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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Taking Flight

When I was in first grade, before I could spell, I drew a whole menagerie of birds and labeled them “brids.” About 15 or so years later, while I can spell B-I-R-D-S, I haven’t been able to stop drawing them. I sit in my studio as I write this and I am surrounded by flocks of these avian images. My entire theme this semester for my senior studio art class has been birds, and I’ve been guided by a central theme: community. As graduation inches closer and I grow farther away from the version of myself that drew “brids” in my classroom, I have been thinking about my family, my friends, about Brandeis as a whole.

If you have ever picked up a copy of The Brandeis Hoot, and flipped to the back page, underneath my friend David Shapiro ’24’s cartoons, and next to my sister, Jennifer Podhorzer ’24’s art, then you might have seen a bird I drew. I’ve had the pleasure of submitting art for The Hoot since my sophomore year, and most of the work that I have submitted has been of birds. From what I remember, I have submitted drawings of a partridge, a barn owl, two hawks and three swans. I distinctly remember the time when my art history professor held up The Hoot in front of the class to congratulate me on getting my artwork featured. To my extreme bafflement, the entire class clapped. Ever since then, The Hoot has been a key part of my college experience.

As much as I complain about the brutally long days that I have spent in my studio and how eager I am to graduate, I know there is a lot I will deeply miss about Brandeis. College for me was a time of many firsts: my first concert, my first time living in a suite, my first time having my own bedroom and my first time away from home. My freshman year was anything but perfect; I joined the majority of my Zoom classes and club meetings from the isolation of my basement. I dwelled on way too many pictures of my high school classmates having what looked to be the time of their lives in their first year, hoping that someday I would have those same experiences. But then, about a month before I was to depart home for my sophomore year my aunt gave me a tarot reading. Somehow, intuitively sensing my nervous apprehension, her prediction for me was that I would make friends in college and that I would be happy. She was right. 

Coming from a high school with a graduating class of 27 students, I didn’t expect to meet so many incredible people. From the friends I made on the same floor of my dorm, to the Brandeis Facebook group to those with majors similar and different from mine, the sheer kindness of the friends I have made shines through. Some say that the friends you make in college are the friends you have for life. I didn’t think that could be true until I met the people I know today. I’d like to think that soulmates can exist in friendships too. I feel that they know me so well and understand me so deeply that I was simply meant to go to Brandeis and know them in turn.

I’d like to present to you now a detail from my final work, “Swan Song.” When I began this work in January it started out as a simple pencil sketch. I was thinking about the swans that would populate my backyard throughout my life, often bringing along a score of their young, chirping loudly as my sister and I fed them. I also predicated the idea for this painting around the mythological concept of the swan song. The idea is that the mute swan, which is silent its whole life, sings a transcendent melody just before its death. This concept is also used as a metaphor for retirement and the bittersweet beauty in endings. Therefore, I had many of my friends draw a single feather on the bird so that every time I looked at the sketch I would think of them. Just as my swan’s feathers are made up of marks created by my friends, we are all made up of the people that we love. In the painting, I have set the swan, triumphantly singing as the sun sets behind it. 

The piece is seven feet long, the biggest piece of art I have ever created. It was the biggest way I could think of saying goodbye. My friend, Grace DeRoche ’24, also created a fantastic piece of music to accompany it, drawing back to not only haunting classical tunes such as Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan” but also contemporary ballads like King of Leon’s “Use Somebody.” If you would like to see (and hear) “Swan Song” in its entirety, and other pieces made by hardworking studio art students, then you should see the senior studio exhibition that is opening on May 3 and ending on May 20 in Spingold’s Dreitzer Gallery. 

So, Brandeis Hoot, it is with these words and this last image that I must leave you. Thank you for letting me showcase my art in your newspaper for the last few years; it has meant so much to me. To David and Jennifer, it has been an honor sharing the back page with you and getting to pin it to our Ziv’s front door every time a new issue comes out. I’m so glad to have worked on our collaboration for our final issue together. Thank you for everything, Brandeis Hoot. 

Congratulations, class of 2024, we made it. 

Lauren

Swan Song, oil on canvas

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