In my “Studio Art: Foundations” class, my most recent task was to communicate something I desire, using only Dollar Store materials in order to show a desire so strong that it surmounts material obstacles. We were instructed that the quality of the materials we used didn’t matter, because passion can be expressed from even the most obscure materials. Luckily, the nearest Dollar Store is only a 10-minute walk from campus and so, bundled up tight, I embarked on a snowy late-January hike to procure materials.
I was going for unity with a white picket fence. I wanted to communicate the togetherness of a family and so, with the hot glue gun warming up my frozen fingers, I began gluing the white and pale-colored pieces of plastic together. One by one, dominoes, army men, erasers, and pieces of popcorn joined the cardboard armature.
I hoped the colored materials would blend seamlessly once the project was done, leaving me with the spitting image of a white picket fence and the idea of the safe, happy home it represents. However, when I sat back from my work two hours later, I did not see unity. I did not see the image of a strong family.
What I did see was a pile of mismatched junk. As my eyes scanned the work I had just done, an unimpressed frown pulled at my lower lip. After all this time, I was left with hot glue strands between my fingers and what looked like the result of a third grader’s unsupervised craft project.
While the colorful toys had seemed pale in the store, they now looked jarringly out of place next to the other, whiter pieces. Frustrated, I called it a night. I buried my face in my pillow and vowed to start fresh in the morning.
That night, while I slept soundly, Arcadia was visited by a blizzard. I woke to find campus so buried in snow that I couldn’t distinguish one car parked outside my dorm from another—it was impossible to tell which white lump had been the black Saturn and which had been the orange Jeep.
And then it hit me.
For my project I had built a fence, but that sense of unity wasn’t there because the colors were too strong. Just like the snow-covered cars, I needed something that would mute the colors and help me better communicate my message. I needed white paint!
And so, after four coats of aerosol’s finest, I carried my now white picket fence upstairs, passing my hall mate on the way.
“Aw, my house has a fence just like that,” she cooed nostalgically. I beamed with pride.
When she caught a glimpse of the fence, she hadn’t seen the pieces of crayon or the plastic comb. Her eyes didn’t focus on the puzzle pieces or the little army men I had attached to fill the empty spaces. No, she saw a unified whole—one white structure that reminded her of her home and family.
The assignment asked us to create something symbolic of our desires because, when you construct something you crave, not only do you express yourself, but you also inspire others to consider their own passions. When we communicate our desires, we inspire others to reach for their dreams, and a dialogue emerges as we support each other in our pursuits.
I’m glad that the importance of communication is stressed across departments here at Arcadia. The ability to accurately convey emotions and thoughts is something that extends far beyond the pages of an English paper, and I like that I get to learn a variety of ways to express myself: through my writing, my art, and in many other ways.
Because, when I put them all together, I’m left with a voice that’s totally my own.