Friday, October 12, 2012


the saturday before i started school at the viz lab, we had "viz camp," where all of the first years had an orientation day to get to know the department, the faculty, and each other. as we were sitting around waiting for things to start, i was talking with people. there was the guy who would become my best friend in the lab, that cute girl who was never really around, and the guy with the conspiracy theories. there was also a quiet girl whom i tried to pull into the conversation, since everyone likes to be part of the group. when i asked her her name, she said it so quietly we had to ask her twice. "jessica."
i never would have expected that i'd end up having more adventures with her than anyone else in the room.

first off, if it weren't for jess, i'd probably have failed out of school by now. up until this this fall, i've had three viz classes every semester. and, every semester, jess has been in two of my three classes. we started hanging out when she offered to help me with my homework in my programming classes. because, despite being extremely quiet, she's not exactly "shy;" she's just not very vocal. she always seems to know what's going on with everyone in the lab and she's rather talkative online. it soon became a habit where, for each programming assignment, she would ask if i wanted help.

i didn't let her move her face at all for about half an hour
while i painted her. she was really sore and a little
mad at me. until she saw the photos.
but she's also somewhat blunt. and programming was so hard for me that it left me feeling frustrated and insecure sometimes. which made for an interesting (read: tense) dynamic between us on the nights before the assignment was due. still, without her, i never would've passed 270: beg. programming 1, 271: beg. programming 2, or 654: the digital image. and for that, i'm grateful.

our first semester here, she also took a swimming class. i didn't know grad students could take other, non-graduate classes. but i liked the idea of getting out of the lab and getting some good exercise and she talked me into taking a swimming class the next semester. this proved to be invaluable, the endorphins helping me get through the stress of grad school and life in texas. this, too, became a pattern, with me taking whatever kinesiology class the semester after she did; because of jess, i've learned to rock climb and scuba dive.

during the summer course my first year here, she got in the habit of finding new recipes that she liked and suggesting we bake treats for the class. so we'd spend sunday evenings baking something fancy like rocky road brownies or red velvet cake then bringing it to the lab on monday morning.

we've kind of become this sort of "odd couple," she the extremely quiet one and me being, well, me. but with just about any activity related to the lab, she and i are usually there together. 
i sometimes can't figure out why she befriended me. she's very punctual and ordered, continually checking her grades, working to do whatever she can to get full points on every assignment and always up to date on whatever's due. and because those sorts of deadlines tend to float past me unnoticed, she seems to be typing "sigh" online to me a lot. and i'm pretty sure she's glared me at me more than anyone else i've ever met.

my left foot.
last fall, when the master of fine arts degree was created, i was one of six students to switch over to it. and so was jess.
when we began noodling around with project ideas, she started experimenting with photography. since then, i've found myself at countless times in the studio with her, doing all sorts of odd artwork that repeatedly falls under the category of "stuff i never thought i'd be doing in grad school." i've painted on her. she's painted on me. she's photographed my feet.

when i was doing that my .jpg work, jess started playing with the idea of "light paintings." the basic concept is to go to a very dark or completely dark room, open the camera shutter, and move lights in front of the camera. since the shutter is continually open, the entire path of the light is recorded. in exchange for helping work through writing my own green screen program, i would go out with her in the evenings and help do these paintings. and we got pretty good at them.

taking it one step further, she would put the pictures online, create a qr code (like a bar code) for the picture, then tape the qr code at the spot where it all went down. so anyone who saw it and scanned it with their phone would then seen a picture of what happened at that spot.

here's video about it, in case you just skipped the last two paragraphs:

as we were doing a painting in the women's bathroom of the administration building late one night earlier this summer, jess mentioned that she was applying to some festivals and that, if she got in, she wanted me to go with her, since we've become a team at this.

a month or so ago, with as much excitement as i've ever seen from her, she told me that the work was accepted to an art festival at the university of nevada-reno. the festival is paying for her to fly out there and the department had some money for me to go and so we're leaving tomorrow for five days. part of me feels really cool, being an "artist" invited and paid to go to a festival and do work across the country 

as usual, this is one more thing i never thought i'd be doing in grad school.
with jess.

(and they've got an in-n-out burger in reno...)


Becky said...

clearly i'm not an artist to appreciate this quite as much. but my boys paint themselves like that know, mom went to UN-R

Jaime said...