QSA) here on campus. 

“Women of color helped me know how to navigate being a woman of color as well as identify as one and what that means to me,” said Whitney. “I was raised in a super white area where my ethnic identity was erased, there was no representation at all, not even in my family.” 

Part of the college experience is feeling a sense of belonging, finding ourselves and developing a stronger sense of self identity. 

“Queer Student Alliance has helped me feel more comfortable,” said Whitney, who as a bisexual person has found much support among fellow QSA members who are the same age and whom she can relate to.

Growing up in Laguna Beach, California, Whitney’s grandmother was a little on the stricter side, so not only has greener scenery in Northern California been a nice change of pace, she much enjoys her new found freedom in Sonoma County. “The only thing I miss in Southern California are the beaches.” 

Her time spent up North has not only offered more freedom but has also been an avenue of growth and exploration in her art endeavors. For each year’s student exhibition, the Art Department invites curators from museums such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and other distinguished galleries to determine what goes into that year’s art show. 

“What I did was I went to the Sonoma State garden and used a laser pointer to outline the plants while a used a long exposure to capture the light trail,” said Whitney. 

“I think people are usually surprised about how I’m not on 24/7, like I’m not ridiculously energetic all of the time,” said Whitney. 

Though she used to be quite active in the Catholic Church back in her hometown, she no longer identifies with the religion and has new perspective on life and living. Vegetarian and adventurous,  Whitney loves to spend her spare time learning new art skills and meeting new people

“Deja is such a bright and creative spirit,” said Sarah Ramos, close friend and Art and Communications major. “She’s got the biggest heart I know, and it really shows in the art that she makes. Her photographs breathe compassion and understanding.”