April 2014

A few weeks ago, visiting Artist Enrico Riley came and talked about his work, and how it fit into his life. He began by showing pictures of places in which he spends or has spent a lot of time. He often thinks about what it means to live in an urban area, or the ruins of a once-booming urban area now mostly abandoned and surrounded by trees (in this case an old wool mill). He was highly influenced by music, particularly jazz, so a lot of his work from college was painting layers of brushstrokes that mimick how he perceived the rhythm and tone of music of a particular song. It then became squares that were placed in accordance with the tone that moved up and down, like sheet music. He used a laser pointer to follow the squares as he played the song to which one of the paintings was dedicated.

His drawings from his time as an undergraduate were quick, with lots of what I’d call squiggly lines. They emerged out of his desire to find areas of nature within urban areas, like parks.

He showed a few images of his young children, along with some child-like drawings he did based around the number 44. He said that he had an illness for a long time, and asked himself; “What if I only live to be forty four?”

Towards the end were his constellation drawings. Straight line after straight, line producing these particularly shaped stars. He said that a lot of his influences came from looking at Amerindian petroglyphs, illuminated manuscripts in Oxford and choir books. He also played a clip of a dance from Central Africa which he said inspired him; in which a tall man in costume and a mask danced furiously using only his legs.

I had the opportunity to have a 20 minute critique with him (as I had done with Doug Beube and Ken Buhler), and his major suggestion was to spend time outside and do more drawing in nature. He said he liked the drawings I’d done recently, which consisted mainly of circles of various sizes drawn next to one another, with the space in between lightly filled in. He said I ought to be more careful with the exactness of the boxes and line-thickness in some of my drawings; the point being that when you imply that you’re trying to be exact, you have to follow through, since otherwise the inexactness will receive all the eye’s attention (i.e. the annoyance that comes when this border or that line is just a little bit off).

The following Thursday I went to an event at the campus center. The only thing I had known about it was that it was titled “Night of Performance.” It was Islam Awareness Week, so the theme of the night was Islam. The first performance was a stand-up comedian who talked about his job as an English teacher, and his life as a Muslim. I think his act/talk was meant to be relatively family-friendly, but anyhow I found it entertaining. Apparently he had ended up on an FBI watchlist once because of his name. He told us about times when he was travelling, including being in Egypt in January 2011 (“Yes, I was there!”), and travelling along with a man conveniently named Dr. Yasser Arafat, which caused some brief inconveniences. He is black, and therefore gets surprised looks from Muslims (I gather he meant usually women wearing hijab) when he greets them (using the typical Muslim greeting, I forget what it is). He talked about a time when he had to try and explain to an old Muslim woman in the Middle East that he was a Muslim yet had no ancestors from outside of Africa (“See, a long time ago, they brought us over on boats…”).

After him were two more acts, the first of which I stayed for. It was a girl who had flown in from California but grew up in Bridgeport. She is also an African-American  Muslim (or at least I think she is), and she performed spoken-word poems. It was an unusual mixture in a sense; an art form developed by the Afr0-Latino community in the West, now being performed by a girl with largely black ancestry but also an Islamic upbringing, adding in Arabic phrases and the experience of the conflicts between religious expectations and the realities of life in America. Her dress was also unusual; all of her body minus her face and hands were covered, yet it seemed sexualized (or maybe you could just say stylish) to me at the same time. She was wearing black along with vibrant pink and turquoise-green colors, which stuck out to me.

Sculptor Jason Peters recently installed his show in the Walsh Art Gallery in the Quick Center. I have yet to actually see it, but I was his first volunteer helper, so I helped carry in hundreds of chairs and stacks of white buckets. He had me drill one-inch-diameter holes into the centers of the bottoms of blue and yellow buckets. The idea, he told me, would be to connect the buckets by this material (I also forget what it’s called) which lights up, causing the colors of the buckets to glow in the room. As we were taking the stuff out of the delivery truck and into the gallery he was talking on the phone with someone about a party or something. Before I left he talked about Howard Zinn, and something about re-interpreting history.

Later that day was the opening of the Junior-Senior Seminar Art Exhibition. We had an excellent turnout, I think significantly greater than last year.

The following Thursday I gave a reading at a student-run event, done by Wagner, a small student-produced publication of poems and short stories and artwork. This was good practice for the reading I was required to give seven days later for my Advanced Writing Portfolio course. It was for this reading that I was dressed up in my khakis, white shirt, and yellow tie. I was dressed this way because the crew team was travelling to New Jersey the following day for a regatta, to which I did not go.

Now finals are almost upon us, and I’ve never seen so many studious students studying so studiously in the DiMenna-Nyselius library before. I am called back to Campus Ministry in the chapel where I remember doing work and hanging out with different friends over three years ago, by the fishtank and red couches and modern art.


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