Two weeks ago, I 'graduated' at a Fairfield Inn & Suites in my softball uniform and a borrowed cap and gown, complete with a lil diploma made out of the hotel's scratch paper. And while it was a solid, somewhat predictable ending to four incredible years, I will not deny that it has been a very long road. I have spent these past four short and crazy years completing 190 credits, playing collegiate softball, making magazines and artworks, and delighting in the most incredible friends, peers, and mentors.
As I look back over countless hurried meals in the spare moments between classes and the seemingly endless sleepless nights, I'm grateful for a support system who has held me up even at my most tired, my most hangry, my most stressed. And when looking back at my most recent display of my visual work, I cannot help but deflect any and all of my success towards the impact and influence of these incredible people.
On May 20th, I excitedly presented a solo exhibition of my recent visual work, which was an exploration of contemporary perceptions of intimacy through pornography and online dating services. I showed two bodies of work: Untitled (Pornography) and Love in the Digital Age. I made new work for both series and hung them with the help of the very sweet humans: Michelle Montana, Ren Rathbone, and Alden Roth.
I've talked about the work itself extensively on this website. The last blog post went quite in depth about the meaning of Untitled (Pornography). (Read it here) The other body of work, Love in the Digital Age, analyzes the online dating application called Tinder. The application is known for promoting hook up culture, and there are several articles and opinion pieces that support this notion. Take Vanity Fair's 'Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse'. Articles like this one compare this form of online dating to food delivery, completely berating the existence of applications like Tinder.
As someone who has found incredible people with whom I've enjoyed loving, caring relationships with, I think that Tinder is exactly what you make of it. (A nice article supports my findings : Breathless, In Defense of Hookup Culture) If you're looking for hook ups, there are individuals who are also seeking that kind of experience. If you're looking for a serious relationship, there are individual who are also seeking that kind of experience. (To be fair, there are less individuals looking for marriage than services such as Match.com, but that is primarily due to the fact that Tinder is geared toward Millennials, of whom the majority are not of average marrying age.)
What did shock me in my Tinder exploration was how ridiculous some of the profiles could be. So I started screen-shotting the crazy biographies of individuals and photoshopping the biography over the individual's face. This showed the absurdity with which we conduct ourselves online, providing a critical look at how we present ourselves to potential partners. (Is 'Time for some ranch!' really a biography that would give someone insight into who you are??)
Peacocks spread their feathers and have mating calls. Human beings write things like, "Sure, I'll fist you," in an attempt to woo the opposite sex. We're a weird bunch, us humans, but we're making it work.
But the exhibition's opening reception was insane. I have been so, so fortunate to have found such a supportive group of friends, family, peers, colleagues, creatives in Pittsburgh. The space was filled with them. The whole night was just overflowing with love and support. I had friends there who were my very first models, friends who have held me during the tears, friends who forced me to see new perspectives, friends who pushed me in new directions, friends who photographed me, who challenged me, inspired me, encouraged me, loved me, supported me. It was absolutely overwhelming and incredible to have felt so much love from so many people through my final hoo-rah in this city.
I didn't take pictures all night. In fact, I left my phone in a bag during the opening reception. So I got to spend quality time with my people and just exist with them, relish in them, you know? There were a few photographs that float around now, but these are just a few of the folks that have been vital to my sanity and growth as an artist and a human being.
Forever grateful to you all, thank you thank you thank you. It is through my friends and family that any of this was ever possible.