The campus is always quiet during the summer. While attending Davidson the summer was the best part of the year. Aside from the obvious reasons, I always looked forward to the summertime because campus felt like an oasis from the rest of the world. I spent the majority of the summers at Davidson babysitting two young children of a local family. During my four years in school they felt more like my little brother and sister. Whenever we didn't have to rush off to soccer practice or play dates we'd come of campus and enjoy the peace and quiet of the grounds. Getting up early this morning and walking over to the union reminded me of just how peaceful this place can be.
The morning was cool from the previous evening's showers and the birds were just starting to stir. Apparently, they too were enjoying the quiet. That early in the morning the union was completely still as I made my way to the mural. I quickly set up my materials before closing the door and turning on my "painting mix," which spans from Aretha Franklin to Macklemore and even a bit of Beethoven. If I thought that painting while people looked through the glass was a performance then anyone who walked by this morning was in for a treat to witness me singing at the top of my lungs while painting. Now that is a performance piece.
Today, I started the portrait that will be of a young woman wearing a hijab that is composed of the different national flags of the international student body. Since the portrait is placed on the curved portion of the wall it has been a bit difficult to ensure the proportions and perspective of the portrait appear correct. I will continue to work on the female portrait tomorrow along with finishing Sam Spencer's portrait.
Isabel and I started bright and early on Day 2 after realizing that "this is going to take a while" to paint. We've tentatively dismissed the project plan as it seems much more organic and comfortable to work on portions of the mural whenever it "feels right." I've decided that instead of consulting the project plan to gauge how far ahead or behind we are that I will gauged based on the percentage of the wall covered in paint.
Over the past two days we've attracted quite a crowd, from the patrons of the Duke Performance theatre to the various people on campus for the different events. Since the the mural is in on the ground floor of the union in an area with a glass wall it's hard not to feel like we're in a fish bowl on display. We've joked that this is more of a performance piece than solely a painting.
We took a brief break in the middle of the day to grab lunch at one of the cafes on Main Street. While there I was pleasantly surprised to run into a few classmates who were in town for a wedding. It was so nice to see them and somehow felt like no time has passed since we were enrolled in school. One joked that I looked exactly the same as when we were freshman. That just made me realize I should probably stop wearing my clothes from college :)
I arrived onto campus Thursday afternoon after the eight and a half hour flight from London. I'm not sure if I'm the only one, but I absolutely love long haul flights. It's the only time when you can completely relax and not feel obligated to be doing something, producing something, or in general just being a contributing part of society. No, I feel no need.
Instead, I receive the airplane refreshments with an open smile and fully recline my seat (to the dismay of the person behind me) and begin to catch up on the latest cinema releases.
However, I couldn't stop myself from wondering "how will it feel to be back at Davidson?" Would I feel like a stranger looking in? Would it feel like I'd never left? I was excited but also a bit nervous. Often time after being away from a place, a person or a thing we make it much more grandiose than it actually was or ever will be. I wondered, Would this be the case? Well, I wouldn't find out for another seven hours so no need to dwell on it now, my movie was about to begin.
I thought London has a quick pace, but there is nothing to compare to painting a mural on a pretty tight deadline. As soon as landed I was picked up at the airport and promptly I arrived on campus 30 minutes later. I dropped my things off at the Guest House (which is reason enough to come back to Davidson) where I was met by Tae-Sun, the Director of Multi-culturalism on campus. It was wonderful finally meet her in person as we'd planned the entire project via conference calls and emails. Tae-Sun joined Davidson's faculty two years ago in the inaugural position with the purpose of promoting diversity and inclusion on campus. I was quickly given an update on the preparation of the space and off we were towards the union.
The first thing you notice about North Carolina in the summer is the heat. The heavy heat that clings to your body as you move from one air-conditioned building to the next. Immediate sweating aside, as we walked the short four minutes from the Guest House to the Alvarez Union I couldn't help but let the biggest smile stretch across my face. I was home. Well, what I considered home for four years and somehow felt like I'd never left and that my time at Davidson lasted decades rather than four years. The campus in itself is striking - it looks like a university has be dropped in the middle of Regents Park in London.
After viewing the wall in the union where the mural would find its home and reviewing the final-updated-revised-altered design we discussed a few more changes and headed off to dinner after grabbing my catcard (to allow access to the necessary buildings).
The next day (Friday) Isabel, my assistant for the project who is a current student at Davidson, met me at the Guest House bright and early. I was keen to get started as quickly as possible since I knew I would have a few meetings throughout the day. Isabel is a sophomore (art and psychology major) who is beautiful both inside and out. We'd corresponded prior my arrival to discuss the project plan (yes, I created a project plan- to ensure we remained on track). She seemed as excited as I was to begin the project.
Our plan was simple, grid the wall in 2' x 2' areas, the drawing would be gridded to the same units, then transfer onto the wall with graphite. That simple plan took a lot longer than anticipated. But eventually we got there and began painting.
We soon realized that the combination of the paints (System 3 Acrylic), the brushes (natural hair) and the finish on the wall meant that it would require a minimum of two coats on the entire mural.
Throughout the day I met with our dean of students, Dean Shandley and Dean Jeffries to discuss the project and hopefully it's impact on student life and the face of the student union. It was so nice seeing them both and catching up on what I've been up to since graduation. That is one of the many benefits of attending a smaller university. I have no doubt that Dean Shandley and Jeffries would've been able to greet virtually any alum by the first name and welcome them back with the same warmth.
I also had a chance to introduce myself to the new president of the college, Carol Quillen who had taken the position after I'd graduated.
Afterwards, I was back to continue working on the painting. Isabel and I have decided to work on opposite ends of the mural as to avoid getting in each other's way. I'm excited to see how it comes along over the next couple of weeks.
In less than 24 hours I will return to my alma mater, Davidson College! At the moment it is a bit impossible to put into words exactly what I am feeling, which makes sense as I am an artist, not a writer.
I had the honor of being asked by Davidson to create an original piece of artwork for the new multicultural space in the Alvarez Student Union. The work, in the form a of mural, will span 27ft x 8ft (for a total of 216 square feet). I will be on campus working on the mural for two weeks. To say that I am both thrilled and daunted by the project is a massive understatement.
I have been working alongside faculty at Davidson to develop the design of the mural that will document the evolution of the diversity and multiculturalism on campus. In essence, the work will serve as a visual history of Davidson's sometimes difficult past as an institution of its time by paying homage to the men and women who made Davidson what it is today as well as celebrating the continuous change and diversity of the present and future. No pressure.
I have included several proposed versions of the mural, but you will have to wait to see which will be the final design :)