Crossing Boundaries Once Again

When I first enrolled at SUNY Geneseo, and even when I first registered for this course, I was skeptical, but curious, about the relationship between the sciences and the humanities. A class I took with Dr. McCoy last semester caused me to reconsider my skepticism; however, as I entered this class, The Art of Steve Prince, my vision was still clouded by the assumptions I had previously generated regarding the intersection, or lack thereof, between the sciences and the humanities. Indeed, I had always assumed that science and the humanities were distinctly separate realms with no direct connection or relationship with each other. While I was beginning to warm to the idea that science and literature might be intimately and intrinsically connected, I was not ready to see that there is science in art and art in science. But, as this course draws to a close, I find that my views have shifted tremendously and that I am now incapable of visualizing art without science and science without art. This transformation was made possible by many things, particularly, the work of Steve Prince, the lectures and lessons of the supporting faculty, and the blogging process.

Furthermore, my thinking across barriers with respect to academic disciplines mirrored the thinking that I and my classmates did across cultures, communities, and individuals. This class helped me to see past the exclusionary labels assigned to academic disciplines and unearth their similarities and differences in a way that connects and celebrates each respective discipline. In a similar fashion, this class, and the thinking it inspired, encouraged me to, in the words of Steve Prince, “look more and name less” and recognize that human beings, though each bearing different creeds and cultures, though each occupying different communities and spaces, are essentially united, not in spite of their differences, but in a way, because of such differences, as well as the similarities that lie beneath these differences.

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Look More, Label Less

Throughout the blogging process, I have paid considerable attention to the four horsemen that pop up again and again throughout the body of Steve Prince’s work. When discussing the horsemen in my blog posts, I almost always mentioned their shoes, which are adorned with studs and spikes, wherein the spikes vary in appearance and resemble things like barbed wire, grisly canines, and other such objects that bear traditionally negative connotations.

The presence of these shoes in a work of Prince’s often impacted my interpretation of the piece. For example, in Prince’s “Dirge,” the spiked appearance of the horsemen’s shoes encouraged me to view the horsemen as agents of destruction, as is discussed in my blog post, “Those Who Straddle the Line.”Additionally, the horsemen’s massive, spiked shoes, seen in Prince’s “Second Line I-IV,” acted as elements with which I could juxtapose the horsemen’s dainty posture and accessories. This juxtaposition would become the launchpad for my thought process and ultimate thesis in my blog post, “The Protecting Power of Destruction.”

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The Fern

Though Dr. Yang has moved on to discussing ecology in General Biology II, my favorite unit would have to be the one we began with, wherein I learned about plant species diversity. I (re-)learned that all plants can be classified into four groups: Non-vascular plants, seedless vascular plants, gymnosperms, and angiosperms. One such member of the seedless vascular plants is the fern, an extremely durable, yet dainty plant that is heavily featured within Steve Prince’s “Song for Aya,” as Prince himself pointed out during his “Kitchen Talk” lecture held at SUNY Geneseo.

The fern is most present in the second piece of “Communal Resurrection: Song for Aya” in the earring of the woman who takes the foreground of that section of the piece. Prince, in his talk, explained that the fern motif is one that is carried throughout the entire piece, and demonstrated such by walking over to his projected image and tracing out the leaf patterns with his hands. Once Prince had pointed out the fern’s ubiquitous presence, I could not unsee it. It was clearly present in the singing woman’s earring, but I began to notice it in other places, as well.

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Once Again Addressing Force

Though I am officially no longer a physics major, my life has remained entangled (perhaps quantumly so) with the sciences. It sometimes seems to me as if the sciences refuse to relinquish their hold on me, as this semester I was approached by members of the biology department and asked to serve as a supplemental instructor for General Biology II.

Though I was extremely nervous to start the position, as I am not a biology major, I have grown to love the job, due to the way I am able to make a positive impact on the academic experiences of my peers. Recently, the class has started to learn about muscles and their form and function. During the most recent session, I asked a question regarding typical muscle fiber patterns, which are either pennate or parallel in their arrangement.

Pennate muscle structure is differentiated from parallel in that the muscle fibers are arranged at an angle to the force-generating axis within the muscle, whereas parallel muscle structure involves muscle fibers that exist in parallel with the force-generating axis. As a result of this differentiated architecture, muscles that feature a pennate arrangement are able to produce more force than those that are arranged in parallel; however, muscles that display a pennate structure are quite limited in their movement.

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Seeing Sound Waves (and More)

Last semester, I worked as an undergraduate lab instructor in the physics department for Dr. McLean’s “The Science of Sound” course. I thoroughly enjoyed working in this position and feel that I learned a great deal from it, not only about the science of sound but about myself, as well. While working as a lab instructor for this lab granted me new skills and a passion for instructing, it also, unexpectedly, left me with tools I can now use to enrich my interpretations of Steve Prince’s art.

For example, when I look at Prince’s piece, “Requiem for Brother John,” I am instantly drawn to what I perceive to be sound waves emanating from the trumpet in the background. These waves remind me of my time spent working in the Science of Sound Lab and of the hours I spent grading students’ drawn representations of waves for accuracy (not artistry, though some of the waves were drawn with obvious skill and flair). Notably, the waves appear curved upon their immediate exit from the trumpet and then straighten out when they reach the left-hand corner of work, as waves do upon propagating far enough out.

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Untangling Sustainability

By Liv Binda, Sarah Bracy, Claire Corbeaux, Lindsey Kriaris, Noah Mazer, Sarah-Anne Michel, and Morgan Torre

Sustainability is a frequently used buzzword, defined as “a socio-ecological process characterized by the pursuit of a common ideal.” Almost every day, efforts are made to conserve resources on a global scale, as well as on local ones. SUNY Geneseo, for example, demonstrates a commitment to environmental sustainability through initiatives such as composting programs, hosting a campus beautification event, giving out Campus Sustainability Leadership Awards, holding exhibits that feature art that deals with issues of ecological sustainability, and launching a campus sustainability month.

In class recently, we started looking at sustainability from a wider perspective and began investigating and incorporating the three pillars of sustainability: economy, society, and the environment. The United Nations recognizes another pillar that exists outside of, yet interacts with, these canonical pillars. In our estimation, the pillar of cultural sustainability is equally as important as the other three, but is often underrepresented and rarely discussed. Indeed, Geneseo often fails to consider this fourth pillar and the role it plays on-campus: a recent email about the Sustainability Leadership Awards explicitly referred to “the three pillars of sustainability (economic, social, and environmental)”.

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Pushing Back

Where most of my thoughts surrounding Joe Moran’s Interdisciplinarity once centered around the manner in which language defines or informs science and vice versa, a comment from Dr. McCoy in lecture a few weeks ago caused me to look back to the art of Steve Prince and reminded me of the intersection between the humanities and sciences that occurs within many of his works. Dr. McCoy stated that she would like it if someone could explain to her the physics behind the horsemen and their carrying of what appears to be a representation of the city of New Orleans in Prince’s piece entitled, “Dirge.”

29.5″X42″ Graphite Drawing

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The Protecting Power of Destruction

In my last post, I wrote about the connection I perceived between the Baby Dolls of New Orleans and Steve Prince’s artistic depiction of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I was able to visualize and solidify this connection by interpreting several of Prince’s works and perceiving Prince’s horsemen and the Baby Dolls of New Orleans as straddlers of the line between certain dichotomies in order to empower themselves.

However, where in my last post I claimed I saw the most striking evidence of the horsemen’s line-straddling in “Katrina’s Veil: Stand at the Gretna Bridge” and “Dirge,” I first perceived the horsemen straddling the line between the dichotomy of masculine and feminine in “Second Line I-IV.” In these pieces, each of the horsemen is portrayed individually and is dressed in a masculine suit with spiky shoes. Their appearance is juxtaposed by their dainty, feminine poses that parallel those struck by the Baby Dolls while “walking raddy.” It is in this way that Prince depicts the horsemen as straddling the line between masculinity and femininity.

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Those Who Straddle the Line

In my last post, I discussed the Baby Doll maskers of the New Orleans Carnival tradition and their challenging of the Puritan notion of Providence introduced by Dr. Cope. Particularly, I focused on their collective ability to be at once child-like and suggestive, innocent and powerful, traditionally feminine and masculine. This duality is born from the Baby Dolls’ unique, signature appearance and from their audience’s misguided attempts to label, and subsequently understand, them.

Similarly, the first four pieces of Steve Prince’s Katrina Suite, entitled “Second Line I, II, III, and IV,” display a certain duality that puzzled me when I first encountered them. Each piece stars a horseman, a figure and symbol that is prominently featured in Prince’s body of work. The horsemen are clad in suits, ties, and massive, spiked shoes. Additionally, and quite conversely, three out of the four horsemen are portrayed holding a parasol, an accessory associated with the Baby Doll maskers and an arguable symbol of their femininity.

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Providence and the Baby Dolls

Each time a supporting faculty member visits class, I am given more and more tools that allow me to better analyze both Prince’s work and the assigned class readings. Additionally, the contributions of the supporting faculty members grant me different perspectives and ideas that nearly beg to be connected with the art of Steve Prince or with the works of W.E.B. Dubois and Kim Vaz-Deville, the authors of the class’ required readings.

Dr. Cope’s lecture, in particular, not only provided me with such tools but left my mind buzzing with many thoughts and questions, as well.  Specifically, I found myself considering and condemning the concept of Providence that Dr. Cope discussed throughout his lecture. I began to think about the idea, both with reference to the Puritans and their definition and manipulation of the word and its application to today’s society, as well. Since the lecture, I have been seeking connections between the Puritan, and even contemporary, idea of Providence and the Art of Steve Prince class as a whole.

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