Review: Stranger Things 2

**Spoiler Alert**

Hearing the opening theme song of Stranger Things for the first time in over a year brought back a heap of emotions — apprehension, heartbreak, fear and anger. The emotions that came with following the story through the first season returned all at once. Most of all, I felt a sort of excitement to see a show that I hadn’t experienced since waiting for Sunday morning cartoons as a kid. It’s the exact sort of nostalgia that Stranger Things does such a profound job of creating through the music, scenery and the familiarity of the kids’ (non-supernatural, of course) adolescent experiences. There was a part of me that suspected that this new season couldn’t possibly live up to the ingenuity and novelty of the first season, but season two manages to build upon the electric vibe of the world they had created last year.

This season focuses as much on developing the eerie supernatural threat of the “Upside Down” as it does on developing the lives and personalities of the characters, taking turns between yanking at heartstrings and sending chills down the spine.

Of course, as in so many sequels, the producers of Stranger Things go overboard in trying to expand the storyline in new directions. By bringing in a multitude of new characters while trying to round out the existing ones, they end up throwing in personalities that aren’t quite wholesome enough to resonate in the overall story.

Characters like Max and Kali are built up right off the bat in a way that suggests they could become pivotal — and then in an instant are cast aside to pursue another avenue of the storyline. Max has the potential to join the ranks of Nancy and El as powerful female characters, finally balancing a seemingly male-dominated show, but she never gets an earnest chance to shine. I fully expected her to have a true heroine moment where she saved El, for example, to solidify her role in the group going forward. However, that opportunity simply never came. Seeing how Max really seemed eager to find a home in her new friends, I almost felt dejected and bitter for her at how easily she was cast aside.

One character that seems rather rudely out of place was Max’s older brother Billy. He seems entirely too concerned with looking at himself in a mirror or driving obnoxiously to partake in any significant part of Max’s already-minimal development in the friend group. Basically, it seems he is a superficial persona intended to flesh out another poorly developed character.

This season brings into play the incredibly relatable personal struggles of adolescence that the group has the cope with while fighting the threats of the “Upside Down.” El’s and Mike’s struggle with being separated from each other especially strikes hard and the sense of loss practically radiates through the screen.

Seeing Lucas and Dustin begin to navigate their own insecurities and friendship in the face of sharing a crush, I realized their characters as being deeper than adventurous kids battling the monsters. They have weaknesses, down moments and most importantly they lift each other up like any real friends.

The story put caps on most of the supernatural dangers by the last episode, but there’s an exciting prospect of new threats, personal drama and alliances put into place for the next season. It is clear viewers can look forward to the story only getting deeper, darker and more captivating.

Anne Arundel Mural Paints Over Demolition Rubble

When people think of St. Mary’s College there are always some iconic ideas that come to mind such as the river or the path, as well as the sense of community we try to foster here. Associate Professor of Art Carrie Patterson is bringing the St. Mary’s way to life through her (and her students’) mural project on the fences around the demolished Anne Arundel academic building. The project is centered on the phrase “We are St. Mary’s,” which was the slogan used by students who were present at the meeting of the Board of Trustees over the summer following the admissions crisis.

Patterson has experience with murals at SMCM and teaches a class titled “Art for Educators and Community Activists,” which focuses on community projects that bring art to public places. This year’s class consists of 14 students who regularly take field trips to places like Newark, New Jersey to see the effects of public art and education through art. The mural project at Anne Arundel started when the Office of Planning and Facilities contacted Patterson about doing it around the construction area.

In the past, Patterson has created murals around Goodpaster Hall and Glendening Hall. In 2005, she had her art classes decorate a plywood wall erected in front of Goodpaster on which were written answers from a poll asking students to use only nouns to describe what St. Mary’s meant to them. However, it was through this project that Patterson learned that communication about public art and the community’s access to it is vastly important. Non-art students were dissatisfied in how the wall was controlled and how not everyone could participate, and Patterson took this knowledge into account when developing the concept of the Anne Arundel mural.

This year, Patterson set up three days, Oct. 24, 26, and 27, when students could express how they feel about the school through the mural. Senior art student Hannah Sturm said that “the project is a great way for me to explore public and interactive art,” and that it “is just another way for me to engage in the community and gain experience.” The purpose behind the mural is to engage the community and use the ideas of the staff, students and faculty to create something that will embody what SMCM is and means to the those who live, study, and work here.

Patterson believes that “mural projects can create a dialogue for people to engage in critical thinking and to interact with history and culture.”  St. Mary’s College has a history of trying to incorporate the community into its academics and values public service; this is being continued through Patterson’s class.

Artist Spotlight: Rose Davidson

You’ve seen her around campus, the tall first-year with the pink-tinted hair. Rose Davidson, a Studio Art major, is looking forward to a future career in architecture, graphic design, or some other related field.

A graduate of Charles H. Flowers High School in Capitol Heights, Davidson has wanted to be an artist from a very young age. “I’ve always been extremely interested in art,” she said. “My grandmother is also an artist and I’ve always looked up to her, even when I was little.” Her preferred mediums are ink and charcoal, which are difficult to erase and make her hands messy, something she likes. “People think art is something easy,” Davidson said, “but it takes a lot of hard work to create art, at least the kind of art that I create.”

She is looking to expand to other mediums, and is planning to graduate with a minor in computer science. “Minoring in computer science will help me become more familiar with using software and being more comfortable with using a computer alongside my art.” Davidson hopes computers will play a big part in her future “with graphic design, hopefully working together with other businesses or perhaps even starting my own business or firm.”

For now, though, Davidson is has found a new source of inspiration here at St. Mary’s. “I was thinking about maybe focusing on modes of transportation here on campus, because you have all these different ways of getting around St. Mary’s. You have people on bicycles and scooters, and there’s even a guy on a unicycle. So I’ve been thinking about submitting something with that theme to Avatar. That would be nice.” So in a future issue of Avatar, look out for Davidson’s drawings of St. Mary’s students on the go. Who knows, she may even get inspired by you!

Artist Spotlight: Colby Caldwell

With two shows open in Washington, D.C. and well-received reviews from The Washington Post, Associate Professor of Art Colby Caldwell continues a series of successes in photography, mixing the digital and film-based worlds into a cohesive presentation of art.

Arriving at St. Mary’s for the first time in 2002 on a one-year contract from Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., Caldwell entered the art department an already established photographer.

He has been presenting work since 1988, and within seven years of being hired for a tenure-track professorship at the College has shown works at the Hemphill Gallery in D.C., Paragraph Gallery in Kansas City, and Goodyear Gallery at Dickinson College.

Caldwell was not always on a direct path to the world of art. At Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, Caldwell was on his way to earning a bachelor’s degree in history, more specifically 20th century European history (and even more specifically, the history of Germany and Russia leading up to World War II). During his senior work, however, he “caught the art bug” when looking at photographs of the time period.

“I got fascinated by documentary war photographs,” said Caldwell in an interview with The Point News. “Pretty soon I was writing and presenting more of the photographs of the time than the history itself, and my adviser suggested a different field of study.”

After taking pictures of his college’s band and enjoying it immensely, he shifted to the world of photography, leaving behind his bachelor’s degree eight credits short of completion.

Caldwell is currently featuring two shows in Washington, D.C., both encompassing the same body of work. “Gun shy”, at the Hemphill Gallery, shows Caldwell’s images of shotgun shells, abandoned duck blinds, bird remains, and feathers, all found on his own Jesuit property in St. Mary’s County.While recently purchased by the State of Maryland, the property has not been changed much since its establishment in the mid-17th century.

“[Gun shy] is more narrative-oriented, telling a story as a body of work,” said Caldwell. “It’s about the state of photography right now, which is a balance between film and digital-based media.”

“Spent”, showing images from the same body of work with a focus on how the shotgun shells have deteriorated over time, is being presented at Civilian Art Projects in Washington, D.C. Both shows represent 10 years of development of the project “small game,” also presented at Hemphill in 2007. A production based on this work, titled gun shy, is 76 pages and includes color photography images, and writings by Frank Goodyear, Ferdinand Protzman, Joe Lucchesi, Jayme McLellan, and Bernard Welt.

Caldwell lives on the farmhouse property with his two dogs, Smalls and Poe.

Rebecca Hall Gives Lecture About Travels in Southeast Asia

Spending over a year in Southeast Asia, trekking through remote villages with no real idea of where to go sounds like something out of “Man vs. Wild.” But this is not a reality TV show, it’s the real life journey of Dr. Rebecca Hall, who spent time researching Buddhist art throughout the region.

Overall, Hall spent 11 months in Thai and Laos and four months in Cambodia working on her dissertation about Buddhist art, particularly textile banners hung in monasteries. She spoke last February about these banners, however this time she focused on her journey and the connections she made with locals.

Her passion for these banners began not through visiting as a tourist but through her discovery of a book called “Textiles and the Tai Experience in Southeast Asia.” She read about banners hung in Buddhist monasteries, which took her interest.  “I love when art and religion intersect,” she said.

Three to four years after the discovery she was off to Asia, unsure if the banners still existed. She knew how to speak Thai, Lao and a little bit of Khmer (the language spoken in Cambodia).

“I wandered around looking for art,” Hall said, summarizing her travels in the three countries. She wandered through villages, mountains, rivers and tested out public transportation.

“At times, I asked myself, ‘Rebecca, what are you doing?’” said Hall.

However, the beauty of the country trumped her doubts. “When I discovered that there is no uniform architecture is when I fell in love with my research,” Hall said. “The most important thing in my research was the people.”

She met monks, novices (young monks), weavers, seamstresses and just regular people, all who gave her insight into the creation and meaning of the banners. She learned that even though they are Buddhist, people that hang these banners are concerned with going to heaven. The banners represent a ladder or way to heaven.

“I hate it when people ask if they’re really Buddhist if they’re worried about Heaven,” said Hall. “To me, [the banners] are Buddhist because they are hung in a Buddhist monastery.”

Hall’s journey taught her about the deep connection the people of these countries have with their religion. She also appreciated beauty in all pieces of art, no matter who the artist.

“Beauty was the thing I took away most,” she said.

The crowd was small but they were receptive to her story. Senior Nemesis Zambrano, who is currently working on an SMP about Buddhist art, especially enjoyed it.  “I really enjoyed [her lecture] due to her enthusiasm about her work,” Zambrano said. “It gave me flashbacks of when I visited China, Vietnam and Thailand during sophomore year.”

Hall currently works at the Walters Art Museum as the Mellow Curatorial Fellow of Asian Art. She compiles research about Southeast Asian art and artifacts.

Economics professor Ho Nguyen arranged the event even though he had “no prior knowledge about Buddhist art.” In two weeks he has arranged for another speaker, Alezandra Russel, to come and talk about teenage prostitution in Thai and her organization “Urban Light” that helps teenage male prostitutes. It will be held on September 20 at 4:15 in the Library, room 321.

Traveling Exhibit Aims to Break Down Boundaries

Students walking by Boyden Gallery in the last few weeks may have noticed a new exhibit being housed in the gallery entitled “Between Fences.” Between Fences is a Smithsonian Institute traveling exhibit that has been touring Maryland since September 2010.

Michael S. Glaser, Professor Emeritus, wrote a letter introducing the exhibit in which he describes it as “[an exhibit] designed to encourage local communities to consider the various ways fences are experienced.”

“Local fences play a large role in how we see ourselves as members of our Southern Maryland community,” writes Glaser. He also wrote on the mission statement of the exhibit, which is to “encourage us to think more deeply about how we are defined by the fences in our lives.”

The exhibit is composed of numerous installations concerning fences, both metaphorically and physically, and how those around the Southern Maryland community are breaking down fences and communicating.

Glaser wrote, “Local exhibits will embrace a rich mosaic of diverse groups, such as, the Patuxent River Keeper, the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, Daughters of Abraham, Calvert Marine Museum, Walden Sierra, the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, and the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions, to name a few.”

Each participant set up an installation to be in the gallery as a way to explain how their organization works to break down fences.

Most of the installations utilized pictures and information about their organization to express how they were breaking down fences, but some took it even further and used other forms of art to express themselves.

The installation “And They All fELL Down: English Language Learners in U.S. Schools, by Katy Arnett and the Members of the Student Education Association,” created large, colored puzzle pieces which each held a fact about English Language Learners in the Unites States education system.

The Walden group’s “Air it Out: A Clothesline Project,” displayed artistic t-shirts as a way to express the fences faced by those who have been victims of abuse.

While each group had smaller installations which they had creative control over, the center of the exhibit holds large information concerning fences and their history in the United States.

These posters show fences as they have evolved in utilization and material throughout the United States.