There once was a white-walled room, crisp and professional, that was for a time splashed with the color of creativity. I’m talking about the Faculty Exhibition in Harrigan Hall this past week.
The exhibition featured several professors from the Department of Visual Art, Communication & Design—names like Constantine, Friestad, Hansen, Sherwin, Cheddar and Taylor. Each of these professors had taken his or her niche in the exhibit to introduce the observer to his or her friends. What do I mean by friends? Well, recently I’ve been thinking about friendship as a metaphor to explain how teachers relate with their subjects. The more you think about it, the more it makes sense.
A friend is typically defined as someone who you know and with whom you have a bond of mutual affection, someone who you trust and can always count on. This relationship is built over the years, through trials and tribulations as much as through the happy moments spent together making memories. If you were to replace this “someone” with a “something,” a subject or interest of the professor, I think you would have a pretty accurate description of the subject-professor relationship. With this idea in mind, let us explore the various items or “friends” on display, and what they have to say about their professors.
Starting in the farthest corner of the room, an observer would first see a collection of graphic design examples by Doug Taylor, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design. These included brochures and information cards, website design and a humorous brochure advertising scholarships (with the quip “Have you met our friend Ben?” and a close-up of a $100 bill) as well as various logo designs. Dwyane Cheddar, Associate Professor of Broadcast Journalism, contributed a few pictures of himself working with the media students. A larger selection of photos highlighted Assistant Professor of Photography Dave Sherwin’s love of art and color—this was exemplified in a sub-collection of photographs taken of different bottles, in which Professor Sherwin played with light shining through the different colors, creating a beautiful effect.
Professor of Ceramics and Art History Steve Hansen displayed a series from his trademark “Iron in the Fire” designs, colorful vintage-looking cups and containers that are now being mass-produced for international distribution. A large canvas by Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing Kari Friestad was also vintage in appearance, portraying a black-and-white photo-real painting of four girls with white shirts and identical plaid skirts. Each of these small collections demonstrated the fondness of the professors towards their respective subjects, and the many hours, months and years spent “getting to know” their subject-friends. However, it was Emeritus Research Professor of Art Greg Constantine’s painting which most completely embodied this metaphor.
Constantine’s exhibit consisted of his canvas and a description which told the story of how he had met his “friend”—in this case, a mountain. The painting itself is an interpretive and striking landscape painting—almost a “portrait”—of a red Wyoming mountain near the Chief Joseph Highway, which he was “exceptionally engaged by” while driving by one day in 2016. Once back at his studio, Constantine felt compelled to paint the formation. He began a “series of sketches and paintings” that now amounts to 25 in total! Constantine explained how in searching for the name of what he called “my mountain,” (which he discovered is currently nameless), he remembered the “relationship that the famous French painter Paul Cézanne had with a mountain called Mont Sainte-Victoire.” Cézanne painted his mountain at least 60 times, eventually making it famous to all of France. Following in the footsteps of Cézanne, Professor Constantine decided to start painting this striking rocky face, with the eventual hope of claiming it as his own and having the privilege of naming it.
While the other professors had variants on this idea, the theme was the same. It was as if when you walked into the room, all heads turned. You were surrounded by these little circles of friendships made by our Andrews art professors. Slowly, you made the rounds, getting to know each of the displays a little better by the time you came full circle.
As we traverse our careers this concept is a good one to keep in mind. Even if you don’t become a professor or teacher one day, you will almost certainly have “friends” of this sort—you probably have a few even now. By choosing our subjects and acquainting ourselves with them, spending time getting to know them and letting them involve themselves in our lives, we effectively choose our “friends” for the future—and discover bit by bit how much they mean to us. Who knows, maybe one day we will be the professors on the block—eager to share our friends with anyone who takes the time to listen.