The newest building on my campus is the Performing Arts and Humanities Building. Most students and staff refer to it as “Performing Arts”, but I try to use the acronym PAHB (pronouncing each letter separately, not phonetically – “pob” sounds stupid). I make the distinction because the beautiful structure is the home of all of the humanities, not just the theatre and band. Don’t get me wrong, I love the performing arts – anyone that’s known me for any amount of time knows that I’m a band kid, born and raised – but I feel like sometimes the other departments are overlooked. This includes writing of all kinds, as well as visual arts and video production.
After my English class today, I took a few minutes to take a tour of the building. The architecture itself is astounding. If you’re ever in the Arbutus/Catonsville area and you have a few minutes, you really ought to peek around UMBC. It’s a beautiful campus and there are lots of little things about it that I love dearly. But what impressed me most today were two examples of work. They are unrelated, but they both made me pause.
The first was a poem. I found it outside of a teacher’s office. There were several folded pieces of paper inside of an open envelope marked “poem of the week”. The envelope was taped to the door with a sign that said “take one!” Normally, I don’t like poetry. There are a few exceptions, but in general I think that poems are too cryptic and overly thought-out for their own good. But this poem will count as one of those exceptions, because of the following two lines:
You are not beautiful, exactly. You are beautiful, inexactly. 1
While this sounds like it belongs in a fortune cookie, this plain statement is actually something that every person deserves to hear, male or female. Describing someone as perfect is damaging and fake, but accepting someone with and for their imperfections is true love. It’s great to see someone acknowledge that in poetry. If I had a nickel for every sonnet about how perfect a woman is, I’d never be in debt again.
The poem was nice, but the thing that absolutely floored me was a self-portrait, done by UMBC student Conrad Sullivan:
The statement Sullivan is making – at least to me – is that each person, no matter how powerful, is nothing more than a child. I don’t think that’s an uncommon theme in art/photography/any visual art. But most people that are trying to display the innocence of children use a picture of an actual baby. A washed, bright-eyed, adorable baby that tugs at your heartstrings and makes you coo as you stroke the picture with your finger (and then look around to see if anyone noticed you stroking a picture.). Meanwhile, Sullivan used this half-formed, curled, hardly-human-looking fetus. The more I look at it, the more that I doubt that it is human. The only thing that makes me think it’s human is that, well, it’s a self-portrait of a human.
Human or not, this was a bold choice and I love it; I’m a sucker for the whole frailty-of-life thing. I’ll leave it up for you to decide what the statement is, or even if it moves you in any way. But I stared at this picture for a good five minutes in awe. I’m glad I was alone in the wide, white hallway, because I’m sure I looked dumb. But I’m glad that I stopped.
Don’t think that displays of talent are limited to buildings like PAHB – heck, one of my favorite things on campus is a bench in the library. Take a few minutes to poke around your local library, college, museum, church or community center. Maybe you’ll find something that makes you stop and stare.
Word Count: 629
Thank you to everyone that has read my posts – and a special shout out to my parents and grandma. You guys make me feel so loved!
1. Bell, Marvin. “To Dorothy”
2. Sullivan, Conrad. Self Portrait Two. 2013. Portraiture. 19 February 2014.