Five

It’s no surprise that, at times, the semester can feel inundated with stress. Assignments accumulate and papers pile up, but eventually a break comes along that allows you to reflect on the good times that have thankfully made up the last few months. Below are just five moments that I’m thankful have made their way into my Senior fall at Hopkins.

CO-HOSTS

This past year The Contemporary, a nomadic museum where I’ve been lucky enough to intern, has co-hosted a number of lectures with local galleries which bring a variety of artists to Baltimore for free, public talks. Working a number of these events has definitely been a highlight of the semester, and has also entailed some cool dinners with prominent artists and gallerists alike. It’s great to see the diverse audience that these lectures bring about, and I’d encourage anyone in Baltimore to take advantage the (free) greatness that is The Contemporary’s Speaker Series.

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TC staff and Gallery Four with Sanford Biggers

The notorious Guerrilla Girls held a Q&A for students from local schools (Hopkins included!)

The notorious Guerrilla Girls held a Q&A for students from local schools (Hopkins included!)

Post-Guerrilla Girls madness

Post-Guerrilla Girls madness

FALL BREAK

For this year’s Fall Break, my friend Liana and I made the strenuous four-hour trip up to New York for a few, solid days of food, art, and trying not to look like tourists. Fall Break, short as it may be, is an awesome time to take a trip and check out what’s going on in another city. We indulged in some killer meatball sandwiches at The Meatball Shop, saw Jeff Koons’ much talked about retrospective at the Whitney on its final night, and had spiritual awakenings in the midst of $1 slices of pizza. A weekend well spent.

A Doughnut Plant newcomer

A Doughnut Plant newcomer

2:00am: stand next to sculpture of Play-Doh

2:00am: stand next to sculpture of Play-Doh

Hey, you

Hey, you

HALLOWEEN

Halloween in Baltimore is an unquestionably good time. In addition to the usual house parties and trip to Fell’s Point, this year I found myself at a haunted house organized by 901 Arts, a community-based youth arts center. My expectations of an endearing, DIY haunted house were quickly shattered as I entered a world of fear like none other. The kids in the program far exceeded my expectations—as demonstrated by my incessant screaming—and it’s a must-do during Halloween in Baltimore.

Fell's insanity

Fell’s insanity

~blessed + possessed~

~blessed + possessed~

Where dreams (and apparently, nightmares) come true

Where dreams (and apparently, nightmares) come true

ALLOVERSTREET

ALLOVERSTREET is a monthly art walk that centers around Oliver Street (see what they did there??) in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. A number of local galleries open their doors the first Friday of every month for a night of incredible art and memorable openings. As I’ve said countless times before, the Baltimore art scene is truly unique and at a really, really exciting time in its development, and seeing what’s out there is a great way to get a better sense of what makes this city tick—thankfully, ALLOVERSTREET makes this easy to do over the span of just one night.

La Bodega Gallery

La Bodega Gallery

and la reste of La Bodega

and la reste of La Bodega

THANKSGIVING

All of these good times bring me to my most recent cause for excitement: Thanksgiving Break. This year, Vio made the trip to St. Louis to and it’s been everything I’ve ever imagined and more. St. Louis (complete with our flawed prosecution system) may not have the appeal of the many other U.S. cities, but it has meant introducing her to the real Midwest, including:

Excessive amounts of laziness

Excessive amounts of laziness

Excessive amounts of snow

Excessive amounts of snow

Excessive amounts of cherry limeade

Excessive amounts of cherry limeade

Excessive amounts of snacking before an excessive Thanksgiving feast

Excessive amounts of snacking before an excessive Thanksgiving feast

An excessive amount of photos with an American public school

An excessive amount of photos with an American public school

And just the right amount of Hopkins reunions in STL

And just the right amount of Hopkins reunions in STL

Right on schedule

With the approach of course registration freshman year, the dorms were filled with rumors of no-morning-classes, aka the chance to sleep-in once, maybe twice a week. Sophomore and junior years, it was the elusive hope of having an entire day free of classes—should it bookend the weekend, all the better. Well this year, as a senior, I’ve struck gold with my fall schedule. You see, not only do I have three days of classes, leaving me with a four-day weekend (see Exhibit A):

Look at those glorious days sans class

Look at those glorious days sans class

but, more importantly, I have a really solid group of classes that inspire and challenge me in a number of different ways (see Exhibit B):

Hey guys

Hey guys

Here’s the lowdown on my senior fall semester as a soon-to-be-graduated art history major:

Honors Thesis

The dog's name is Human, btw.

The dog’s name is Human, btw.

I’ve technically been working on this since junior year, but now it’s finally game time. I’m writing on a contemporary French artist named Pierre Huyghe whose retrospective I saw at the Centre Pompidou while I was still abroad (cue tears and flashback montage). More accurately, I saw his exhibition about six times; I would walk in and hours would pass in the galleries filled with immersive and downright incredible work. My thesis, because yes, you’re all wondering, looks at Huyghe’s video work and placement of masked actors and animals in the exhibition space in order to consider the effect of surrogacy on spectatorship. This semester, my advisor’s guided me through issues of virtuality, phenomenology, posthumanism, etc. and drafts of text have been turned on their heads. It’s been trying to say the least, but I still have this winter and the spring semester to get my thesis in a good place.

Thesis writing now fills most rooms of my house including, but not limited to:

The living room table

The living room table

This shelf

This shelf

My bedside table

My bedside table

And my desk. Luckily my Goodwill painting of a plant manages  to keep me optimistic.

And my desk. Luckily my Goodwill painting of a plant manages to keep me optimistic.

Problems in Theory and Method: Reception, Response, Reflexivity

Thomas Teurlai at the Palais de Tokyo

Thomas Teurlai at the Palais de Tokyo

Chances seemed slim to take an art theory course before graduation, something I really wanted to do, but stars aligned when I saw that one of my favorite professors, Professor Merback, was teaching the course with that crazy long title up above. The only problem was that it was restricted to graduate students. However, following surprisingly little persuasion on my behalf, I was let into the class and have really enjoyed it. The readings are dense and pedantic and troublesome and, some nights, never-ending, but it’s truly all worth it. Plus it’s cool to get lost in the graduate student’s ingenious ramblings and gives me something to aspire to. As a seminar course, the class will result in a seminar paper on an artwork/artist of our choice incorporating the themes of reflexivity and the “beholder’s share” that we’ve been looking at over the past few months. I’m writing my text on another contemporary French artist named Thomas Teurlai and it’s been a great experience thus far.

Curating Material Culture for the Digital Age

The basis for this Museums & Society course was fairly simple: you can learn a lot about a culture through its material culture, the ‘stuff’ they leave behind. What resulted has been an intense foray into Hopkins history as an academic institution through a look into our own collections. Our research contributes to an ongoing digital project called JHU Collections Web (still in beta) that creates connections between all of the disparate ‘stuff’ that Hopkins has accumulated since its founding. Our class has chosen to approach our group of objects in a way that highlights the primacy of discovery at this university and the continuous outward-looking efforts of such endeavors. The class has entailed a lot of research and the writing of interpretive texts, along with labs—yes, labs in the humanities—but I know that the end product will pay off.

The World Wide (JHU Collections) Web

The World Wide (JHU Collections) Web

Bilingualism

‘Bilingualism’ brings back everybody’s favorite game show: Joseph VS. Science! For my last and final distribution requirement (and good riddance), I’m taking a cognitive science course focused on the cognitive processes of bilingual speakers (did that sound smart?). I’ve come to view the class as follows: I really like the lectures. A lot. The concepts are so cool and interesting and, as a self-proclaimed bilingual (*brushes dirt off shoulderlets it rain, clears it out*), the lessons become more relatable and thus understandable. Also one time we had a lecture about the brain and there were pictures of the insides of brains and I didn’t throw up in class! So that’s all good. But then the tests come, and that’s another story. But overall, I’m really glad I enrolled in this course and encourage my fellow humanities majors to test out different courses for distribution requirements.

One time I switched into French to talk to my host mom while talking to friends from home. They had a mental breakdown.

One time I switched into French to talk to my host mom while in the middle of talking to friends from home. They had a mental breakdown.

So that’s the semester! Hard to believe that there’s only one more of these course wrap-ups to come before graduation—time flies when you’re getting an education. Maybe by then I’ll have learned how to make these posts more concise, but I’m not making any promises.

Speed Bumps

With only a bit more than a month of classes remaining this fall, I feel confident in asserting that this semester has been nothing short of mercurial. Highs have been high, and lows have been oh so low. Sometimes they choose to emerge simultaneously, making it challenging to hang onto one emotion for too long. Instead, days and weeks and clusters of moments collapse into a constant tangle of uncertainty. It’s a bizarre and oftentimes unwelcome amalgamation of the excitement of being back on campus this fall and the unpredictability of misfortune.

1604817_10152788356029275_3711882376215924793_nAs far as adjusting to life back at Hopkins after last year in Paris, it’s been significantly more smooth than I had anticipated. Senior fall’s been fun—it really has been. There’s been no shortage of weekend adventures and city exploring. Being 21+ in Baltimore is whatever (understatement) and has led me to a plethora of new spots throughout the city. My classes have been a reliable mix of independent work (hello, thesis) and the now-familiar seminar setting. My internship with the Contemporary has led to feasting on Ethiopian food with Sanford Biggers, meeting the notorious Guerilla Girls and binging on chicken wings with one of my favorite Baltimore gallerists. There have been memorable meals, memorable day and weekend trips, and memorable antics that I know will leave me with positive reflections on the semester.

2014-10-24 17.35.19Nonetheless, it’s easy to get caught up in the para-reality of college and so, when setbacks arise, it can be challenging to reconcile the two. Alongside the number of favorable memories that have made up this semester, I know I’ll look back and be forced to admit that this fall’s been taxing in more ways than one. Luckily, there are two pieces of good news. First of all, there’s been no shortage of support. My friends here are incredible, but when they drop everything to be by my side, they become nothing short of ineffable. It’s hard to express how much their words or simply presence have helped me get through this semester’s tough times. Second of all, a speed bump is just that: a bump in the road. It’s not the end, nor is it unendurable. Is it inevitable? Sure. Could we do without them? Probably. But there’s no reason to give up—instead, I recommend eating spoonfuls of Nutella and then getting on with it, although any alternative will do.

These past few weeks, I’ve been reminded that “there are many ways to look at things,” a mantra that’s helped me to reflect and move forward. With only a handful of weeks left this fall and then the conclusion of my time at Hopkins with the long-anticipated spring semester, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to tackle the challenging and embrace the positive. Besides, there’s nothing like a little struggle to make you appreciate the good that’s out there as well.

JB and JS_Spencertown

C.R.E.A.M.

The “cash rules everything around me” doctrine rings especially true at the university level. Whether tracking down the elusive paid internship, securing funding for a research project, or hunting down spare change for late night chicken nuggets from UniMini, the cash-fueled trials of college life are aplenty. Fortunately, Hopkins is chock-full of potential funding opportunities, making it possible for students to (feasibly) tackle their wildest dreams.

Thanks, Raekwon

Probably the most well-known source of funding is the Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Freshmen and sophomores can apply to this program and, if successful, receive $10,000 (not joking) to spend on research over their four years at Hopkins. Our very own SAAB alumni JHU_Tess was a Wilson Fellow and completed her study of the London Olympics just last year—read more about her project here.

The Dean’s and Provost’s Undergraduate Research Awards (DURA and PURA, respectively) are even more popular means of bringing in the cash flow (in the name of research). All undergraduates are eligible to apply and projects have ranged from the organization of an exhibition on the aesthetics of touch to a documentary about street art in Baltimore, along with more science-y projects that I won’t attempt to explain.

For me, I’ve been fortunate to receive three grants during my time at Hopkins, each of which has given me the opportunity to do things that would have otherwise been impossible.

The intern crew

The intern crew

For the summer after my sophomore year, I applied for the Robert and Nancy Hall Grant for Museum Internships. Administered by the Program in Museums & Society, the grant is just one of the many funded internship opportunities offered by the program; students can likewise apply for paid internships at the Walters Art Museum, the Evergreen Museum and Library, the JHU Homewood Museum, and more. Upon learning that I had received the Hall Grant, I was able to put funds toward any museum-related internship of my liking. I ended up spending the summer in Washington D.C. at the Phillips Collection where I spent twelve weeks organizing an exhibition and researching programs for the Center for the Study of Modern Art. Also, a lot of Shake Shack was involved.

To the windows, to the wall

To the windows, to the wall

This last summer, I knew that I once again wanted to pursue a curatorial internship, but was in needs of funding to make such a plan viable. Following a brief search, I applied for the Second Decade Society Internship Grant run through the Second Decade Society (SDS), a group of Hopkins alumni, and the Career Center. After submitting a lengthy proposal about my summer goals and interviewing with SDS, I was awarded funds to put toward any unpaid and/or non-profit-related internship—as you may have guessed, museums fit into both of these boats. I spent my summer months at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis where I received not only incredible mentorship, but the opportunity to work on exhibitions for artists including Joe Goode, Laurie Simmons, and Hurvin Anderson. In the past, other SDS interns have worked everywhere from the World Health Organization in Geneva to the American Broadcasting Company in New York to FIFA in South Africa.

Wistful for curating

Wistful for curating

The final grant that I received and that I’m particularly excited about is a Mellon Arts Innovation Grant. Open to undergraduates and faculty members, the AIG intends to fund projects and initiatives that support artistic collaborations either between JHU departments or between Hopkins and the Baltimore community. I applied last spring and, along with several undergraduates and faculty members, was awarded the grant! The funds will allow me to curate an exhibition as a complement to my thesis research that will open at a local gallery. I’m still in the initial phases of organizing the show, but I have an idea of what’s to come thanks to my last curatorial endeavor in Baltimore. I can’t wait to determine what shape the exhibition will take and I’m looking forward to seeing what the other recipients do with their funding.

As (I hope) my blog demonstrates, there a number of grants available to Hopkins students that can lead to some pretty awesome experiences. My internships and subsequent curatorial endeavor are defining aspects of my time at Hopkins and have allowed me to find relatively more practical uses for a very theory-based field of study. Plus, at the country’s first research university, one should come to expect nothing less than support to make your research (or internships or projects) a reality.

Senior Orientation

Stepping onto campus was weird—there, I said it. It had been more than a year since the last time I crossed North Charles and saw the words “THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY” carved into marble and stretching across the Beach. Hopkins was a place that had been on my mental back burner while I galavanted around France for nine months, and now here I was. At first, it was weird. Little had changed but at the same time, so much had. However, slowly but surely and following a quick campus refresher tour, I began to feel at home once again. I began to remember why I chose Hopkins in the first place. And while at times my qualms with the school pervaded my thoughts, this time things were different. This time, I was, and continue to be, genuinely happy to be here.

Post-study abroad can be difficult, but this year has given me so much to look forward to that there’s little time to dwell on the negative. Senior year feels different in the best way possible. Sure, it’s the beginning of the end of my time at Hopkins, but if I learned anything from Paris, it’s that a lot can be done in just one year.

Porch life

Porch life

The first thing that’s made the year so great is off-campus living. My friends and I have a rowhouse in Waverly and, in short, it rocks. There have been plenty of untimely misadventures that I’m sure we could have done without, but it’s still a place that I look forward to returning to everyday. It comes complete with a backyard, porch and is situated just a block from the weekly farmer’s market. It’s definitely become my happy place and has made all the difference in my enthusiasm about the year.

Nothing will ever live up to this meal

Nothing will ever live up to this meal

Then, there’s my schedule. In the past I tried to take on as much as I could, but this semester I chose to focus on quality rather than quantity. I’m taking 13 credits and have no classes on Mondays or Fridays, so my schedule is much more balanced than it has been in previous years—I’m looking at you, sophomore spring. I’m most excited about my Honors Thesis in the History of Art department which explores the art of Pierre Huyghe through his engagement of the spectator at his 2013 retrospective at the Centre Pompidou. As a class with no set class time, writing a thesis requires no shortage of self-control, but with the mentorship of my advisor, I’m looking forward to seeing where this endeavor goes. I’m also taking a graduate-level course called Problems in Theory and Method: Reception, Response, Reflexivity, a Museums & Society course exploring the history of Hopkins called Twenty-First Century Approaches to Material Culture and a cognitive science course for distribution requirements called Bilingualism. Although I was apprehensive about my one non-humanities course and felt nauseous when we talked about the physical makeup of a brain yesterday, it’s turned out to be one of my most intriguing courses and rounds out a really rad schedule for the semester.

Interns past and present breaking the ice

Interns past and present breaking the ice

This past week I started a yearlong internship at The Contemporary. Founded in 1989, The Contemporary redefines the museum as a non-collecting and nomadic entity. Whereas a conventional museum is bound by the presentation of a permanent collection in a fixed space, we at The Contemporary are unlimited when it comes to which artists to work with and where to show their work. The organization aims to bridge the gap between art, artists and audiences and I’m thrilled to be a part of the team. A major part of the internship will be producing the second edition of Scroll, a publication conceived of and created by the intern staff—you can read about issues of tastemaking and access in Baltimore in the inaugural issue here.

Danny Deacon show at The Crown

Danny Deacon show at The Crown

In addition to the aforementioned slew of activities that fill up my calendar, I’ve simply been enjoying living in Baltimore. It felt great to reunite with the things I love—friends, pot pie at the Bun Shop, the sounds of the city at night—and to discover new things as well—bulgogi nachos at The Crown, ALLOVERSTREET in Station North, the sanctity of Gilman on a Sunday night. I truly feel refreshed and ready for whatever the year will inevitably throw my way.

This morning, I met with my academic advisor and applied for graduation. College was never a given for me, so the fact that I’m preparing to graduate from this university is mind-blowing. However, until the emotion-filled day of May 21, 2015 arrives, I plan on taking full advantage of life here at Hopkins and in Baltimore as much as I can.

Fireworks over Balti

Required Watching

A city. It’s a funny thing when you think about it. A drop of a pin on a map, a pixel on a computer screen. A place where we initially end up by mere chance. A place that holds so much and means so much more.

Tomorrow I’ll once again leave my hometown of St. Louis to start my final year of college in Baltimore, yet this time the feeling as I near my departure is different. Tomorrow, hundreds of miles will separate me and a city that’s gone through so much over the past dozen days. On August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri, a 15-minute drive north of my home, a police officer fatally shot an unarmed teenager. Yesterday, I went to pay my respects to the victim—Mike Brown—at a makeshift memorial in the middle of the road. His death, regardless of what any court trial may show, represents so much of the racial inequalities that pervade our city and our country. The questions raised are dire, and my city’s response—demanding answers, demanding equality, demanding justice—has confirmed what I know to be true of St. Louis: we fight for what our guts tell us is right.

2014-08-19 13.08.06

I bring up this admittedly doleful aside not only because I think it’s critical that we reflect on this event and its social undercurrents, but because I believe that it underlines the inherent power of a city and its identity. I’m proud to say that I’m from St. Louis, even when certain actions challenge that very conviction. I’m proud to say that I’m from St. Louis, because when we band together as a city, we can ignite change.

In no time at all, the class of 2018 will be heading to Baltimore—for some, their beloved hometown and for many others, a new place to call home. If I could urge the incoming freshman class to do one thing, that would be to get to know and love this city. Baltimore has easily become one of my favorite cities in the world; the people are incredible and the energy is ineffable. Like any place, Baltimore deals with its own set of issues, but the pros outweigh any measly con time and time again. I hope that upon settling into your dorm and the Homewood campus, you get out and explore the city. Get acquainted with its unique identity and find a way to make an impact.

Before you all get bogged down by syllabus week and lists of textbooks and required reading, I wanted to offer up a head start with a list of required watching—of course, this will not be graded, but I definitely recommend taking a look at one (or all) of the videos below to get an initial idea of what Baltimore is about. The videos aren’t exhaustive and the city is so much better in person, but it’s a good way to get a sense of what makes Baltimore tick. Welcome home, class of 2018—to Hopkins and to Baltimore.

For starters, let’s get our bearings. This is Baltimore:

Balti’s music scene is one-of-a-kind. Seriously, it’s rad:

Our art scene is just as renowned. One time, I helped an artist collective marry people outside of an old police box adjacent to Penn Station:

If you’re a fan of theatre, you’ll find tons of great performances. Single Carrot Theatre (below) is great, but look up some Wham City Comedy (a personal favorite) for some more, occasionally less appropriate humor:

People aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Baltimoreans care about land use and agriculture, one example being the Baltimore Free Farm—fun fact: some of my friends made this documentary through a class at Hopkins:

Street art has transformed the city. Keep an eye for the incredible murals and graffiti courtesy of Open Walls Baltimore. Also, I’m obsessed with this video (that’s to say, watch this one ! ! !):

See you tomorrow, Baltimore.

Hello Hopkins, my old friend

Agnes Denes at the Pulitzer, STL

Agnes Denes at the Pulitzer, STL

One year ago, as summer 2013 wound down to an end, I was finalizing projects on the last day of my internship at the Phillips Collection in DC. After saying goodbye to the staff and other interns, I grabbed some celebratory Shake Shack and hopped on the MARC train back to Baltimore. I got back to campus, played with a cat, had farewell drinks with friends at PJs (where I likewise won an impromptu Tabasco sauce eating contest) and then finished up packing before waking up at 4am to catch my flight home to St. Louis—and that was the last time I was in Baltimore.

It’s crazy, and at times a bit scary, to think that it’s been more than twelve months since I’ve been at Hopkins. While studying abroad for a year was undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve done for myself in recent memory, the one downside—if you can even call it that—is that a campus that was once my second home now feels a bit unfamiliar. In fact, the first-day-of-freshman-year-nerves seem to come back in small but unnecessary doses. What if I get lost? Who am I going to eat lunch with? When will I fit in my distribution requirements? (This one is a real concern…)

#sports

#sports

In a way, I feel like it will be the first day of college once again, only this time, the cards are stacked in my favor. I’ll be living with the coolest of friends (trust me, freshmen—give it a few weeks and you’re realize that you’re living alongside your best friends, too), I have the fall schedule of my dreams (then again, my first semester courses were pretty awesome, too. Thanks no gen eds!) and I have my favorite spots in Baltimore all lined up for good times ahead (if you want to get a head start on this, check out the Forums or my ideal 24 hours in Balti). So while I anticipate the potential strangeness of walking around Homewood once again, surrounded by a handful of new faces but a lot of old friends as well, I ultimately couldn’t be more excited.

Great things happen when you’re at Hopkins. For me, I feel unstoppable. My productivity is immeasurably better when on campus as compared to elsewhere, and there are so, so many opportunities to take advantage of. There’s time to work hard, time to have fun and time to pave out your own path. I’ve loved having the chance to see my interests grow, my skills broaden and have my passions truly encouraged and supported. 

So, to the incoming freshman class of 2018, my advice to you is this: while nerves are naturally and, quite frankly, a good thing—this is a huge transition, after all!—latch on to the energy pervading campus, the excitement and the possibility to truly grow, and focus your energy on that. It’s all too common to be anxious or scared or to not immediately find your stride, but that’s okay; simply take a minute, and realize that you’re in a place where amazing, incredible things happen—and now, you’re a part of that. 

Besides, take comfort in the fact that there’s a senior out there (hi) feeling just as anxious (anxious but optimistic) as you—just don’t count on me giving you great directions to your next class.

Getting lost with the greatest

Got lost with the greatest

Work of Art

So much love

So much love

It’s a pretty cool feeling to love what you do. It’s a feeling I had when I first curated an exhibit in Baltimore, when I interned at a D.C. museum last summer and when I spent a year at an art history school in Paris. This summer, the feeling keeps coming up again and again, be it from every day I walk into my internship at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, every article I delve into or every time I encounter the work of a new and emerging artist. Thanks to Hopkins, I’ve had the opportunity to study exactly what I love—art history—and I can truly say that I’ve loved every minute of it.

There are lot of misconceptions about what it means to study the history of art (e.g. we don’t spend our days fingerpainting—at least, not all of us), so I wanted to give you an honest idea of what it’s like being an art history major at Hopkins. In the same style as JHU_Genevieve’s blog on being a Film & Media Studies student (CHECK IT), I thought I’d take you through my journey with the help four artworks that epitomize my experiences so far.

l_pl2_2332_fnt_bw_c39-2Sarcophagus Depicting Castor and Pollux Seizing the Daughters of Leucippus, c. 160

My first ever art history assignment—an eight page visual analysis—was accompanied by my first ever trip to the Walters Art Museum, a renowned, local museum with a top-notch collection of ancient through 19th-century art. At first, I felt in over my head; how was I 1) going to write eight pages 2) about one work of art 3) spanning from ancient to medieval times, a.k.a. not my cup of tea (read: area of specialization) in art history. Despite the initial challenges, writing the paper turned out to be quite cathartic. Regardless of whether a work resonates with you or not, a visual analysis assignment tests one of the fundamental tools for any art historian: your ability to look. In lieu of research and expounding upon a thesis, a visual analysis paper poses a number of critical questions ranging from how is the composition constructed to how is the subject rendered. Even though I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about writing on a 2nd century Roman sarcophagus, exploring the basic methodology of the field was both interesting and rewarding. I came to see that I wouldn’t love every work of art that I would write on, but that honing in on one’s critical looking and writing skills never hurts.

johns_field_190x380Jasper Johns, Field Painting, 1963-64

With the end of my freshman  year came a research paper for the second half of my art history intro course—spanning from Renaissance to modern art, we were now in business. I made the trip to DC and chose a compelling, mid-career work by neo-Dadaist Jasper Johns. Finally working within the time period that I love, I delved into the research with a refreshed sense of excitement. Working on this paper showed me just how incredible the resources at Hopkins truly are—I had an extensive selection of books on Johns at my disposal, my professor, having written a catalogue essay on Johns in the past, was invaluable, and my TA helped me to refine and elevate my argument. Pulling from critical essays on Johns, portions of the artist’s sketchbook and the work itself, I was able to produce a paper that I’m still proud of today.

529_600_bf719_i2rHenri Matisse, Le bonheur de vivre, 1905-06

One of the biggest lessons in my time as an art history student came from my course “Matisse, Picasso and Twentieth Century Art,” an exhaustive and challenging class looking at the career of two of the most important artists in recent art history. Despite helping me to see twentieth century artistic practice in a whole new light, I just couldn’t vibe with the professor’s approach to analyze the works we looked at in class. His methodology was heavy on psychoanalysis which, while interesting and practiced by a number of scholars, is far from how I personally choose to look at and study works of art. It came to the point that the mere sight of a Matisse or Picasso—which happens often considering the Baltimore Museum of Art’s renowned collection of twentieth century European art—would bring back unwelcome memories of Freudian psychosexual theory and the unconscious. However, the following year while on a free trip to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia thanks to the JHU Museums Club, I was able to see Matisse’s masterwork, Le bonheur de vivre, in person. The genius of the work was all I could take in and, no longer bogged down by an unfavorable approach to looking at the artist’s work, I was able to remember what drew me to these pieces in the first place.

Ulmer_041309_006Claudia Schmacke, Time Reel, 2009

Along with my favorite class so far at Hopkins—”Sculpture After Sculpture” with NGA curator James Meyer—came my favorite lesson to date. For our final seminar paper, we were each to choose the work of a contemporary sculptor and prepare a twenty-page paper and lecture presentation. I chose to focus on the German installation artist Claudia Schmacke whose work I had first encountered in high school at our city’s local art museum. The task of researching for and writing the paper, while extensive and spanning several weeks of time, never once felt like work. Each time I stepped back to think about the artwork, I was enriched with new ideas and a renewed sense of vigor. Getting to choose the artist that I wanted to study allowed for the undertaking of the assignment to occur quite fluidly and naturally. It was a much-needed reminder of why I love what I do, and there’s not much more that one can ask for than that.

A place called home

I had mixed emotions about coming home for the summer. My post-Paris plans entailed a few days reunited with family and friends before jetting off to big city X, Y or Z—but that’s not how things turned out. A month and a half into my St. Louis summer, though, my perspective has changed. So this blog is for the freshmen preparing to move to JHU this fall; my lessons learned during my first three years at Hopkins, first away from home and now back where I started.

1. It doesn’t hurt to get away / Living in Baltimore has characterized much of my time so far at Hopkins. One-third of my college choices were in Missouri, but my oldest sister – having gone to school just fifteen minutes from home – advised me to broaden my horizons and move to a new city. I’m so glad I did.

Ready to be a homebody with these cool kids come August

Ready to be a homebody with these cool kids come August

I should underline that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with going to home close to school—logistically, it tends to make a lot of sense. Personally though, I’ve seen myself grow along with the increased distance between me and St. Louis. This idea came up back in February while visiting a Hopkins friend in Brussels with Bianca; she had magically scored the three of us tickets to a sold-out Future Island show (one of my favorite bands who happens to be based in Baltimore). The singer, Sam, explained to us before the concert that he had to leave what he had grown to love – for him, his hometown in North Carolina – in order to push himself to the place he wanted to be artistically. This idea really hit home, especially on the other side of the Atlantic.

With this in mind, I can say that there’s nowhere I’d rather be to push myself and my boundaries than Baltimore. Quirky and inviting, exciting and unrivaled, it’s a city that encourages you to make it your own. I can’t wait to get back in August, re-visit my favorite restaurants, galleries and indescribable places that make Baltimore so unique, and to discover new favorites as well.

While going to school in a new city has taught me countless lessons, it’s likewise shown me that —

Me and the sister in Chicago

Me and the sister in Chicago

2. It doesn’t hurt to come back home, either / Being home admittedly took some getting used to in the beginning. St. Louis’ seminal kindness felt misplaced and my stomach churned at the thought of small talk. However, I soon came to see that everything that had changed about me over the past three years didn’t have to revert back to normal just because I was home. I’ve explored now places, retained my newfound love of getting lost, but have still had the opportunity to see the people that I care about.

On top of this, I couldn’t be happier with my internship at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and it’s been rather invaluable to see that there are meaningful things taking place in the arts outside of New York or LA. My co-workers at the museum are awesome, as most people at non-profits tend to be, and the art that I’ve had the chance to experience and write about has been pretty top-notch. My skepticism about the level of art being shown in St. Louis was shattered and I’m extremely grateful for that.

She's come a long way

She’s come a long way

While it can be a challenge to be home, it also means spending time with friends whom I otherwise wouldn’t have seen this summer and getting to explore my hometown through a perspective that was nonexistent three years ago. I’ve definitely amassed a good share of memories in these first handful of weeks and – despite how I felt before returning home – am looking forward to what’s to come.

The sole downside that comes with living away from home is that the idea of ‘home’ becomes plural and complex. For me, St. Louis, Baltimore and Paris have all been – and continue to be – home. I feel drawn to the three, aching for the others regardless of where I am, but that’s what makes the time spent in each of those places so meaningful.

The kids are all right

The kids are all right

C’est parti

Hopkins pals on my last night abroad

Hopkins pals on my last night abroad

“Your passport, please … how long were you out of the country?”
“Nine months, sir.”

“What were you doing?”
“Studying abroad.”

“What did you you study?”
“Art history. In Paris.”

“What are you going to do now?”
“…That’s the question.”

I didn’t expect my first conversation back on American soil to put me in a haze of contemplation and self-doubt, but – thanks to the US Customs Agent who greeted me after my flight – it did. Seven words – what are you going to do now – felt like a crushing blow of reality, definitively turning the page on my life abroad and forcing me to think forward as opposed to reflecting on my life in France. I was still getting used to the fact that Paris was suddenly something I had to refer to in the past tense, and now the pressure was on to fill the summer months with as much adventure as I had over the past two semesters.

Target fruit snacks OR BUST (thanks, sister)

Target fruit snacks OR BUST (thanks, sister)

Business time

Business time

Week one was devoted to overcoming a little thing we call “reverse culture shock.” The first day was easy: I was greeted at the airport by family and a box of fruit snacks and two hours later was at Steak ‘n Shake making up for lost time. Days two, three, four, etc. didn’t go quite as smoothly. Small talk was not easy, recalling obscure English idioms was not easy and trying to feel at home in Saint Louis – well, that wasn’t a walk in the park, either. However, I’m back with a list of summer goals and (fingers crossed) good times ahead.

1. Internship at the Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis I started my internship this week and it’s been the perfect thing to get me over my post-abroad blues. CAMSTL is one of my favorite museums and it’s been extremely cool to not only be in the offices but involved in the organization of their exhibitions. I’ll be working on research, label text and a catalogue for an exhibit opening in 2015 so it’s the perfect chance to hone some of the skills that are crucial to curatorial practice. On top of this internship, I received a grant from the JHU Second Decade Society, a group of Hopkins alumni that award funds to undergrad students in order to broaden the accessibility of unpaid internships; it’s definitely a testament to the type of support Hopkins students receive and the grant’s impact is huge.

Katharina Fritsch at CAMSTL

Katharina Fritsch at CAMSTL

2. Thesis writing I’m really excited to be doing a Senior Thesis for my art history major. My advisor’s been beyond helpful this past year in helping me develop a proposal – despite the thousands of miles between Baltimore and Paris – and now it’s time to start the research and writing. My thesis, in case you’re interested, will discuss the work of Pierre Huyghe, an artist whose retrospective I saw many, many times while in France, and how the various modes through which he engages the viewer forge a particular embodiment of spectatorship.

Pierre Huyghe at Centre Pompidou

Pierre Huyghe at Centre Pompidou

3. Travel Living in Europe brought about a side of myself that I hadn’t truly known before: an insatiable desire to travel. While Rabat, Ghent and Prague really took the cake, I’m looking forward to trips to Chicago and Columbia along with an exploration of the places still unknown to me in Saint Louis.

2014-05-17 21.12.31

4. Getting ready for Senior year I’m not saying I’m ready to go back to Baltimore already, but I wouldn’t mind it, either. Starting in the fall I’ll be living in a rowhome with two of my best friends, taking on an intense, yet lighter course load and working on curating another exhibition. It’s shaping up to be an incredible year and I can’t wait to take in every single minute.