Art senior seminar from the garage

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Photo by Alisa Nascimento

I’m an overthinker. When it comes to big decisions, I flit back and forth between my options and then worry about it for a week or longer. Uncertainty is my nemesis. 

When I decided to go online this semester, I wondered over and over again if it was a good idea. I was relieved to discover that my professors were supportive of my decision and that they trusted my work ethic from 1,732 miles away. 

I am, however, a senior art major preparing for my capstone project, working out of my grandparents’ garage with a collapsible table and a few naked lightbulbs. 

This is a far cry from how I envisioned my senior year, a sentiment I’m sure the classes of 2020 and 2021 find mutual.

To some, it may not seem a surprise that being an online student is wildly liberating. After the initial time zone confusion and frequent absentmindedness (what are alarms for?) I quickly found my stride, eventually coming to terms with my incredible fortune of morning classes every day of the week. The ten-minute commute from dorm to classroom has been cut significantly, as the trek from my bed to my desk is but one roll away. I feel more in control of my day, free to study anywhere as long as I have an Internet connection.

One of the aspects of on-ground schooling that I have missed by studying remotely is the hands-on experience of working in the Beatrice M. Haggerty Gallery for my senior seminar class. While I’ve learned how to communicate with others in terms of handling and installing my work—a common occurrence in the professional art world—nothing compares with being physically present in a gallery and learning how to manage that space.  

The greatest challenge was creating a home studio for my ceramics and printmaking courses. I’ve become comfortable in my grandmother’s dim garage, although I was tackling air dry clay and printing ink with equal frustration during the first few weeks. 

While I’ve experienced a learning curve, I have made significant advancements in my understanding of home printing methods. Without a printing press, I tested hand printing with a makeshift glass baren salvaged from an old candle container. When my homemade pasta escapades produced less-than-desirable lasagna noodles in the kitchen, I repurposed the pasta machine as a very miniature press. I even used my feet to transfer prints to paper with woodblocks in the manner of an underground artist group from Indonesia, Taring Padi. It’s not every day that I feel compelled to stomp all over my work.

Though I was hesitant at first, I don’t think working without a press has crippled my art-making. Rather, it has allowed me to search for alternatives that I wouldn’t have considered before. I’ve gained experience by working with artists that I would not have otherwise. 

This past month I’ve met and worked with a letterpress printer and discovered a whole new world of printmaking. I allowed myself to rekindle personal activities and hobbies like reading, running on the beach and crocheting. I wake up each morning and watch the Pacific Ocean greet me with white-tipped waves.

Online learning isn’t for everyone, but it can be an opportunity to discover something new or explore avenues you wouldn’t have thought of before. 

And what can I say? My own fear of failure keeps me from skipping class.

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