Monday, December 2, 2019

being an artist at duke

Art has been a central part of my life since I was 3 years old. My mom was my first supporter, who bought me my first set of art supplies after I ruined the white walls of our apartment in Singapore. Throughout my childhood and into early high school, I was set on going to art school. Despite not really knowing what I wanted to do as a career, I thought the time and dedication I put into developing my art when I was younger justified the idea of going to art school. However, the summer after my sophomore year of high school, I was accepted into the Virginia Summer Governor's School for Visual Arts, and the stress of deadlines, balancing multiple projects at once, and navigating what was basically a watered-down version of an art school schedule made me realize that I wasn't really enjoying what I was doing. Instead of art school, I decided it might be best to pursue my other interests, namely math, while working to incorporate the arts into that path.

When I applied to Duke, I applied as a math major. However, the essay I wrote to "Why Duke?" had nothing to do with math. Even though I knew little about Duke before being accepted, I knew that there were various arts initiatives and spaces like the Nasher, DEMAN, StudioDuke, and more. So I wrote my essay on how I wanted to be able to utilize these spaces and blur the lines between disciplines. Admittedly, this was more difficult than my essay made it seem, and it took me 3 years to figure out where my niche in the arts was.

Part of the reason this was so hard was because Duke has limited capacity for visual arts. By sheer luck, I managed to get into Beverly McIver's compositional painting class first semester of freshman year, but I know seniors who have never been able to get into a visual arts classes. In addition, for non-academic visual artists, it's extremely hard to find studio spaces to be able to work. The combination of physical space and class constraints made it difficult for me to expand beyond my comfort zone. In fact, up until this semester, I've only ever taken painting at Duke. I was excited when the Ruby was completed because I thought it meant there would be more capacity for visual arts spaces. Unfortunately, besides having a hub for various artists in residence, there are no real studio spaces for students in the Ruby. So, navigating the academic aspect of the arts posed a few challenges, but fortunately I have had the exact opposite experience in the extracurricular experience.

I got involved with duARTS pretty much by chance. I had decided to submit a painting for the student gallery for the opening of the Ruby. During the reception, I met Kelsey, the president of duARTS at the time. We spent a while talking about art and later that semester, she encouraged me to apply to be on the executive board of duARTS. Though I was unfamiliar with duARTS, the idea of expanding the arts, including all people, bridging the arts across disciplines, and making the arts accessible were goals I resonated with. After spending a year doing programming with duARTS, I'm ending my college career as co-President. One of my biggest projects of college is planning and executing a spring break arts exchange program to Duke Kunshan University, with the goal of bringing the students and the two campuses together through the arts. Throughout this process I've had the opportunity to talk to and gather support from various parts of Duke administration from Student Affairs, to Undergraduate Education, to the Arts, and to the UCAE.

So in summary, being an artist (a visual artist, at least) at Duke is challenging because of spatial constraints and unlike performing arts, there are few groups where visual artists can come together. But through my extracurriculars, it's clear to me that it's possible to carve out a space for the arts and that there is a lot of support from the administration and professors who I've interacted with. For me at least, the arts have been an integral part of my Duke experience. I've also come to notice, from the people that attend events that duARTS hosts or have applied to our alternative spring break program, that while they may not be pursuing the arts academically, they recognize and are eager to incorporate it into their daily lives. Whatever that looks like, of course varies from person to person, but the most important part about being an artist is the process and the desire to incorporate it in life; to me, that has been the defining part of my Duke experience and I'm very grateful for everyone that's been on this ride with me.

Being an Artist at Duke

Art has, until this semester, seemed to evade my time at Duke. Having grown up constantly painting and drawing, and considering I maintain the hope that I will enter a profession that will enable me to continue to explore my artistic side, this is certainly rather unusual. Oddly, the only opportunities I have had to delve into my creative fervor have been the rare moments where I have volunteered to help events that required painted decorations. As these chances come far and few in between, I tend to use them as a chance to further my passion for graffiti, often using spray paint and stencils where possible. These, however, have not satisfied my interest in the art form and so with this class I tried to develop a deeper understanding of graffiti through drawing. 
Indeed, using a pencil to make graffiti styled pieces forced me to study and try to replicate already produced pieces to convey the motion of spray paint and the limited nature of stencils. A native of England myself, the renowned British artist ‘Banksy’ has always garnered my respect in both the beauty of his art but particularly the message that each piece delivers. This is a characteristic I have tried to transfer to my art and is certainly something I plan to do in the future, both at Duke and elsewhere.
In particular, since I joined as a freshman, I have consistently admired the walls that surround the bridge over Campus Drive near East Campus. A space dedicated for students to express their views and thoughts, I admire the community that it promotes and the sense of unity it creates in promoting important causes, from social change movements to memorials. The only sadness that strikes me each time I pass the intricately decorated walls is that, for the overwhelming majority of Duke students, this is the extent to their art experience at Duke. In fact, even as a person who considers himself a consistent supporter and follower of art, I find it hard to fulfil my passion for it on a day to day bases around campus. Whether it be the heavily numerical classes that I take for my major or the lack of time I have each week to visit spaces such as the Nasher Museum or the Arts Annex, needless to say it has proven difficult to stay in touch beyond this class. Although I plan to take several more visual arts classes while I am here, I fear that many of my fellow students may not have this luxury. My hope is that Duke will make efforts to spread both student and external artworks across campus, possibly creating more spaces like the walls under the bridge. This will enable to students and other community members to pass by these exhibitions daily and naturally be exposed to art, public spaces much like those that artists such as Banksy utilize potently to deliver beautiful pieces and important messages all at once.

On Being an Artist at Duke - Marlowe Early

Though art was a significant part of y high school experience, I came to Duke with no intention of further pursuing it. After three semesters, I realized how integral artistic expression is to my life and decided to not only start taking art classes, but to build my educational experience around them. Now, art consumes my experience at Duke. I spend the majority of my time outside of class pursuing artistic endeavors, mainly photography, but also taking courses in other art forms that I love or am curious about. 
In taking so many art classes, I have been able to identify several people who are passionate and invested in the arts at Duke. I have found that between the students and professors, I am consistently inspired by the work of others and always feel that I have people to turn to for critique and guidance. Though the visual arts department is relatively small, there are so many opportunities in and outside of Duke that I have access to when I feel like I want something outside of class. 
Art has been incredibly important to my experience at Duke because becoming involved in the arts here really changed my academic experience. I feel like there is a lot of pressure at this school to follow certain paths, and making art isn't necessarily one of them. Once I left those ideas behind and decided to pursue something I'm passionate about, my feelings about Duke became much more positive and I started to actually enjoy my experience here. 
For me, art is a way to work through whats going on in my head. It's like having a long conversation with a friend or a therapist. It becomes a visceral thing and I find that my mind and body become completely immersed in what I'm doing, and for a second I'll entirely lose my sense of self, which i personally find to be a great thing. A lot of my personal work is representative of this, I'll look back at it sometimes and use it as a map for what's going on in my life. 
Personally, art has been really important for me at Duke both personally and academically. It helps me through stressful times and allows me to ground myself, and taking classes like this one pushes me to explore what I am capable of and push boundaries of what's possible. 

On Being an Artist at Duke - Jenny Xin

At Duke, I took one art class and became the art friend. It’s true that I’ve always been one of the “artsy” friends, with paintings and drawings overlapping on my once-plain bedroom walls. However, throughout high school, I’ve always had numerous friends who also doodled in their notebooks and had an art class embedded in their schedules. I even had a small group of friends entirely made of so-called "art friends" with whom I took art classes with during school, and skateboarded with when classes were over.

In high school, I was the robotics friend. Being part of the robotics team slowly became an all-consuming part of my identity. My friends saw me drawing design sketches in the margins of my notes, typing out snippets of code in my spare time, and labeled me accordingly. Being an artist was just one of my other hobbies.

At Duke, all my friends can be considered the “robotics” friend. I gathered around me people who are in the same engineering organizations and applying for the same internships, because we grew close after taking a class together. Being part of the high school robotics team is no longer a marvel, but being an artist is.

My Duke friends gasp every time I design a birthday card or leave a work in progress lying about the room. Being an artist has become such a large part of my identity here, despite the fact, or maybe due to the fact, that the art program here is not emphasized. I generally didn’t used to call myself an artist, but my friends here have referred to me as an artist so often that I have grown into the title.

This shortage of artists compared to my high school has highlighted how big of an impact art has had on my life. Being an artist at Duke means attending art classes and seeing no familiar faces. It means going to the Arts Annex in disbelief because canvases are free, and hanging up all your new paintings with sticky tack on once-bare dorm walls. It means your friends will automatically nominate you to design logos and birthday cards. It means finally embracing the title of artist and the niche you have found in this overwhelmingly giant campus of budding engineers and businessmen and basketball players.

Being an Artist at Duke- Julia Henegar

Almost everyone agrees: being an artist at Duke isn't easy. While this school is certainly prestigious, it isn't exactly known for its visual arts program or art-saturated setting. Duke is full of students hoping to become doctors, hedge fund managers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, IT specialists-- not many students enroll in this university to enter the art world. And while many may find art interesting, very few plan on using it in their desired careers. The general sense that Duke isn't an arts-driven school results in a widespread reaction of surprise when Duke students decide to major in art or pursue a career in the arts field, and this attitude, while innocent, is harmful to these students. It's discouraging to see so many peers take off on straightforward paths to lucrative jobs while art students are faced with the daunting task of navigating the art world in a world that isn't as conducive to art as they would like. It's necessary, however, that these students (which include me) don't abandon their goals because of this environment. Duke has resources and challenging courses that would prepare any willing student for a successful arts career and provide them with invaluable training in the arts during their tenure at the university.
Duke doesn't have the wide range of arts courses that an arts university may have, but because of its prestige, the courses is does offer are guaranteed to be well-taught and meaningful. No course is too easy; each challenges the student to practice skill and improve creativity. I know that my creativity and confidence in my abilities have certainly improved. I've worked with medium I would have never imagined I'd worked with, and I've only taken one semester of one art course at Duke. I've also significantly improved my portraiture skills simply by completing assignments. The creative freedom combined with mentorship that I receive from this class have been an incredible start to my art career at Duke, and they've inspired me to continue on this path, no matter how daunting or unique it may be.

Being an Artist at Duke-- Ali Rosenbaum

Whenever I tell people that I am an “artist,” they are surprised. Surprised because I am a sporty kid. Surprised because of my major in environmental science. Surprised because I am on the Pre-Med track. But anyone who really knows me, knows that I define myself as an artist. Loving or being good at art is always my go-to “fun fact” for icebreakers. Painting or sketching is my remedy for stress. At times, I can easily spend six hours on end getting lost in a single composition. I have always been talented when it came to detail. In elementary school I constantly won the crown of “artist of the month.” Growing up with this passion and flair gave me a unique, personal outlet. 

Although I am not a “formally” trained artist, I have taken art classes in school all my life, leading up to AP Portfolio art my senior year of high school. Having taken that class and creating such a large body of work in such a short amount of time really forced me to develop artistic skills with a wide variety of materials and learn to work efficiently. These are two skills which I found extremely applicable and necessary for my creation of art here at Duke.

As a freshman, adjusting to school while keeping up with coarse loads is certainly challenging enough in and of itself. But when you are a perfectionist, like myself, it can be hard to accept when you do not have every single one of your usual, comfortable art materials with you at all times. Or, that there is not, in fact, even enough space in my dorm to work on Bristol board. Making art for me here this year has not always been the easiest but I have grown to learn a lot from it. I have learned to amplify my adaptability and let the serenity drawing gives me be more powerful than any one assignment.

I always say that my number one value is balance. Whether it be a balance between my social life and school work, or a balance between spending time with friends versus family, balance is very important to me. Art fits into my life as the perfect weight on that balancing beam. It allows the load of my sometimes overwhelming STEM classes, like chemistry, to be counteracted with creativity and fun. You may ask, then why do you take those science courses if they are so tough? Well, I do love a good challenge. And, despite be arduous at times it is what I want to do in the future. 

To me, art can be anything and everything. It is whatever, whoever, whenever, and where ever. I chose Duke because of how I felt I belong to the community. Duke prioritizes the arts and definitely creates a community of artists. I feel like the school really encourages creation. I also love how as an artist I do not have to seek out opportunities, but the school encourages and passes them along. I am constantly receiving emails and checking out flyers on the walls about clubs and events that are super unique and tailored to my interests. The amount of support from both my peers and professors in the creative process is more than I could have ever imagined. Art is SO important as a Duke student. Whether you are an Economics major or a psychology major or Pre-Med, you have other passions and talents, otherwise you wouldn’t be here at Duke. I find one commonality between many students in art classes— that so many of them are not art majors, including myself. This is so important because it shows how well rounded our student body is and; another great thing is that this implies students have tested the waters, they are experimenting with different fields to ensure they do what they love and love what they do. Wherever I go, I will always be an “artist,” but at Duke especially.

Art at Duke

Being an artist at Duke comes in many forms. Some people dance fifteen hours a week as part of their dance group; some practice lines and routines for theatre plays; others draw and paint late nights in Smith Warehouse. I loved organizing artistic events through clubs and being in unique art classes with friends. Throughout this artistic journey at Duke, I've delved into the artistic community of students, faculty, and staff have all worked so intensively to build the burgeoning sense of community that exists at Duke today, and I would definitely say that art is an important part of many students' Duke experience.

But one thing rings true about the majority of Duke students who are interested in art, including me: many of them are not pursuing careers in art. It seems to be a plight of Duke that we accept so many students who love and are passionate about art, yet not so to the degree that they are willing to do it for their career. It is here that programs like DEMAN weekend, interacting with art faculty, and providing support for students interested in art careers early on is so vital to showing students that art is a viable career path.

Or maybe it's because Duke is so selective, academically rigorous, and extremely expensive, we simply do not attract the people will become our future artists. People at Duke are instead focused on careers that will sustain them financially in the future and the artists are at Julliard, which is also completely reasonable. Yet I always feel a little sad when I meet Duke students who are so talented and so inspired, but have never considered art as a viable career path for them.

Being an Artist at Duke - Natalia Mesa

“Artist” and “Duke” had never been compatible in my mind until about a year ago when I took my first drawing class. Sure, there had been “art” at Duke but it was only a side hobby, something “cool” I did when I had time, it was never meant to evolve into being an “artist” at Duke. The reason for this is that since before I started my first semester here, I had determined what I would be: a Neuroscientist. Within a single semester I discovered that my worldview could not be restrained to a scientific perspective and I began taking philosophy classes, thinking this would balance out both my schedule and my worldview. A scientific lens focused on the brain and a philosophical lens focused on the mind. Yet something was still missing, and looking back on my first two years at Duke I realize that what was missing was right in front of me. My neuroscience notebooks were filled with doodles of neurons, brains, nerve fibers and distorted faces. My philosophy notebooks were riddled with sketches of Aristotle, Plato, greek statues and girls with their minds and souls materializing before them. I had been “doing art” while I was at Duke but I hadn’t let myself be an “artist”. 

Fast forward to second semester junior year, my crazy double major schedule finally allowed me to take a class that wasn’t neuroscience or philosophy and I took my first drawing class. Before taking this class, art fit into my life in the margins of my notebooks, in sporadic publications for The Bridge, The Standard or Form, and on the walls of my friend’s apartments. Now, art had a more “official” place in my life at Duke. It was finally an assignment, it was finally for a grade, and it was finally something I could tell myself I was doing “seriously”. Now, being an “artist” at Duke is one of my favorite parts of my Duke experience. Doing art has become a full-time project with directionality and purpose. I’ve found an impressive amount of support and inspiration among the students and teachers I’ve met in my art classes. The art community is richer than I imagined and being an Artist at Duke wasn't looked down on by all the engineers, econ majors, and STEM buffs like I expected - it was accepted and appreciated by every type of person. Being an artist is no longer something I do in my free time, its something I am, all the time. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Being an Artist at Duke - Alexandra Uribe

Since a young age, I’ve been drawn to the arts because it provides an avenue for self-expression unlike anything else. For me, the act of gathering inspiration and then transforming a personal vision into an external visual form has always been a special experience. Throughout grade school, I would often incorporate drawing into my day-to-day activities, often doodling during classes, on homework, or even on dinner napkins at the table. I was particularly inspired by artists that focused on hyper-realism style drawings and fantasy illustration. During my high school years, I became more interested in digital art and graphic design. In college, I have tried to incorporate art in as many forms as possible while also balancing Duke’s rigorous academic requirements. For me, being an artist means somehow incorporating art into my daily life because of this intrinsic love for the creative process. Even if I am not studying the arts 24/7 like other students at art schools such as RISD, I try to incorporate the creative process in all my courses during the semester.
Being an artist at Duke, and/or pursuing a creative career, requires an extensive level of initiative and bravery. With the many internal and external pressures that students face today, one must prioritize and set aside time to participate in the art world and hone one’s craft. For me, engaging in all forms of the visual arts is important, yet challenging at times. As other students have remarked, Duke may not have as extensive a catalogue of fine or digital art classes, which can make it difficult to get into these courses. In addition, since there are fewer students studying the arts compared to other majors at Duke,  one has to take the initiative of reaching out to the art departments and to other students who share similar interests. Trying to incorporate the arts in my life as a hobby or career, takes bravery since art career pathways are often considered less financially sustainable and difficult to enter compared to other pre-professional careers. Between current job market pressures and the rising cost of higher education, many students may feel dissuaded to embark in art careers. However, my goal is to incorporate the arts as much as I can, whether only as a hobby or in my future post-Duke career. Taking this drawing class has helped me practice and remain balanced in all my classes. As a senior, it is one of my goals to continue engaging in the arts by connecting with alumni that have been involved in the various arts organizations and departments at Duke and by attending DEMAN weekend(s). Programs such as Duke in NY, internships at PBS, and classes with Duke professors in the AAHVS have helped me to develop my professional and personal development skills. In the future, I hope to continue “being” an artist in the literal and figurative sense, by cultivating my skills and adapting to challenges with a creative mindset.

Being an Artist at Duke

Being an artist at Duke is rather difficult. If it is not your main academic path, you have to struggle to make time for it. Heck, even if it is, you still need to work hard to make time for it. Many of the non-ALP courses necessary to graduate can be rather time consuming, taking away time to make art and be an active artist. Likewise, there is not a wide selection of arts courses at this University. Some classes, such as graphic design, are only offered at one level, leaving the rest to the artist after the completion of the course. Likewise, courses that are offered at various levels, such as drawing, are only taught by one professor at one time.

Regardless of the circumstances at hand, I am trying my hardest to be an artist at Duke, especially because my goal is to be some sort of artist outside of Duke. In addition to the two visual arts courses I am enrolled in, I am in multiple extracurricular activities that require some sort of creativity or artistic ability. Presently, I am Historian of Black Student Alliance, a videographer for Duke Football, Co-Head of Content for The Bridge, and Set Designer for The Wiz. Taking positions such as these were done purposefully in order to gain the extra experience I need to prepare myself for a creative career upon graduation.

Although I have learned some things through these positions or had to teach myself some things in order to maintain these positions, I honestly do not feel like it is enough. I am entirely too cognizant of the fact that there are many students graduating from schools dedicated entirely to the arts who have spent all of their undergraduate years mastering their craft. I definitely feel as if I am at a disadvantage. Despite this fear, I am still putting forth the effort to be a successful creative upon graduation. I want to prove to myself, my family, and my peers that art is a legitimate career. It’s been my ultimate dream from a young age that I constantly pushed back out of fear and insecurity.

Being An Artist by Alexis Joseph

For most of my life, art has been a passion of mine and also a stress reliever. I taught myself how to draw and paint when I was younger and ever since, it has been a major part of my life. Tattoos and alternate forms of art have also grown to be a new passion of mine. Since I started kindergarten, art class has been my favorite class and now that I am at Duke that has not changed. Being creative is important and I find my days to be better when I am being creative and practicing art. Being a student athlete, most of my days are stressful and long. I have found art to be my release, my happy place. I look forward to art homework and I look forward to my two-and-a-half-hour art class every Monday.
A few weeks ago, our class visited the Nasher Museum and I was asked if I was a “practicing” artist. My initial reaction was of course I am a practicing artist. However, once I really thought about it, my answer began to change. Duke is an amazing university that offers thousands of opportunities; however, those opportunities feel slim when it comes to art.
I have complete freedom for what classes I can chose which makes me very happy, however I find myself frustrated when book bagging. Not because I have to take an 8am class or because I have to struggle to find a language class, but because I plan to major in Visual Art but my schedule has no art classes. From my experience thus far, Duke offers few fine arts classes. The classes that are offered are during my practice schedule. So; being an artist at Duke is definitely frustrating for me. However, being an artist at Duke has taught me to be creative and take my education in my own hands. It has also introduced me to new forms of art and unintentionally made me more open to learning new forms.
I never thought about graphic art or a music theory class but after searching for classes here at Duke, I am now starting to become more interested in other mediums. Which I believe in the end will help develop my artist skills and ideas. 

Being an Artist

I’ve loved drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. Whether it was getting my hands and parents’ walls dirty with finger paints at age five, or losing all concept of time with chalk pastels at age 15, art has consistently been something I’ve enjoyed. But that doesn’t mean I’ve always listened when my mind rang out to me to do something I loved.

In high school, I had one goal in mind: get into a prestigious university. I worked hard to take the most rigorous classes and succeed in them in hopes impressing some admissions officer, so taking an AP art class was never a priority. And yet I vividly remember weekends when I felt overwhelmed preparing for midterms or tests, instead of studying, I spent 6+ hours drawing a portrait of my mom, or my backyard. Drawing was my stress-reliever, a space I only relied on when I needed to decompress. My biggest regret is listening to my advisors and teachers who insisted I take AP Physics over AP Studio, or AP Chemistry over AP Photography. Only after taking this class and reflecting on my time in high school do I realize that my passion to draw has always been there, I’ve just let noise distract me.

I’m so glad I took this class, not only because it has given me some balance in my STEM-heavy schedule, but also because it has forced me to consciously set time aside for something I love, and actively listen to my instincts. I’ve blocked out the chatter in my life and reclaimed a sense of my own voice. This class has given me a chance to express my creativity in ways that I never could in my math or economics classes. Since high school, I have always focused on the next step - whether that meant getting into Duke, or getting the best job. For too long I’ve discounted the whispers in my head that screamed “draw”. Now, more than ever, I’m listening to the part of me that wants to explore art. Regardless of what I pursue in the future, my journey as an art student is not over. I’ve promised myself to never silence that part of me.

While I’m fortunate that this art class has given me that awareness, I’m not sure many other Duke students who aren’t fully aware of their art passions will find the same clarity. Even in writing this, after formally enrolling as an “art student” for the semester, the concept of considering myself an “artist” is foreign to me. So I can only imagine how isolated students who only consider art as a side hobby must feel. Perhaps it’s because Duke is not an arts school in the traditional sense. I feel as though Duke breeds pre-professional students, who are encouraged to pursue their diverse interests, but not to fully explore them beyond a hobby. It’s disappointing, since all the resources to pursue art and be an “artist” are present; there are constantly events at the Arts Annex, and events run by student organizations trying to give students an art community to engage with. Perhaps then allowing “artist” to become part of students’ identity must materialize naturally and independently. Duke does all it can in encouraging people to listen to their art instincts, but considering my experience, it’s up to each student whether or not they will have an open ear.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

On Being an Artist at Duke - Juliana Arbelaez

Until this semester, I had never seriously integrated art into my life at Duke. Beyond making my own dorm art or being asked to paint coolers for friends in the spring, I rarely dedicated time to seriously practicing art. If discussing art in a liberal sense, my dedication to film photography as a means to document my college years could be counted as practicing art. In high school, I took IB Visual Arts HL. Coming to college, I switched from dedicating a couple hours a day to art to almost none in just a summer. I think this is because of the overarching pressure at Duke to focus on “academic” or career-oriented pursuits instead of something that is often written off as extracurricular.

In the general sense, I don’t think that art is an important part of the Duke experience. I don’t think labs or late nights in Perkins or even the basketball team are an important part of the Duke experience either. Every individual at this school has a different experience and thus has factors with differing important to that experience. In saying this, I admit that can be an essential part of an individual’s Duke experience. It has yet to become part of mine, not because of lack of significance, but simply because I have chosen to dedicate the time that has constituted my experience thus far to other things. 

I do think that Duke has a community of artists if you desire to become a part of it. We have incredible spaces to practice different art forms like the Arts Annex, the Ruby, and Smith. Although the artistic community may seem quieter than some of the other communities on Duke’s campus, I don’t think this is because of its lack of existence or vibrance. I would encourage all students to take an art class at Duke, regardless of previous experience or desire to pursue art further. Whether it be a drawing, photography, or dance course, I think taking the time to grow in an area that may be unfamiliar or challenge a different part of yourself is beneficial and a necessary part of the college experience. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

To be an Artist at Duke

Art is what keeps me grounded. At Duke and other
Duke-adjacent schools, it isn’t difficult to become
consumed with grades and expectations and extracurriculars
and the all-too-familiar feeling of not doing enough.
Creating has become my solace. In the past, I found myself
perceiving art as a “breaktime” activity, something I’d do if
I got around to it--so I never did. Living this way--assignment
to assignment--is unsustainable and unhealthy. About halfway
through last year, I began to prioritize balance, carving out
time to create just as I carved out the time to study. 
Although art may not be put forth as a defining feature of
Duke, the campus is full of artists; it’s just a matter of
seeking out community with them. One’s first thought may
be to seek out this community by flocking to art-related
extracurriculars. In fact, when I arrived on campus, this is
how I assumed I should go about it. And although this is a
valid approach, I’ve found more community with artists
outside of extracurriculars--in happenstance revelations that
I have a passion in common with someone else. Many of
Duke’s artists are quiet creatives with a multitude of
different interests; fishing out who is also an artist has been
a really fulfilling experience for me. 

I think that art can be an important part of the Duke experience, if
one chooses to seek it out. Duke has so many artistic resources,
from the Ruby to the Arts Annex to film screenings, etc.
Experiencing art can be a huge source of growth; it exposes you
to different cultures, viewpoints, new ways of looking at things:
a time for reflection. College is a time to experience new ideas
and broaden your worldview. Art can help attain this. I believe
that incorporating art, whether it be as the creator or as the
viewer, provides the individual with a much fuller experience.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Contemporary Latin American Art

Throughout the second half of the 20th and continuing into the 21st century, contemporary art has expanded upon traditional perceptions of art by placing into conversation the developments and challenges of the present day. Rather than focusing more on particular techniques or a singular theme, it is "distinguished by the very lack of a uniform organizing principle, ideology, or -ism." This differs greatly from other art periods and movements such as Impressionism, which analyzes our world and perception through moments of light and color rather than focusing on pure realism. Contemporary art has evolved to instead reflect more broadly on a variety of social issues, including but not limited to identity politics, globalization, migration, technology, and critiques of present institutional and political systems.
Similarly,  Latin American artists have taken part in the contemporary art movement by creating art that expanded upon previous conceptions of Latin American art and explored the socio-political dilemmas of the day and age. Historically, Latin American art has often been presented as colorful, folkloric, and rustic without the type of intellectual and political depth afforded to artwork created by American and Western counterparts.  Latin America thus was often promoted with a “frozen image”, one that did not accurately represent the developments in the region. Artistic institutions promoted this image by encouraging less controversial visual art that “imagined Latin America as detached from its artists, regional, and international politics, and the Latin American community in the United States.” However, contemporary Latin American artists have worked to expand upon these perceptions by creating work that critiqued the social and political issues of the time. Some of the most dominant themes of the last 30 years have been the rise of Conceptual, Minimalist, and Performance art with critiques of Western imperialism, neo-colonialism, globalization, and military dictatorships in Latin America. 
 For instance, pop artist Antonio Caro painted his work Colombia Coca-Cola in 1976, which presents the name of the artist’s country in the iconic Coca-Cola script. Here the superimposition of nation and logo points was Caro’s critique of the history of U.S. imperialism in the region and to the “blurring” of the line between consumers and producers.  

Other Latin American artists also used their work to critique the political situations in their home countries. For instance, Oscar Bony, created art to comment on the disastrous economic policies in his home country of Argentina.  His piece, La Familia Obrera (The Working Class Family), was controversial when first presented at the Experiences 68 exhibition at the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires. Bony utilized the exhibition budget to pay a working class family to sit on a plinth in the gallery for eight hours a day while recorded sounds of their home life played in the background. Through this piece, Bony strove to  illustrate just how low wages were considering that the family’s father in the exhibition made twice as much participating in the exhibition than at his job as a die-caster.
Contemporary Latin American artists have also utilized the power of modern day media to multiply the impact of their art. Brazilian photographer Vik Muniz has gathered notoriety internationally through the use of photography, mixed-media, and film to comment on the effects of globalization and economic inequality.  Some of his best known work repurposed everyday materials to make intricate and heavily layered recreations of canonical masterpieces. From my perspective, one of his most impactful works was a project in which he photographed trash-pickers as figures from emblematic paintings, such as Jacques-Louis David’s Neoclassical Death of Marat, and then recreated the photographs in large-scale arrangements of trash. The project was preserved in the 2010 documentary Waste Land, in an attempt to raise awareness for urban poverty. In line with the themes of many modern day contemporary artists, Muniz explained the work as a “step away from the realm of fine art,” and an effort to “change the lives of people with the same materials they deal with every day.”


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