This past school year, I lived with my very own Pablo Picasso. The work, titled "Dreams and Lies of Franco I" ,was one of 75 offered to University of Chicago students through the Art to Live With program.
Art to Live With is a lending program hosted by the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. The program loans 75 pieces of art from the museum's collection to college students living in dormitories for the duration of the academic year at no charge.
This program has quite an interesting history, but as that has been more thoroughly covered by other articles, this post will focus mostly on what it was like to actually live with the art. That history, and pictures of all the pieces can be found here on the museum's website.
First, a bit about the artwork. Picasso made this series of two prints in the time leading up to his work "Guernica", and some similar stylistic elements are definitely present in the work itself. The piece is an aquatint, a printmaking technique similar to that of etchings. There are two versions of the work, one version is hand signed, and one machine signed. Mine was the machine signed work and is one of 890 prints made by Picasso.
I should probably mention how I chose this piece. It was during my second week at UChicago, and after a long day of biking around the city with Dean Boyer, I rode past the museum on the way back to my dorm. I was very tired, and was planning on the first group of students already having set up camp outside the door. I was then going to just go back to my dorm, and come back around 4am. But, when I went past, I noticed that no one had arrived yet. Consequently, I walked over and sat down next to my bike to claim my spot at the head of the line. Thankfully, a friend of mine was kind enough to bring me a blanket, a thermos of tea, my computer, and my pillow so that I could get as comfortable as was possible on the cold cement patio.
Over the course of the night, the students all agreed to allow short breaks back to the dormitories, as long as you weren't caught napping, and by the time 8am rolled around, I had been waiting for eleven and a half hours. After choosing my work, I went back to my dorm to sleep, but still ended up catching a bad case of the flu and missing an entire week of school. Admittedly, my immune system was extremely weak for the rest of the first term. I'm not sure if it had anything to do with waiting outside all night, but even if it did, I have absolutely no regrets.
Now, onto my impressions. The most striking thing about the work to me is how quick people are to judge it, and perhaps even discredit it. Oftentimes they look at it, and due to its almost unfinished appearance, they write it off, especially in comparison to some of the other pieces on loan. Then, many students learned that it is one of close to 1,000 copies and this once again ruins its niche feel. In this way, many students who initially perk up at the mention of a Picasso are underwhelmed by the work itself.
I very much enjoyed it more due to all of the above reasons, rather than less, perhaps relating back to the year long daily sketch journal I kept while studying abroad in Hamburg. I have long been a fan of printed art, as I find it just as enjoyable and admire the way in which it broadens the amount of people who can experience the work, instead of idolizing a single piece and locking it away in a private gallery for a select few to see. This view perhaps also comes from my admiration of Japanese wood block prints. Nonetheless, I do recognize the limited scope of printed art, in the sense that it constrains the artist's options to some extent, and that many outstanding pieces are displayed in countless museums around the world for people to see. In any case, I definitely feel more strongly after living with this work that the notion of art as a commodity or a treasure is not one that I wish to support, and rather prefer to focus on the way art can impact everyone in varying ways.
Next year, the program will be returning for its second year in the current format. I'm hesitant to give away any surprises, but they added 7 new works this year, including a Murakami, and I am leaning towards going for one of the works by Max Ernst. We'll see come October if I manage to secure my first place spot again.
To be frank, I didn't actually spend much time just staring at the art itself. I hung it above my fridge, which is at the foot of my bed and directly behind my desk. Although I enjoyed how well it integrated into the rest of my room decor, I do wish I would have placed it somewhere such that I could gaze up at it while writing at my desk.
Of course, there were many interesting events that arose out of living with a Picasso. Some of the notable ones include:
–being interviewed by the Chicago Sun Times (a good match for UChicago, as it claims to be "the hardest-working paper in America")
–being featured on the front page of the University's student run publication, the Chicago Maroon
–meeting one of my earliest close friends in college, the second student in line (he was willing to forgive me for taking the work he also most wanted)
–serving as a topic of conversation on Skype interviews
As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below :)
Photo is: Pablo Picasso | Spanish, 1881-1973 | Dreams and Lies of Franco I | 8 January 1937 | Ed. 288/890
I would be remiss to not mention the request of my friend in Germany, who asked me to place a postcard sized print he made above the Picasso info card:
It just so happened to work out, as I placed that card on the wall normal (perpendicular) to the actual Picasso.
This past November (3 posts ago), I did a wardrobe challenge where I limited myself to only what could fit inside my 21L backpack. As I was recently looking at getting back into posting regularly, I realized I never wrote a follow up to that post, detailing how the experiment actually went. So here goes:
In case you missed the original post, the goal of this challenge was to see how reducing the size of my wardrobe would impact my life. I figured I would spend less time in the morning choosing an outfit, and place less value on the fashion of my clothes and more on the utility of them. This was essentially what ended up happening, and there weren't really any big surprises here.
Overall, the challenge went pretty well. I was able to almost completely stick to the rules I set at the beginning, with the one difference being I took both of my exceptions spontaneously. I had already taken one to wear my suit, and a few days later a friend walked up to me at dinner and offered me free tickets to Lyric's production of Verdi's Rigoletto, an opportunity too good to pass up. So, I texted one of my friends and within an hour of getting the tickets we were sitting in our seats ready for a riveting performance. This serves as a perfect example for how on occasion, such a wardrobe could hamper the breadth of your experiences and not allow you to live your best life. However, I think that most articles of clothing that enhance your life like this are ones that would not typically be worn on a daily basis.
Another example would be sports clothing such as running shorts. I wasn't yet doing serious marathon training at the time, but if I had been, this wardrobe probably would have given me lots of headaches. Living in a home, you could probably wash your athletic clothes in a sink etc. but in my dorm, the only option was the laundry machines. As each load costs a few dollars, it didn't really make sense to do laundry more than once a week, and even that is a frequent cycle by most students standards. Accordingly, I basically wore the sports clothes twice and only exercised a few times a week instead of every day.
This week, I was going to write about the results of my November wardrobe experiment which ended yesterday, but I came across these musings from author Colin Wright and I thought it important to share them. Colin presents a means of looking at the world's current social and political situation in a way that, at least to me, was both novel and insightful.
I hope you enjoy reading his thoughts and that his words can help provide some clarity during increasingly turbulent times.
"One of the major challenges we face as an increasingly interconnected, globe-straddling species, is in how we organize ourselves even as our traditional distinctions dissipate.
It's easy to look around at the surging waves of nationalism and assume that this isn't an issue; we've clearly got our distinctions firmly in place. But a lot of what's happening today is a reflexive, unaimed mule-kick at a perceived attacker that's whittled away at our borders, our cultural identities, and our sense of geographic communities for decades. We were already knocking down walls leading up to the age of the microchip and fiberoptic cables, but the internet revolution, followed by the mobile internet revolution, blasted what was left of those walls into dust.
These past few weeks at college reminded me about a useful tool I discovered in high school, and I thought I might share information about the tool since it has been coming up in conversation so often.
The post comes from Tim Ferriss' Blog, and for simplicity's sake, I would recommend you go read the article over on his site: Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes
Once you've read that article, you are probably intrigued but still a bit skeptical about the efficacy of this method. Speaking from experience, I can tell you it works. I don't remember exactly by how much the method improved my speed, but I definitely notice a difference between the times I use the technique and those when I do not. Although I don't often use this method for novels, as it somewhat takes the fun out of reading, and does not completely allow you to savor a book in the same way as normal reading does, the method has proved invaluable when reading academic works. I used the method in all of my AP classes back in high school, and it never seemed to fail. So far, it worked well in college too, however I haven't been using it that often, since the books I have been required to read are mostly so enjoyable I prefer to savor them.
From a practical standpoint, reading three times faster may be extremely useful, however it does draw into question the pace at which we choose to live our life. Although optimizing the systems we use to work towards our goals is often a necessary step towards success, sometimes it can be better to just take a step back and savor the moment. Perhaps the time saved by reading faster is useful, but what about the time saved by walking at a faster pace to class? or eating meals faster? At some point, this tendency to speed through life has to stop, or you face the risk of burn out and many other unhealthy side effects.
Starting on Wednesday November 1st, 2017, I am going to be wearing clothes only from a carefully selected group of 24 articles for the duration of the month. This experiment was inspired by the Wool & Prince Founder's own experiments such as wearing the same shirt for 100 days straight. For my experiment, I limited the selection to what would fit in my backpack.
To begin, a bit about why I'm doing this experiment:
Ultimately, it is a goal of mine to travel the world with only this backpack in tow, working remotely from my computer for some extended period of time (1 year - ???). This will involve only having one article of clothing from each category (i.e. button down, t-shirt, pants, etc.) and keeping physical possessions to a minimum. After traveling close to this style last summer, I began to question why I need so many more clothes at home, when not traveling. This really became apparent when packing for college and I realized that a person (me) who tries to lean towards a minimalist lifestyle still had more things than would fit in the car.
I think that after traveling even more in this manner I will be inclined to get rid of all my clothes except for the ones I travel with, but that day hasn't come just yet. Another possible benefit is less time spent in the morning trying to pick out a matching outfit. I know this is something people often tell me I struggle with, and I'm hoping reducing the amount of choices will improve the outcome. Lastly, I like fun challenges like these, I'm not quite sure why but they tend to get me excited about all the possibilities that life has to offer beyond what society deems as normal.
Now that the first week of the quarter at UChicago is over, I thought it might be fun to celebrate by looking back at the essay I wrote which helped earn a spot at this institution.
The University of Chicago is known for its wacky essay prompts which include statements such as, "What's so odd about odd numbers?," "So where is Waldo, really?" and "Find x." Some even go as far as to have writers create their own idiom or describing a portal to an imaginary world. For my essay, I picked a more straightforward prompt: "What is square one and can you go back to it?" Here is my response:
"This fall, I went back home after a year studying abroad in Germany. Before I left the USA, many people from my exchange program told me what a serious commitment studying abroad is. They mentioned that there would be times when I would feel more loneliness than ever before, would have to fend for myself in a foreign environment, and would have to essentially begin my life over again. But what everyone failed to mention, was that the most difficult aspect of studying abroad was not my time spent in the program, but rather, my return 'home.'
On the outside, at first glance, Pittsburgh should be my square one. I am familiar with the city, am a good student and have both close and extended family there. My life in Pittsburgh certainly feels very comfortable. I go to school every day, enjoy what I learn, socialize with friends, and partake in my activities outside of school. After living in the same place for 16 years, I had developed a routine. Yet, somehow this routine was not enough, and, on the inside, kept me away from square one. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed my life and was very grateful for what I had—but still, I found myself feeling drawn elsewhere. That feeling brought me to Germany.
While on the NESA Expedition in South Africa, Ethan and I explored and surveyed numerous caves. Perhaps the coolest part of this experience, was the promise from the Wits team that they would choose one of the caves we visited and name it after us! Here is the map of my cave:
It came as quite a surprise as they only mentioned this to us in the last few minutes of our time on the University campus, and to be honest, I thought they were mostly joking at the time. However, a month or two after returning, Ethan and I now have our own caves! I guess this will just give us one more reason to go back for a visit.
Speaking of our own caves, I think it is a very interesting tendency we have of naming things after people in general. The logical way to name something would be based off of its attributes or location, rather than who discovered it. However, we have been naming things after ourselves, our leaders, or historical figures for centuries, if not millenia. Does it have something to do with our pride, or a feeble attempt to inflate our own egos? Regardless, I think it important to take a moment's pause and consider why we name things in the manner that we do.
"Who should we believe in times of Trump and fake news?"
This article comes from my friend in Germany, Johann. He is the Head Editor for the student newspaper, GO Public, at Gymnasium Othmarschen. I hope it will help you to consider the crucial role the media plays in a democracy from a new perspective.
"'The truth: it's probably somewhere between Tagesschau (a German daily news program) and Russia Today'. When it's getting late and there is nothing else to complain or gossip about, then such sayings can become common. The era when one trusted the major newspapers or even the Tagesschau (literally: Today Show) is now history. A distrust of the press and the main-stream media has established itself in many young adults. This idea is verified by the survey 'Generation What' that was commissioned by the Bavarian and Southwest Broadcasting Corporations. Twenty-four percent of German teens don't trust 'the media' at all, and forty percent are skeptical of the media's reliability. If you look at the numbers for all the people in Europe between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four, the lack of trust gets even larger.
In a democracy, critical thinking is imperative. For all intents and purposes, these numbers should be reassuring, because they show that most people won't simply accept what's placed in front of them as always true.
Sometimes people will ask me why the URL for my blog is "justleap." Well it all started off a few years ago when I was creating my old blog/website in preparation for my year abroad in Germany. I knew I wanted a URL that was short, easy to remember, and relevant to the content of my blog.
I happened to be at a local shipping store when I came across the following magnet.
This magnet seemed to encompass what I hoped would become a key aspect of my blog: encouraging others to follow their dreams, even when they seem scary at times, with the knowledge that in the end things will most likely work out, often times just requiring that first step.
However, this summer my friend Nathan Vislosky did intern at the NASA Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia.
So what exactly did you do at NASA this summer?
I ran a training feasibility study.