Sarah Evans: Capturing The College Experience

Hello! I am Sarah Evans, a junior in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Program here at FSU, and a recent IDEA Grant recipient. Like most others possessed by an antiquated and—according to some—dying medium, I identify as a painter above all things, and have a curious fascination with the material presence of oil paint. Given my penchant for pigment, bristles, and the highly individual task of creating a single image by layering paint on a flat surface, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to discover that I am in fact, an introvert. It is the conjunction of these two facts that forms the crux of my current research project: an introverted painter studying at one of the most notorious “party schools” in the US.

Sarah Evans, Junior, Fine Arts

            Within my first year at FSU, when meeting new people, I was often asked the ultimate college-freshman question; the test to see if I was taking full advantage of my newfound freedom and vibrant young adult life: “Do you go out?” The answer to this was always a resounding “no.” I would much rather spend Friday night rewatching Ponyo for the eighth time as opposed to standing in line for an hour and a half to gyrate like a sardine with 300 other unknown drunk sardines. But here at FSU, I am the minority. After hearing both euphoric stories of the pure energetic fun of the lights and the bass and the people, as well as those of claustrophobia, alcohol poisoning, and unwanted male attention, I was led to question: “Why is ‘going out’ considered such a fundamental part of the traditional ‘college experience’ despite its known threats and discomforts?”

Marauda at Pots, taken with a kaleidoscope lens

            The dichotomy of this risk/reward experience fascinates me, and through experiential and documentary research, I will be able to fully immerse myself in a culture I have long avoided. Starting this month and throughout the summer, I will be visiting all the popular clubs and nightlife spots for FSU students, taking photos and video to inspire my paintings. Through this series of constructed narrative paintings, I aim to capture the euphoria and dysphoria of this nightlife culture so ingrained in the college experience. The performative venue of the club provides me with a dynamic and theatrical setting to explore interpersonal relationships through multi-figure compositions. This project will not only give me experience conducting cultural research, but it will also push me to capture the atmosphere and energy of an environment that is fleeting and site-specific.

            In my preparatory work for this series, I have been exploring the ways in which this culture of reckless abandon, all-you-can-drink, and seemingly infinite youth are advertised by the establishments themselves. Using collaged imagery from social media posts shared by The Tenn, Potbelly’s, Recess, etc., I have constructed environments and figure groups that mimic the classical paintings of saints within the throes of religious ecstasy. Ultimately, this compares the euphoric experiences advertised by popular collegiate club culture with a religious or ritualistic encounter.

Close up of a recent painting, taken with a kaleidoscope lens

In terms of developments toward the series I will be creating with the grant, I have been compiling EDM playlists from my festival-going friends to paint to, and recently got some pictures at a show at Potbelly’s. As seen in the photos attached, I have found an integral tool to my practice, and one of my favorite $15 Amazon purchases: the clip-on kaleidoscope lens. Both with and without the lens, I was able to capture a lot of the energy and movement of the crowd. This was a unique crowd for Pots, as the headliners were all popular festival EDM DJs, and most of the crowd were veteran “ravers.” I did notice a strong sense of community and comradery in this crowd as well, everyone picked up people who had fallen in the pit, made sure that they regrouped with their friends, etc. Definitely not as fend-for-yourself as I expected, we’ll see how this holds up at different events and venues. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: