So here I am, back in my hometown of Columbus 4 hours away from Georgia Southern in Statesboro, at my very first Graduate Research Conference! Yeah me! First of all, I am very excited to say that I am the first of my fellow students to go to a conference in my department, which I count as a super win on my part. Brag Brag Brag, but seriously, why is no one else doing anything around here and why am I the only one doing things, Lots of things!
Any-who, I think that coming back to my undergrad school for my first MFA graduate level conference has made the whole process a little easier, and I say a little because for the most part it was super hard. The conference was hosted by Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia on the 4th and 5th of November and was called the Dr. Gregory P. Domin "Conference for Change" for Graduates in All Disciplines of Research.
Unfortunately/maybe fortunately for me, my research was the only art-related research presented...which made this process way more difficult than I believe it should have been.
I did not know that so much went into presenting at a conference first of all. I have to admit, I went in totally blind. (There is not much on the internet regarding poster presentations for artist at conferences.) I was the only student to use a ".com" email for one thing; everyone, and i do mean everyone, used their ".edu" emails. Now I know better. Also, I was the only one presenting no actual tangible quantified research, which for a research conference, even though all disciplines were allowed to enter and my abstract was accepted, seemed confusing for the judges and people attending. I had a pretty hard time explaining my art to people who are very engrained deeply in departments like physics, neuroscience, and biochemical engineering. I didn't know how to get them to appreciate it for one thing, nor how to get them to stick around long enough for me to explain it.
On numerous occasions people would walk up and read the title, get all interested after seeing "Discovering the Psychological Identity Within Us All: Sculptural Representations of Emotional States of Mind", start reading some of my elevator pitch smack dab in the middle of the poster that said "I create sculptures that blah blah blah...", then verbally say as if I weren't standing right in front of them "ohh this is just art"....what the actual hell does that mean sir/ma'am? Can't give me a second to get you interested, can't ask me a question about my work, can even finish reading my poster before you walk off? I was pretty disappointed in the whole "presentation" thing because of that aspect. I guess I thought that people would be more open to the idea than they were. I had one gentleman walk up and tell me "I hate art. I don't get it. Enlighten me as to why I should even care." Needless to say that was the hardest 20 minute conversation of my life.
But I did learn some pretty cool things while at this conference, mostly positive things at that.
I learned that just because your'e the only art kid that doesn't mean that you'll be alone at the conference. I made friends with a girl named Ashley (who drank heavily) who was presenting on Female Soccer Players and guy named Aaron (who was pretty normal) who was presenting on computer graphics; specifically not design. I got all excited when he told me what he was doing, only for him to correct me afterwards by saying "it's nothing like design." I say whatever, he makes things on a computer and makes choices regarding his decisions aesthetically, so it's design, end of story.
I sat in on a lecture about Fuzzy Logic and what it means to use Fuzzy Math in data sets. I never knew that there was more to the plus or minus, give or take a few side to math and data interpretation. Basically, the example they gave that made the most sense to me was that lets say a person is tall, and that tall is considered to be 5'10". Well, what constitutes tall, why is 5'10" the magic "tall" number? And is a person not tall if the are under 5'10? But then is a person who is 5'9.9" short? That's the gist of Fuzzy Logic, it calculates for the Others in the room, or what I think Craig Owen would have come up with had he been a mathematician instead of a philosopher. It makes sure that everyone is included regardless of the math because the math will always only allow for greater than/less than or equal to...nothing in between.
Also, I ate food. A lot of food. More than I should have probably. But I paid $45 for the conference, which I have yet to get back from GSU, who said they would pay for it...but had me pay for it up front (See what they did there, those sneaky peoples.) Regardless of the cost of attendance, I had snacks, drinks, wine, and food stuffs at every opportunity. CSU did not skimp on that and I never felt like the conference was draining me because of the coffee IV they promptly had every 45 minutes at break time.
On another positive note, I'm officially in a publication. Alright, it's just the conference program, which isn't technically a publication. But they published my full abstract on it's own page. My poster panel and its title as well as my name, where I was from and what field I was presenting in was also printed on its own page in a separate location. I got a nice name tag, a name pop-up for my poster, and a badge that let me in and out of the building. Not to mention free parking.
Overall it was a good two days. I ran into two of my old Professors, Prof. Hannah Israel and Prof. Libby McFalls. I saw some old students that graduated after me, or were just about to graduate this December. I loitered around Fountain City Coffee in the morning, and later after the conference Iron Bank Coffee, where I am now writing this...my two typical locations when I still lived in Columbus. I do miss this place, and I am really happy to have come back for a visit on the professional level and not just to see friends and family (which is always a blast, don't get me wrong). My old professors were very excited to see me and Hannah told me all about what her, Prof. McCrillis, my current Prof, Jeff Schmuki talked about at SECAC the week before when they were on a panel together. It amazes me everyday at how small the art world is, but at the same time, how big it is! In between conference lectures on my lunch break I applied for a juried exhibition in Baton Rogue, LA and the judge is Elizabeth McGrath. I sent an email to my Prof. Kelly Boehmer after looking up the judge and her art (to let her know I'd applied and that she should look at this artist because her work is very similar to my current professors.) Turns out that the two of them did a show together...I could hear "It's a small world after all" playing in my head. Just makes me realize we are all only a few degrees away from each other in this big 'ole art world.
Well it's getting late here and I've pretty much summed up my whole experience of the conference and what it was like to attend as the solo artist. I had a good time, and met some good people. The judges were rough, the participants interesting and diverse, and the food was great. I got to showcase my two sculptures that are installed in the Cunningham Center ceiling, where the conference was held and that blew a lot of people away after I explained them to them. They were all "I've seen these here and never knew what they meant, and now I not only know, but I've met the artist personally."
I feel cool now. I feel like I'm doing something with my life on some small level.