Why I am super glad I decided not to drop my art history class

ZOE PEARCE ‘20

SPECIAL TO THE DENISONIAN

When I returned to campus after a relaxing winter break, I opted for an art history course that piqued my interest: “Modern Art and Visual Culture.”

I liked that the course would focus on late 19th century French Art… Manet, Gaugain and Van Gogh would be studied in depth.

I was thrilled when I scored a spot in this class after a particularly hec- tic and competitive class registration process.

On the first day, I noticed the room was full and searched the room for fa- miliar faces…zero.

As class was about to start, a girl I knew walked in and I was relieved to see another freshman.

Within the first couple weeks, I could tell this class was going to be much more demanding than I had imagined.

And while my only freshman friend had dropped the course, I decided to stick with it and hope for the best.

The class changed dramatically after the midterm.

My teacher assigned everyone in the class an artist to become.

We would come into class each day thinking and acting like our assigned artist.

Each student would go before the class and express our artist’s views while presenting a painting.

I panicked, doubting my ability. My assigned artist was a disappointment. John Singer Sargent.

I had no idea who he was.

Flustered, I frantically read articles about Sargent and found him compelling but complicated.

Noted for portraits, he also worked with impressionists Monet and Degas.

Sargent was difficult to pin down: was he academic or impressionist? He fit both categories but I had to choose one.

At this point, I seriously considered dropping. I nervously presented my first painting, and was told to narrow my perspective.

Frustrated, I went to my professor’s office hours. She told me I had to decide for myself and stick with my stance.

My professor easily could have told me which to choose, but she pushed me to think independently and be decisive.

For my second presentation, I identified Sargent as academic. I was bombarded with critiques from other artists in the room.

As other academics were attacking me, I noticed that the impressionists were expressing admiration for my work.

After class, I felt confused, but my professor, Dr. Clark, told me she was impressed by my presentation.

I was thrilled! This was a significant turning point for me.

On the last day of class, our final presentation involved a mock art exhibition.

We invited friends and I spoke confidently about Sargent’s art.

I displayed Sargent’s work alongside the impressionists.

It was an exhilarating, powerful experience. By the end of this course, I was so glad I didn’t drop it.

My professor ’s teaching method was unique and impactful. My advice to anyone considering dropping a stressful course is: give it a chance.

This course was HARD, but it was one of the most fulfilling classes I’ve taken at Denison.

I learned to persevere. Stepping out of my comfort zone helped me challenge myself and learn, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of an opportunity like this.

Zoe Pearce is an English major from Buffalo, New York.