200 Days in the Life of the College

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Art from mattresses, yes — but nothing soft and comfy

By Allison Eck ’12

Glance into the List Art Center and you’ll see what appears to be a burly man slumped in a chair. His name is Junior, and he’s Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Cindy Tower’s handmade dummy. Tower is having students in her Introduction to Drawing course create and outfit their own dummies.

Earlier in September, 30 used mattresses from residence halls were hauled to Tower, who instructed her students to attack them with razor blades and think about how to transform them. Once the dummies are complete, it’s up to the students to figure out creative ways to interact with them. Tower suggests double dates or sit-in protests. “While they are learning, they’re participating in collaboration and performance art,” says Tower, who likens the work to absurdist theatre. “I think some of the students didn’t consider that art can cross over into other disciplines. But with this project, they’re also learning about sustainability and community.”

Laura Gilson ’12 is making her dummy into an old-fashioned woman. “My grandmother gave me some of her mother’s attire for the project, but given the high level of creativity encouraged in the class, who knows what else she will turn out to be?” she says.

Tower herself often paints in urban areas that require her to hire a bodyguard. When she doesn’t have an actual bodyguard with her, she brings Junior — and her dog, Buster — for protection. In effect, the dummy’s presence shapes how Tower interacts with her environment while she’s engaged in her craft. She wants students to develop that same sense of how their art can affect their environment. “Through collaboration in art, they can say things they couldn’t say as a soloist,” she says.