VOICES Reading: Matt Burgess

On Thursday, Oct. 11, Matt Burgess read to students as part of the VOICES Series. He was low-key, with rectangular glasses, sneakers matched with a black dress coat, and a wonderful sense of humor. So far Burgess has written two books and is about to publish his third.

He prefaced the reading of the gritty novel “Dogfight: A Love Story” with a bit from his upcoming novel “Uncle Jenson.” “Dogfight” is about a “19-year-old drug dealer named Alfredo and his friend Winston who need to steal a pit-bull for a dog fight while also dealing with Alfredo’s newly-released-from-prison brother.” As Burgess explained during the question and answer session, he based the characters on his own friends. Burgess read the excerpt with a clear voice that really brought out the writing style and the subject matter to life.

The novel, published in 2011, is written in present tense which makes it more involved to the reader.

Following is an excerpt from the novel (as provided by Barnes and Noble): “In the middle of Alfredo Batista’s brain there is a tall gray filing cabinet, frequently opened. The drawers are deep, the folders fattened with a lifetime of regrettable moments. There is, tucked away toward the back, a list of women whose phone numbers he never asked for. There are the debts accrued. In the bottom drawer, in separate folders, there are the things he never learned to do: drive an automobile, throw a knuckleball, tie a knot in a cherry stem using only his tongue. What else? In the top drawer, there is a file recounting the evening he left the Mets game early, thinking the run deficit insurmountable. There is the why-didn’t-I-wear-a-condom folder. There is—this one’s surprisingly thin—the crimes-against-my-brother folder… All it takes is a random word, a face in passing, and a memory blooms, a cabinet drawer slides open.”

Burgess had copies of “Dogfight” for sale where he also autographed them and answered more questions. One of the attendees, Hannah, said the reading was “great, funny, and surprising” and that Burgess was “a down-to-earth writer who is modest and very entertaining.” Overall, it was a very successful reading and everyone there seemed to enjoy Burgess’ unique writing style.

Campus Celebrates Hawktoberfest 2012

Despite menacing clouds, the “Great Bamboo Boat Race,” the Beer Tent, the 14th Annual Petruccelli 5k/Walk/Bike ride, the golf tournament, and other celebratory events proceeded as planned, part of the fourth annual Hawktoberfest (also known as Family Weekend). This year, Hawktoberfest was earlier than usual; it was the first weekend in October spanning Friday the 5 through Saturday the 6.
Each family weekend, students and their families are presented with several options with regards to activities. Students can either take their families to scheduled events, they can go out to the haunted lighthouse at Point Lookout, or they can show their families how they live at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, doing anything from going to town or going the movie in Cole Cinema. Hawktoberfest 2012 consisted of the usual Family Weekend events: brunch, tours on the river and of Historic St. Mary’s City, as well as the well-known bamboo boat race.

The bamboo boat race has often been called participants’ (and viewers’) favorite event of Family Weekend, as students and teachers alike construct bamboo boats and race in a circle around buoys. The important thing for viewers to remember, however, is that the real challenge is keeping the boat afloat.

Teams of three to six were allowed to sign up, for a $10 entry per team, the winners raking in far more than that. Rules were posted online at the waterfront website, and handed out to each team, along with a list of materials given. A key material, of course, was bamboo, along with polyethylene film, duct tape, and sisal twine. In the past, it was a race of cardboard boats, but two years ago the materials were changed to use more green materials and save on costs.

According to Assistant Director of Waterfront Activities Rick Loheed, who organized the event this year, “It cost about $1400 using cardboard and only $400 with bamboo. So that saves on price. In addition, the bamboo is grown by Mattapany Road and stored in the North Barn for future years.”

The race is fairly structured. From 12:30 to 3:30pm, teams built their boats, with the race at 4pm. And in keeping with true college student work ethics, many boats donned their plastic hull mere minutes before the time was up by frantically working students.

Some teams were hopeful about their carefully planned designs, others not so much. “Our progression of goals has gone from win, to finish, to float, to get a boat out,” said Zeke Rogers, a first year on the team The Deadweights.

Others had more optimistic goals. The Sailing Club sponsored a team this year, wanting to promote the clubs involvement on campus more. Junior Rob Crook was optimistic and hopeful, “We’ll give it our best, and expect nothing less from all of the sailing club.” Their main objectives were to have fun, stay afloat, and pass the heat, but most importantly fun.

There were three races, two initial rounds to determine who paddled in the final, and a third for those who lost the first two. However, because there were multiple boats swimming with the fishes, the final race was composed of all floating boats. A slight drizzle caused the spectators to flock to the waterfront building, and wait out the brief drizzle after the first race.

Senior Sean Jenkins-Houk said, “The race was awesome, despite a few cuts and our rower’s demands for ‘compensation.’”

In addition to the much anticipated bamboo boat race, Hawktoberfest also hosted a hospitality tent which sold beer with a food truck near by, and at which Three Man River Band played. Alumni were encouraged to stop by, mingle with other alumni, eat, drink, and enjoy the music from the local band.

Despite the fact that Hawktoberfest took place the weekend traditionally regarded as fall break, President Urgo said the attendance was not diminished at all. “It ended up not being bad” having Hawktoberfest and fall break same weekend, Urgo said, because it freed up students’ weekend. Instead of not being able to spend time with their parents because of homework, or neglecting obligations to visit with their families, students were able to spend time knowing they had no class till Wednesday. Though he didn’t know the exact number, Urgo believed there were a record number of families in attendance.

Overall, Hawktoberfest went smoothly, Urgo said. “It was a great success.”

Campus Follows Up On Open Housing Initiative

For the past couple of years, the Office of Residence Life has been taking steps to create an Open Housing Initiative on campus.

This would allow people of any gender to be roommates in select housing areas. The initiative is primarily geared towards catering to members of the LGBTQ community who have expressed a desire to room with people who are not of the same gender. According to Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater, “the overarching goal of open housing is to provide more comfortable and varied housing options on campus.”

The Open Housing Initiative technically began in 2010 when Kelly Smolinsky was still the director of residence life. She put together a set of proposal documents that outlined the plan for what was then called Gender Neutral Housing. When Kelly Smolinsky moved out of residence life in the spring of 2011, her replacement, Joanne Goldwater, took up the program proposal with the help of Clint Neill, the Assistant Director of Student Activities. Unfortunately, their plans were derailed in the fall of 2011 when dealing with the mold crisis became the chief priority of the residence life office and all other projects, including the Open Housing Initiative, were sidelined.

With the crisis over, attention has been reallocated to the initiative. At present, an advisory board has been assembled to prepare all the necessary documents and protocols that will be needed in order for a formal proposal to be reviewed and accepted. In order to become a reality, the proposal must be submitted and approved by President Urgo’s office. In the meantime, conferences are being held with certain clubs, such as St. Mary’s Triangle and Rainbow Society (STARS), the housing staff, and the college lawyer. The Student Government Association (SGA) is holding a meeting next Tuesday where it is expected to endorse the initiative.

In addition, the board is putting together plans for practical concerns such as new training measures for RAs and staff, systems for determining who will live in open housing, as well as important physical modifications to certain buildings such as the removal and addition of bathroom signs. Another key component of the proposal is a system for assessing the success or failure of the program as well as the creation of clear lines of communication so that issues can be dealt with when and if they arise.

So far as implementation goes, the plan is to create a section of North Campus, similar to Substance and Alcohol-Free Environment (SAFE) house, which will be available as open housing. There is a consideration that, eventually, North Campus may be totally open housing but only by request. In addition, the smallest dorm hallway, Prince George second left, is likely to serve as the dorm-based open housing. For many residents on campus, the effects of these changes will be negligible. Most dorm rooms and halls will remain single sex. If all continues according to plan, the Open Housing Initiative should be completed and included in housing selection this spring for the fall of 2013.

An Archaeologist's Perspective on Climate Change

On Thursday, Oct. 4 at 4:15 p.m. in Cole Cinema, the Department of Anthropology’s first Visiting Anthropologist Dr. Kit Wesler presented a lecture called “An Archaeologist’s Perspective on Climate Change.” The talk discussed the history of climate change in the archaeological record and the affect that humans may have on the natural cycles that the earth experiences. Dr. Wesler is a Professor of Archaeology and the director of the Mid-America Remote Sensing Center at Murray State University (MSU) in Kentucky.

The lecture began with an introduction from Adjunct Professor of Anthropology Sara Rivers-Cofield. Dr. Wesler was Rivers-Cofield’s professor and has remained her mentor for many years. “He is one of the few people in archaeology with knowledge in historical archaeology and pre-history,” she said. “His interests seem to have no bounds…he has a wide geographic and temporal range.” According to Rivers-Cofield, Dr. Wesler saved the department of archaeology that had gone downhill by combining it with the Geosciences Department. This way, the students could have access to the wide range of equipment and support they needed to help the department thrive.

After being introduced, Dr. Wesler took the podium and began to talk about the “topical subject” of climate change. He said that putting it into a long-term perspective is very difficult because the climate is changing constantly. The earth undergoes natural cycles that are embedded in each other, and archaeologists are only starting to understand what it means to human cultures.

Scientists know of several cycles that are topical to today’s discussions of climate change. The natural 100,000 year warming and cooling cycle affects the changes in glaciers across the globe and is crucial to the understanding of geology. The bottom of this cycle was approximately 18,000 years ago, so the earth is 18,000 years into the 50,000 year warming cycle.  This made a huge difference in human pre-history because 1/3 or more of the North American continent was covered in ice, changing the shape of the world’s landmasses. This ice is what made it possible for the early humans to cross over Beringia to reach North America. When the ice retreated due to this cycle, the modern outlines began to take form and affect how humans distributed themselves across the continent.

There are likely two other cycles; one is called the hipsothermal eastern cycle that stretches over about 6,000 years and is currently 1,500 years unto the warming cycle and the other is a very short 70-year cycle. The glacial climate and hipsothermal eastern cycles are in the upswing of the warming periods so they are reinforcing each other, which is making the trend of the 70-year cycle higher.

There are several historic periods in human history in the Northern Hemisphere that have seen cultural changes that seem to coincide with the change in climate. The warmer periods see cultural expansion, like in the Roman Climatic Optimum that allowed the Roman armies to push north into Britain. The cooler periods see the cultural fragmentation, like in the Little Ice Age that brought about famine and disease in Europe. Dr. Wesler cautioned that one cannot attribute these cultural changes to climate change alone, but they are effective in observing “human action, interaction and reaction to climate changes.”

When studying these periods of climatic history, Dr. Wesler examined the Southern Hemisphere to see if it was a latitudinal pattern. He observed that there was cultural growth in the south while society was collapsing in the north and it has “profound impacts on how more complex societies organize themselves.”

In the last 40 years, all of the cycles that Dr. Wesler identified have been reinforcing each other to provide data to support the trend of warming. However, he did not say that these cycles eliminated the human responsibility in global climate change. One gallon of gasoline emits 25 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and to cancel out all of the carbon emissions by the United States residential areas, 11 million acres of fully grown walnut trees would have to be planted. Dr. Wesler said that the trends of warming are irrevocably on the rise and instead of blaming each other, humans need to begin to prepare. Humans have to stop contributing to global warming, but the temperature will continue to rise regardless. He said, “We know what’s happening. We need to start recognizing that past societies that adapted did okay.”

Dr. Wesler proposed several adaptations that the world could begin to implement today to prepare for the global rise in temperature. Building designs should be modified to facilitate cooling. There should be an overhaul of dams, flood protection systems, and ancient sewage systems to prepare for the increase in flooding in the future. Hydro-electric power plants must adapt to a lower flow. The rise in sea level will change coastal infrastructure. Farmers must adjust their land management and develop new cropping practices and growing zones. Humans must prepare for new disease vectors and the movement of marine species. Politicians, he said, need to begin to worry about the long-term perspective, not just what will win them the next election.

The main poins Wesler lef the audience with on the topic of climate change was that the world needs to accept that climate change is happening and begin to adapt and plan for the rise in temperature. “This is what archaeology is all about,” he said. “Long-term, global perspective.” Archaeology puts modern problems into a longer frame of mind and ensures that patterns are better understood in a long term global view. “Every project gives us a piece of this puzzle. You’re the generation that will prove me right or wrong, but I’m right,” he ended with a laugh.

Dr. Wesler answered the many questions from the students and faculty and positively received. “I found Dr. Wesler’s perspective on global climate change to be rather different from many others and very interesting,” said sophomore Danielle Lafferty. Wesler earned his Ph.D. and M.A. at the University of North Carolina and his Bachelors degree at Washington University. He is currently working on two books.

College Seeks Contributions Through Silent Fundraiser

St. Mary’s College of Maryland is beginning preparations for the silent phase of a long-term, wide-scale school fundraising campaign, according to President Joseph Urgo and the Office of Advancement. A campaign statement is being constructed at this time to outline the priorities and initiatives of the fundraiser, and is expected to be complete within a few months. As of July 1st 2012, the campaign is anticipated to be a two year enterprise.

A “silent” or “private” phase is a common step in many collegiate efforts to gain funding and support from important individuals and institutions. In this stage of the campaign, the College is working to create a reasonable and impactful goal for the amount it wants to raise. The College will then finalize a campaign statement and begin private fundraising efforts to start working towards the goal. When 50 percent of the goal amount has been raised, the College will go public with the fundraiser, and announce their target amount. The purpose of the silent fundraiser is to prevent discouragement in the early stages when it may seem that growth towards the goal is slow moving and therefore unreachable, and to provide encouragement when the fundraiser goes public, and people see that half of the desired amount has already been raised.

Once the campaign statement is finalized, President Urgo and the Office of Advancement, in affiliation with the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Foundation, will begin fundraising activities and private outreach efforts in Maryland and other parts of the country, including areas with active branches of alumni organizations. President Urgo says that an important first step of these activities will be leadership-briefing meetings with key people and organizations to discuss the statement and the campaign.

When the campaign does eventually go public, a huge part of meeting the final goal will be the contributions of alumni, parents and friends of the College. The continued support of the St. Mary’s community serves as a crucial part of the success of the College’s fundraising efforts. Ongoing efforts to raise money that are oriented towards reaching out to alumni and parents include the Annual Giving 10 week phone-a-thon, in which students make calls as part of an effort to raise money for the St. Mary’s Fund, which disburses funds on a current-need basis. Individuals interested in making gifts to the college of their own initiative can do so on the college website, through the Office of Advancement.

More information on campaign activities will be made available in the coming months, once all constituents have been consulted and the campaign receives final approval. According to President Urgo, two of the key areas the funds raised will be going towards are need-based financial aid and faculty support, both of which experienced decreases in funding after last year’s difficult cutbacks. Urgo also mentions that his part in fundraising efforts will mean he must spend an increasing amount of time away from school. Because of this, he intends to prioritize being present for campus events when he is at St. Mary’s, and to continue to make himself as available as possible to the students.

Field Hockey Hopeful as Playoffs Approach

With the Capital Athletic Conference underway, St. Mary’s women’s field hockey team has demonstrated their strength and determination so far this season. After the ups and downs they have experienced throughout the first 12 games, women’s field hockey continues moving forward.

On Saturday, Oct. 6, the squad earned their first conference win of the season against Frostburg State University by a score of 4-1. The match, which was held during Hawktoberfest, raised the team’s morale and shifted the Seahawks’ conference standing to 1-2.  “This game turned out really well. It’s always great to win a conference game,” said head coach Katie Lange, ’06. The victory came after the team suffered two conference losses to Salisbury University and Wesley College on Sep. 22 and 28.

The Seahawks credited their win not only to how hard they have worked so far, but also to the sensations that surrounded Hawktoberfest. “The Hawktoberfest atmosphere really pumped us up, and I think the final score reflected how well everyone played,” said sophomore goalkeeper Christy Bishop.  The team received plenty of cheers from families, alumni, and the rest of the SMCM community at Hawktoberfest. “The game was exhilarating with all the alumni and fans there wearing our shirts we sold for our fundraiser. The support was great!” said first-year defensive player Allyson Dahlen.

While the field hockey team awaits their next conference match against Mary Washington on Oct. 17, the overall standing of their non-conference games has been impressive. With a 7-5 season standing and a victory at Bridgewater on Oct. 13, women’s field hockey shows how they have improved as the season moves on. “The season’s been awesome. We work extremely hard everyday in practice and it shows in our performance on the game field,” said Dahlen.

“I definitely think we’re improving as a team overall and getting even closer as the season progresses,” added Bishop.

Although the field hockey team has seen some losses this season against such teams as Eastern Mennonite University and Shenandoah, they have also witnessed great wins against teams such as Washington College and Randolph-Macon College. “I have a great feeling that this second half of our season is going to be even better,” said Bishop.

As the season and the CAC continues, the Seahawks are offered support not only by the SMCM community but from each other. “Our whole team is so close that no matter what happens on the field, you know you’ll have 23 girls still supporting you,” said Dahlen. The field hockey team remains strong with the hope of winning their next games and preparing for the first round of the CAC. “We’ve got tough matches for the rest of the season,” said Lange, “so we’re hoping to do well.”

NS&M Colloquium: The Story of Black Holes

Professors, physics students, and black hole enthusiasts alike gathered for the third Natural Science and Mathematics Colloquium on Wednesday, Oct. 3. The lecture was titled, “Gravity’s Engines, or How Bubble Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos,” and was hosted by Dr. Caleb Scharf, author of two books and director of the Columbia University Astrobiology center.

Students were excited by the lecture before it even began. “I’m excited to be here!” commented first-year Hannah Lewis. “I just really appreciate physics.”

Dr. Scharf began his lecture by commenting that science is all about stories, many of which are still being written. The story he had to tell was about black holes. “The story of black holes is one of the best stories of science.”

He started by bringing everyone back to the 1700s, in a church where a reverend named John Mitchell created the very first idea for a black hole. John Mitchell thought about the nature of light; he considered how stars could leave imprints of their properties and how light emitted contained information about its properties. Mitchell asked an important question: Could objects slow light down?

Unfortunately, despite the face that Mitchell just asked the proverbial million-dollar question, his ideas were forgotten about for 100 years. Dr. Scharf guessed as to why his ideas were forgotten – because people could not understand the importance of any of these “objects.” “If we can’t see these objects, “ Scharf imagined them asking, “why should we look for them?”

Chapter two of the story was brought up by Einstein. Einstein realized that problems could be solved if light’s speed never changed. He then came up with the idea of relativity. Light’s speed is fixed, but measurements of distance and time are flexible. He then wanted to include gravity in his theories, but it was a problem due to the fact that gravity was only known as a “mysterious force” in Newtonian terms. The gravity between two objects would change depending on the distance, but how would nature know that there was a distance between the two objects? The theories of Einstein and Newton did not mix, so Einstein decided to entirely disregard Newton and say that gravity was nothing but a “side effect.”

“Einstein was not a shrinking violet,” commented Dr. Scharf.

Scharf said to imagine a rubber sheet, and imagine dropping a ball on top of that rubber sheet. The sheet is space, and the way the ball sinks into the sheet is the effect mass has on space. Einstein used this idea to conclude that mass distorts space and gravity happens to move through the distortion.

But he had one more question: What happens to the space around the “ball?”

Chapter three of the story comes up when a German named Karl Shwaltz answers the question. He said that mass could be compressed so much that it would create a region so light – and everything else – couldn’t escape. While Einstein disagreed with Shwaltz, Shwaltz had actually come up with the first definition of a black hole. The space he described was called the “Event Horizon,” which is essentially the center of a black hole. Dr. Scharf described this area as a “tricky little place where everything vanishes.”

It took 50 more years but then “people finally convinced themselves these objects could exist,” said Scharf.

After Dr. Scharf finished the history lesson, he brought his lecture up to the more recently discovered facts about black holes.

The next chapters of the story, according to Dr. Scharf, are of the supermassive black holes. These black holes are 30 million times the mass of the sun and are the center of galaxies – including our own. These black holes can spin, and drag the fabric of space with them. “It’s like standing on a thick carpet and getting it yanked from under you.” They can also carry an electrical charge.

“A spinning, electrically charged black hole is a fearsome beast,” said Dr. Scharf.

He also commented that energy floods out of these black holes – subatomic particles forced out of the black hole before reaching event horizon. This conversion of mass to matter is the most efficient in the universe – 50 times better than nuclear fusion. This energy has an effect on the galaxies it pumps energy into; mostly, it prevents the atmosphere from cooling down, fewer stars are produced, and growth slows.

Since this has always been happening, it can be concluded that black holes play a big role in everything in the universe, and that supermassive black holes and galaxies have coevolved.

Lastly, Dr. Scharf showed a short animation of an immature star that might reach the Milky Way’s black hole in six months time, and thus make the black hole produce energy. This will not have the capacity to damage the Earth, but, “it will light up, and we will be able to watch what is going on for the first time in human history.”

A final remark was made by Dr. Scharf before dismissing the lecture, “There really are monsters under the bed – well, in the middle of the galaxy – and they are important.”

Students who attended the lecture left fascinated by the subject matter. As first-year Jacob Bernhardt remarked, “Black holes are awesome.”

Relay for Life raises awareness, funds with Breast Week Ever

St. Mary’s was adorned with the color pink the first week of October in honor of the Breast Week Ever and the National Breast Cancer Awareness month. The Breast Week Ever, sponsored by the St. Mary’s Relay for Life committee, was a week of fundraising and activities in order to raise awareness for cancer.

According to Relay for Life Co-Chair  sophomore Teresa Padgett, Relay for Life is a 12-hour fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, raising money to support cancer research and awareness, as well as to support the needs of those fighting cancer, cancer survivors, and caregivers. This year’s event will take place from March 2 at 6pm to March 3 at 6am in the Michael P O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center. During Relay, at least one team member from each team – a group of people working together to raise money – must be walking at all times.  However, walking is not the only attraction.

“There will be fundraisers going on throughout the night ranging anywhere from Zumba to date auctions to a ‘Miss Relay Pageant,’” said Padgett. In addition, each individual team has their own fundraising events, “including tables with hairwraps, baked goods, and housing raffles.“ Relay for Life Chair junior Colleen Hughes noted that many teams and departments on campus get involved in Relay, including the equestrian team, the field hockey team, and the Psychology Department faculty, among others.

The Breast Week Ever was Relay for Life’s kickoff fundraiser. Despite the fact that the main event is in March, fundraising is done year-round in order to raise as much money and create as much awareness as possible. “It’s been said before that ‘relay never sleeps’ and I would say that is definitely the case,“ said Padgett.

Those Relay for Life members participating in the Breast Week Ever fundraiser tabled outside of the Great Room for the week, helping students sign up to be a participant in Relay and collecting donations in exchange for bracelets, pencils, magnets, ribbons, and other Relay for Life paraphernalia. Hughes commented that the whole event was to try to promote relay and get people interested, “We’re trying to drum up excitement and push for registration.” In addition to tabling outside the Great Room, the Relay for Life committee collaborated with Bon Appetit. “I don’t know if everyone made the connection,” said Hughes, “But they made pink desserts for us,” including whoopee pies with pink filling and ribbon shaped cookies. The Relay for Life was also represented in the Pep Rally on Oct. 5.

The biggest event of the week was the “Pink Out,” which encouraged as many people on campus as possible to wear pink on Thursday. “We then took pictures of participants on the campus center patio” said Padgett, “some of which are in the shape of the Breast Cancer Awareness ribbon.”

Relay For Life committee member junior Katie McGinnis helped to table outside of the Great Room periodically during the Breast Week Ever. She noted that Relay for Life is still a relatively new thing on campus. Last year, according to Padgett, there were 30 teams with a total of 225 participants, and over $32,000 was raised for the American Cancer Society. The committee’s biggest goal is to expand the event in order to have more participants and raise more money. “Every year is bigger and better,” said McGinnis.

All money raised for both Relay for Life and the Breast Week Ever will go to the American Cancer Society. Any student or faculty interesting in participating or helping coordinate the Relay for Life, or anyone who would like to find out more information, is encouraged to email Colleen Hughes at cshughes@smcm.edu.

Brian Ganz Performs "Chopin Discoveries II"

The common cliché “he’s really into music” was definitely demonstrated accurate for St. Mary’s Artist-in-Residence Brian Ganz as he performed “Chopin Discoveries II” on Thursday, Oct. 4th. This was Ganz’s second installment of his piano concert series exploring classical composer Frederic Chopin’s works here at St. Mary’s.

Ganz broke decorum of typical classical concerts with his informative descriptions of the pieces, which he delivered beforehand. It was a creative way to introduce the pieces from the perspective of the performer so that the audience was able to experience them as he himself did due to his carefully worded analysis of the moods and themes of the various works.

Ganz “fell in love” with Frederic Chopin’s work at a young age after discovering some old Chopin LPs in his childhood home. He went on to “devour” all Chopin music he could get his hands on, and played them over and over again until they were “worn to death,” similar to the way children today worship CDs of drastically different performers, such as Justin Bieber. Ganz’s love for Chopin is expressed through his unique performing style; he reacts to every sound that he produces out of the piano with his body. During quiet passages, he bends over the keyboard as if comforting a sad child, but during dramatic, loud passages he seems to nearly jump from his seat. Indeed, several audience members visibly started in their seats in response to his frequent half-jumps out of his! He sighed during mournful moments; his facial expression being quite conducive to the emotion Chopin intended of his works.

It is true that as an audience member, one feels a very personal connection to what is going on onstage. When the passage is quiet, one can’t help but hold his or her breath. The emotion and visual imagery of some of his faster passages is so realistic that one can’t help but imagine that it is a horse race not a piano that he or she is hearing! Other times, during the “Polonaise in C minor, Op. 40, No.2,” and “Etude from Op. 10: No. 4 in C-sharp minor,” one sees a clear contrast between works; the first being very somber, the second light and airy, reminiscent of a day at the carnival, polar opposites. Chopin was a master of composition as can be seen in the last piece performed: “Heroic” Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53. Ganz pointed out that on purpose, Chopin hid the compositional devices so that it seems nearly impossible to find the rhythm. Some passages had very strict marching sounds, while others were slower, emphasized by Ganz leaning back on the piano bench, only to start up suddenly twitching his shoulders as a brisker tempo takes hold. This kind of abrupt transition seemed a bit unsettling at times, but it enriched the visual experience to see a performer such as Ganz so in love with his material.

Ganz admits to enjoying his performances immensely. On his favorite aspect of performing he states that a “synergy happens with new people. New ideas occur at the moment.” First-year student Helena Klassen praised Ganz’s take on Chopin saying it was “really cool and interesting how he moved with his pieces.”

'Color Bound' Lecture Offers Vivid Depictions of Color Use in Book Art

On Wednesday Oct. 3, the library welcomed speaker Jae Jennifer Rossman, who presented ‘Color Bound’, a lecture on how book artists are influenced by the color spectrum and color theory. Rossman, a class of 1995 St. Mary’s Alumni, is currently the Assistant Director for Special Collections at the Robert B. Haas Arts Library at Yale University. In her presentation, Rossman combined an academic talk with her personal perspective on what she was presenting, to make it relevant to the exhibit she is creating on the same topic.

Rossman began her lecture to a full room of art students and interested attendees by describing how the presentation was separated into three parts, each describing three aspects of color theory that inspire artists: color systems explaining color relationships, color samples, and conceptual works of color. Rossman began by describing how color systems had influenced the work of artists Barbara Hodgson and Claudia Cohen in their collaborative piece, The Temperamental Rose. Influenced by the color classification work of philosopher Johann von Schiller and artist Johann von Goethe as well as others, Hodgson and Cohen created a book that presents classical color charts, as well brand new ways of seeing color. In this way, The Temperamental Rose is rich visual history of color and color systems.

Other pieces explored the work of Anne Thompson, who has created own color system and attempts to codify human emotions with it, and Paul Heimbach, who has created a color system that corresponds colors to certain dates, and then creates portraits of famous people based on the color of dates that were significant in their lives. Several of the pieces, in addition to being enlightening about color, were also very humorous and lighthearted. These exploratory uses of color systems are, according to Rossman, part of a radical new way of thinking about color as representing and communicating abstract concepts in ways that images cannot.

Next, Rossman addressed artworks influenced by color nomenclature identification, or color samples. The pieces in this category explored the relationships of particular colors to each other, and how the names that represent certain colors can create an image for us of a color’s identity. A book by Hans Waanders entitled Colour begins with a picture of a bird. Every page after for the rest of the book has only contains small block of single-color text that lists a variety of colors, seemingly at random. It is only at the end of the book the reader realizes that each page has been describing the plumage of different varieties of kingfishers, the type of bird pictured on the first page. Going back, the reader can read these colors and visualize the bird in vivid, literally colorful new ways.

Rossman also discussed how color samples pose an interest to historians, providing examples of what kinds of colors were popular during certain eras. One interesting example of how color samples can create a history of an individual is a piece called Pink Story: Sinistral. This piece lays out a number of pink color swatches in a timeline, so that the names of colors like ‘baby powder pink’ or  ‘blushing bride’, are put in places relevant to that time in a person life. The idea is to create a color history of the life of a woman and the typical rites they may experiences, from birth to old age. Another piece in which color samples are used as a constructor is called Bologna Sample. The artist tried to recall from memory all the colors she could in the buildings of her hometown of Bologna, Italy; the ‘Red City’. Then, she walked the city and assigned the colors names based on the buildings on which she found them. Rossman examples were very engaging and interesting, demonstrating how color names are important to how we perceive color in art, particularly in the layout of book art.

Finally, Rossman briefly discussed conceptual bookworks, such as Green As Well As Blue As Well as Red. This piece, by artist Lawrence Weiner is both a book and an exhibition that explores an experimental concept of providing an audience with textual constructions and allowing them to create the colors themselves in their own visualization. Weiner explores the philosophy that when artists presents an image, they assert that their own vision of the piece is superior to that of the viewers, and that this image is unalterable. By allowing the audience to create the image themselves, Weiner feels the piece achieves greater meaning and potential to grow. The lecture ended here, allowing a period for questions. Rossman was asked where her inspiration for the lecture came from, to which she replied that it stems from the work she did as an art history major while here at St. Mary’s.