Exploring the idea of space. — Sara Thompson

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year.This week’s dispatch is from Sara Thompson, who writes from Portland, Oregon, where she is attending the Oregon College of Art and Craft (OCAC). This piece was written in mid-May.

It’s not what you think. Finals in art school are a funny thing. I don’t cram the night before to learn a whole semester’s worth of information to regurgitate on a timed two hour exam. Instead, I work on finals for three to five weeks in advance – five weeks of finals.

To put this in perspective: you’re going to work on these pieces for weeks and up to a hundred hours each and then the class is going to critique each one for half an hour. They’re going to discuss your craftsmanship, your concept, your ability to convey your ideas, your use of time while you defend your every choice. OCAC is among the more rigorous and respected art schools in Oregon which I did not first realize.

It’s not that bad actually. I love what I do. I’m lucky. I look forward going to class. Time flies by when I’m in the studio. (Granted, I don’t have a concept of time to begin with because I’m usually wrapped up in my mind and studio in my geeky microcosmos.) I choose to create pieces that I love and want to make to share with people. I want to engage viewers in my handcrafted and educational pieces. For two of my finals, I continued to combine science and art while in another I combined my metalsmithing and a personal conundrum.

For  my drawing final, I had to create a series. I haven’t talked to you about my relationship with 2D work aside from last time with my sketchbook. Honestly, I don’t enjoy drawing. I dread it. I’m the slowest in the class. Janice Frame, former drawing and painting teacher at MVRHS, saw my ability to slave and cater to my drawings for months and barely having the ability to finish half of the assignments. She respected my style and let me work my heart and hands out. College  – it’s not the same; however, I’ve found a way to cope – pointillism and stippling. Pointillism (color) and stippling (black and white) are techniques that use a repetition of dots to create images. Your brain from far away blends the dots together to create shading, shapes, and values. This tedious technique is how I cope with my drawing class. I do all my assignments in dots, yes dots with .25 to .5 mm micron pens. (Please try to picture actually how small that is. Smaller than the periods in this text.) I like to do dots, over and over, and over…. for hours. I chose to do my final series illustrating revolutionary mathematical and scientific equations showing a simple picture with the equations underneath. With  a black .25 mm micron pen, I worked on a five 11 x 14 inch series. (The brain prefers groups to be of odd numbers.) I wanted to take all the words out and just have the equation and a picture to show the viewer this is what the equation means. Underneath, I had an explanation of each one if the viewer wanted to learn more. All black and white with simple, clean line work.

Hypothetically, I was given four weeks to work on my metals final. What did I do? I avoided it to the point that not only pointillism was more appealing, but I became ahead in all my classes, except for metals. This is college, right? It had to do with words and I wasn’t too keen on dealing with designing a word assignment in the middle of my five week marathon of finals. The repercussion of my actions caused me to have to present my designs and create my piece in eight days. I had to find words that had at least three different meanings and then represent one literally or abstractly in the piece. After avoiding the words I found, I stared down my list. I settled on one word, but my mind was blank. I had no designs. I couldn’t picture, crystal clearly, what I was going to make. Over the next two days, I mulled over ideas — images — in my mind. I saw something. It became less and less foggy. I knew what I was going to create. I started the uphill part of the marathon.

Space: a continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied; each of the four gaps between the five lines of a staff; the physical universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere; a mathematical concept generally regarded as a set of points having some specified structure.

I was going to create a container that had delicate musical notes on the side and a handle with a meteorite set in. Mathematicians represent 3D objects on what is called a complex graph. A complex graph has three axes – the normal x and y used in algebra plus a z axis, which cause the graph to go from 2D to 3D.

I etched a complex graph on the inside of my container. The corners of the container represent the points of where the mathematicians would find the solid (my container.) Then, there would also be space inside my container. On top of my container is a meteorite from space that I bought from Karen. As for my last definition, I created it to have two meanings. I created the grand staff to represent the spaces between the bars and some notes. As for the musical notes, I wanted those to mean something relating to space. I converted the golden ratio to musical notes. The golden ratio is 6.18033… This ratio is found everywhere in nature from the food we eat to the galaxies. (It’s famously found in the Fibonacci spiral and sequence. 1 + 1 = 2; 2 + 1 = 3; 3 +2 = 5….55 + 89 = 144; 144 : 89 = 1.6179.. The farther along the ratio is in the sequence, the more accurate it is to the golden ratio.)

For my 3D design final, I had to do a body extension project. The piece had to attach to the body, enhance the body, and stand alone as an art piece in addition to having a strong concept. I chose to create gauges through silversmithing, glass enameling, and to deal with a personal issue. Gauges, plugs, tunnels are larger than normal size holes commonly found in the ears, made through a process of stretching a healed ear piercing. My concept was to explore the idea of how people react to body modification with something that is handcrafted with a precious metal. I have gauges – ½ inch. Sometimes in a regular conversation, I’m talking to someone and they stare at my earrings and my gauges. Their facial expression changes and they proceed to treat me differently. Both on a good note and a bad note. I’ve made new friends, lined up custom work and I’ve had adults say I’m a bad influence and that I don’t have class. I wanted to handcraft something that’s one of a kind with sterling silver and my unique glass work to see how people would react with pre-judgmental views as my final.

Now that my finals are finished, I can relax and comfortably explore the city at my leasure. I plan on burying my head in all the science books I’ve been compulsively buying, and catching up on my weekly science magazines that I’m 13 weeks behind on. Two of my closest friends from the Island, Ben and Jillian, came to visit back in February and now are moving here in the upcoming weeks. It’s sad that I will only see them for a few days before I fly back East. It’s funny. I’m flying a red eye the night of the 22nd, probably arriving on Island mid afternoon on the 23rd and then next day I start doing the Vineyard Artisans Festivals up at the Old Grand Hall to sell my jewelry work for Memorial Day weekend, Sundays in June, and Sundays and Thursday in July and August. I’ll be jet-lagged, sleep deprived, and in a different timezone so come by and say hi.