Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Public Faces

At one of the colleges we visited in Maine, there were these student paintings in the reception room. I was drawn to the straightforward, almost photographic approach of these portraits, and their rich use of color and distinctive posture. I feel as if I would recognize these people walking down the street. They have their public faces on. They seem so guarded in a way, so watchful and reserving judgement. And yet the artist caught something of their internal world, too. I called the school just now and learned the name of the artist is Julia Rice, who did these portraits as her senior thesis in 2007.

Here is a photo my girl, filling out the paperwork to attest that she visited and toured the school, and that she does lots of fascinating extracurriculars and is a worthy candidate in case she decides to apply. I don't think she will choose to apply. She's wearing her public face, too. The school felt isolated to her, despite the fact that our tour guide was a Jamaican student of Indian descent, who went to the same Kingston high school as my niece. This vibrant young woman turned out to be one of two people of color we saw all day. The other was an Ethiopian student studying in the library, with whom I struck up a conversation. She shared that she sometimes felt lonely, but the professors were top-notch and her financial aid package very generous. The photo below is how my daughter looks when she is in self-protected observer mode.

And here she is with a member of her girl crew, back in the city, just before they met up with a group of their long time friends. They went for ice cream at Shake Shack and compared notes on college visits and everything else. Such lightness here. Nothing like the assurance of being in a place where one is sure of one's welcome.


  1. i wondered from your previous post if you had been to Maine!
    i've had a regular parade of old friends the past few weeks...this is the "been accepted, need another look" crowd now... the next level of anxiety. if you come back for the second look, please let me know--ok?
    i love the pictures, and the portraits at top are terrific...
    such an exciting time for you and your daughter; sounds like the schools will be falling all over themselves to get her!

  2. I think faces are the most interesting things in the world. Or, just about, anyway.
    Obviously you share this interest.
    And oh yes, your daughter- she is a light.

  3. I wonder why the artist didn't sign the paintings. Hope your daughter finds the college that is perfect for her.

  4. So they assigned a Jamacian student to give you the tour? That's interesting...
    I love those portraits. Do you think it was a current or former student who did those. They are great!
    Your Friend, m.

  5. I love this careful study of your daughter juxtaposed with those amazing portraits. I think that even without your words, your daughter's beautiful face is readable -- moving from inscrutable to light-filled --

  6. Susan t, thanks for very helpful intel. I will share with my girl! And we will definitely let you know if we're heading back up that way. Btw, do you know anything about Camp Sunshine in Casco?

    Ms. Moon, faces are the best. I imagine you must gaze endlessly into your grandson's adorable face, as I do when you post pictures of him. Surely he has one of the sweetest most open faces ever to grace this earth!

    Kristin, thank you! I hope she finds the perfect place too. And yes, it is odd that the artist didn't sign her work. Such beautiful pieces.

    Mark, very interesting, right? So, prompted by your question, I called the school and discovered that the portraits were done by a former student as part of her senior thesis. I've now added her name and the year she did the work to the post.

  7. Elizabeth, i didn't realize i was going to juxtapose her pictures with the portraits until i was writing the post. the connection just sort of unfolded, not conscious at the start, but already there somehow.

  8. I sense that your daughter will absolutely sense the right fit...
    Our eldest was a little hesitant in her first choice and ended up transferring after two years. In the end.. it worked out wonderfully, as most things usually do, but I still have some regrets about it, about how we were less than open to her concerns.

  9. deb, it's so hard to let go of what we learn from hindsight, to let go of the aching wish that we could have applied our knowledge before we learned it! i too have some small regrets about how our son's college process went, regrets he does not share! i am working hard to let go of them, and trying not to burden my daughter's process of discovery with lessons that may--or may not!--have applied to my son when he was going through this. it is so hard to trust the rightness of whatever experience they encounter. We want so much for everything to be perfect for them, but then how would they ever strengthen their wings. i love your sharing here. thank you so much, beloved friend.

  10. I really love those paintings and your analysis of them is so clever, the public face yet revealing something, just enough to be intriguing and beautiful. Your daughter is not only lovely but really seems to know herself, which will stand her in such good stead when she leaves home. I always think finding a new house is like finding a husband is like finding a school, you pretty much know immediately, it's like coming home.

  11. Your daughter is wise. Very wise. I love her public face. It's so elegant and reserved. She will make the right choice, but if its not, she should totally know that she's allowed to change her mind... Nothing needs to be permanent.

  12. oh my i fell so behind! but happy to report happy to say i'm caught up!

    you guys are busy!!!! happy to learn son is back on track (pun intended) and competing!

    and you are visiting colleges! don't forget to let me know if you are going to make it out to visit oberlin - i'd be happy to play non-school tour guide!

    i don't know what school in maine you guys visited but probably regardless of school maine may have less ethnic diversity than one would find in most other places. it's a beautiful state, but from my experience visiting is pretty homogeneous in some respects

    oh never mentioned how much i enjoyed your post about your elderly aunts - god bless them! it made my heart ache - for last year not only did my mom lose her beloved husband just a few months earlier she lost her only and much loved (younger) sister.....although one lived in metro dc (my ma) and one in pennsylvania they were in constant contact and stayed close with almost daily contact.

  13. Jody, i think you're right, that she'll know the place when she feels it. like husbands and homes, ha!

    Miss A, it's a good thing to remember. it can makes everything feel less fraught. thanks for that.

    mouse, we do plan to make it out to ohio and oberlin, probably in the summer. thanks for the comment about my aunts, too. i do hope your mom is doing okay after such losses. it helps that she still has you. much love.

  14. Angella it's heart-rending in such a good way to come here, thank you. Thank you.

    love, D

  15. I love how your photography always captures the spirit of your precious daughter. A glimpse into the intricate inner workers of a young woman on the verge of an adventure. Sometimes scary, most times exciting, often bittersweet, always endearingly human.
    I have been absent from my blogging friends for too long. It is so good to "see" you again! We had a few similar experiences when checking out schools for Victoria. Sigh. I am SO glad it is over! Now on to TWO baccalaureates, TWO graduations, and TOO many parties.....at least there is only ONE prom!

  16. Cute pic of my sister! I still have to take her to the connecticut schools...so glad the days of college apps are behind me! And K looks beautiful as always...so much of you in her!

  17. Dierdre, i am glad you do come here. love, A

    Kathleen, you are a busy mom! what grade is your victoria in? 11th or 12th? does she already know where she wants to go?

    koshercritter, your sister is indeed beautiful. we still have to see CT choices too! thanks for the kind words.

  18. Victoria is a senior in high school. Stevie is a senior in college. Victoria did get into her number one choice.....Notre Dame....Stevie will be graduating from there also. I am so glad the tension and drama is over! On to the celebrations and parties!