As I walked out of my interview, through studios filled with paintings, sculptures and the kind of art you can’t describe if you don’t study it (I think they call it “abstract”), I passed a small rectangle of white paper tacked to the wall because the tape, clearly, was not holding. (You’d think if anyone had the right tape, it’d be the art school). The sheet sat above a tiny blue bucket – not much wider than the size of my fist – nailed to the wall.
On that slip of paper, written in blocky, red marker was:
“IF AT ANY POINT TODAY YOU THOUGHT ‘I NEED TO KNOCK ON WOOD,’ DIP YOUR HAND IN THE BUCKET & KNOCK … IT WILL WASH RIGHT OFF.”
I looked inside. Four nails rested on the bottom. Hm. Art School.
I carried on, away from the personal studios, through the glass doors, past a girl in a scarf who gave me an aren’t-you-a-little-tall-to-be-an-art-student look, and out into the cold. As I huddled at the bus stop, I mentally reviewed my interview with Visual Arts student Margaret Hitch.
Margaret is a senior BFA student in the Stamps School of Art & Design. She is a printmaker and a poet. Notice I don’t say “or a poet.” Margaret matches her prints with her poems and her poems with her prints to tell stories, many of which are autobiographical. Sometimes the poems inspire the drawings, and sometimes, the other way around.
“For this project,” Margaret said, “I just kind of picked a selection of poems and made work off of that. Or there was images that I made and then I kind of wrote a poem after I knew that I wanted to work with poetry and images together.”
Drawing since eighth grade, Margaret has fallen in love with printmaking, from its subject material to the process to the rather unambiguous final product.
“I love the physical work you have to do … There is a yes or a no answer with something, so there’s technique that you have to learn, which is kind of nice.”
What’s also nice is that Margaret will have a chance to get her yes or no answer. At the end of the semester, all senior art students are required to present their work in a show, either through the University at one of two exhibits or through another off site location. Margaret, however, had another idea.
“I’m going to have a solo show in my bike shed in between my co-ops. I’m just taking all the bikes out and then I’m gonna convert it into a gallery space.”
The name of the show is “American Dreamboat” and focuses on Margaret’s version of the American Dream, with special emphasis placed on death, human-to-human dynamics and travel.
I asked Margaret about how travel operates in her work, but something else cropped up, something out of nowhere it seemed. Well, not nowhere exactly.
“I have this poem,” Margaret said, “about being on Highway One in California and thinking I was gonna die, ‘cause I was in car crash freshman year and then ever since, I’ve been really connected to ‘I could possibly die whenever I’m in any form of transportation.’”
Wait. A car crash?
“It was weird. It was just slippery road and I flipped the TrailBlazer three times. Yeah but … everyone gets in a car crash.”
Well. That was matter-of-fact. While I tried to catch up, Margaret calmly explained to me that the car crash plays just as much of a role in her art as anything else.
“Yeah it was definitely really affecting. (I) definitely have a greater appreciation for life. I was really not thinking about my mortality at all and now I think about my mortality all the time. In a good way, in a good way.”
I breathed, rubbed my sweaty palm against my interview notebook, and asked Margaret about her other inspirations. You see, her work isn’t only about car crashes and travel, per se, but about relationships and how we choose to spend our brief, finite allotments of days. Margaret’s tone might be casual, but her work is anything but. It’s a serious examination of the tissue-thin division between life and death.
So, a car crash. Of course. Makes sense. I was beginning to understand her nonchalance.
“And then I almost got hit by a train, so I’m gonna work on some woodcuts that–”
Oh good God!
“How did you almost get hit by a train?” I asked, interrupting.
“I was on a train bridge, like over a frozen lake, and then a train came. It was like this typical ‘Stand By Me’ situation, and we all just, like, ran. But the train was small enough that it stopped, so it was good.”
Me (incredulously): “What were you doing up there?”
“Just exploring,” Margaret said. “You know, being a dumb kid. That’s kind of what (my narrative’s) about. It’s about how we wanna have this search for adventure and we wanna travel, but that’ll just inevitably bring us closer to death and danger. And stuff.”
Yes. Stuff, indeed.
Margaret’s show, “American Dreamboat,” will be April 18th in the bike shed between 307 and 315 N. State Street – or, “between the blue and purple co-ops.” There will be music, prints, and an printmaker with a proclivity for near-death narratives.
After graduation, Margaret plans to attend graduate school, teach at a university and work in her own studio creating more prints, poetry and stories.
“I’m looking for a print studio to live and die within. That’s my goal … I love doing it. It’s just too much fun.”
Hopefully, one day, Margaret will get her own studio and fill it with stories about death and mortality and … stuff. Hopefully. We’ll just have to knock on wood. Or rather, you will. My bucket’s filled with nails.