Monday, December 2, 2019

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. 

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