This is another installment of the slightly fictitious “Tales of a Lecturer and Director.” This week’s post explains the machinations of creating a schedule for the college’s art gallery and ponders the role of co-curricular experiences.
As with establishing due dates for class assignments and quizzes, I take into consideration an essential factor in determining the college art gallery’s exhibition schedule—Notre Dame football games. No openings can ever be on the Friday before a game; all the students are partying. No assignments can be due on Monday or Tuesday after a game; all the students are unprepared because of said partying.
Two other significant factors to consider include one that can be controlled to some extent and one that cannot. When do family-friendly performances in the theater occur? Knowing this information is vital; people traverse through the gallery to enter the theater. Coupling student exhibitions and performances of The Nutcracker, the Wiggles, or some such nonsense constitutes a recipe for a disastrous slew of complaints. Let’s just say that students make an abundance of art about their bodies and love to depict body parts. I think it is great, but not everyone can appreciate fallopian tube art like me. Additionally, the portfolio reviews include works from my figure drawing classes (re: the five N’s and possible anomalies in human body morphology).
The other factor to keep in mind at a women’s college? The Wellesley effect. While this is an unproven theory and charting such a thing might be seen as inappropriate, some predictive modeling would seem decidedly advantageous, especially in an art department where drama finds its home daily. Additionally, being able to divine the phenomena might be monetized to fund my life without teaching two classes, running the gallery, and organizing summer sessions for $15,000 annually. Thoughts and dreams.
Nevertheless, anecdotally speaking, it does feel like a disproportionate number of students are being visited by their Aunt Flo simultaneously. Evidentiary support doesn’t derive from the amount of trash in the ladies’ rooms or the errant feminine product attaching itself to a student’s footwear. More so, it is the observance of heightened emotions, or to perhaps use assessment and quantifiable measurements SACSCOC might approve—it’s a 10 on the tension meter during certain contiguous seven-day time frames. Could someone in the physics department provide evidence? I feel confident a professor can create a study with conclusive results using high-impact practices in a 400-level course centered around student-faculty research methods.
Occasionally, I just need to raise an eyebrow after a student (name withheld) cries about getting a plain bagel instead of a raisin bagel in the dining hall. Another student (name withheld) responds intuitively, “Yup, everyone is on the rag. Don’t even go there.” I am considering giving all the seniors a friendly reminder to plan the date of their senior exhibition based on their cycle. It would make everyone’s life easier. But, of course, I don’t because it would feed into stereotypes and misogyny of the patriarchy. The Crimson Wave should be celebrated, revered and honored! I am a champion of students!
The senior shows can either be tragic or fantastic. Every January, I gather the seniors to review the schedule—who goes first, second, third, etc. No one is ever happy. Those assigned to the last slot get more time to work, but it doesn’t make much of a difference in the quality. I provide a recommended Gantt chart to produce work, matting and framing, publicity and invitations, labels, and other details such as recommended vendors. I relay horror stories to scare them while projecting what I call the don’t screw this up by waiting until the last minute look. “Several years ago, a student (name withheld) was matting and framing her work the night before the opening. She was so tired she sliced her hand on the glass. Blood splattered everywhere—on the floor, on the wall, on her artwork and in the bathroom as she frantically tried to stop the bleeding. Campus police took her to the emergency room, where she received 10 stitches. She had no backup plan for her presentation or time to redo anything; she exhibited bloodstained works. The faculty failed her, and she had to wait another year to exhibit her work again to graduate. This is a true story.”
Amid all the anxiety, frenzied angst and artistic intensity, some senior exhibitions rang true by conveying a depth of insight about life experience in moving and heart-wrenching ways. I recall the student who curated an exhibition about eating disorders because she was concerned about her friends with body dysmorphia. I reflect on the student who created artworks about becoming pregnant and how her parents disowned her. Other students have addressed the death of a parent, a nervous breakdown, attempted suicide and homelessness. It takes profound courage to speak about these things and squarely put them on view to be seen, acknowledged or judged. Topics like these are usually pushed down deep in a person’s psyche by shame, fear and guilt. Art is about not being alone in grief and loss, I think. Getting down deep in pain is what I often saw in their work, and how its beautiful release became a comfort and healing mechanism. This was one of the most compelling reasons to be at a women’s college: the students could be themselves, authentic, not performing for a male gaze.