(Good evening, friends!!! I was hit with a lot of work outside the OS realm and am returning tonight after handling those tasks!)
First semester was coming to an end and 1976 which had turned out to be an exceptional year was near its finale, as well. Maria and I had each produced a lot of work in the past three and a half months and just received our final critiques in our studio and liberal arts classes.
For my class in package design I had transitioned through many ideas for a milk carton design. What I ended up with was a modular design that allowed for a interesting repeat pattern when the cartoons were lined up. In addition, the artwork of farm-related illustrations could be cut out and played with as toys by youngsters. In a pre-digital age this seemed practical, maybe not so much in the year 2012!
I set up the various cartons for a photo shoot in my apartment that was part of my final presentation.
Earlier in the semester when my designs featuring farm scenes started to take shape Maria said it only affirmed her opinion about my being a country boy despite four years of city living in Providence.
The final concept was a variety of farm images that could be cut from the carton and played by kids. Still feeling a little like a kid I figured the concept would mostly appeal to really young children.
Milk carton sketches from early in the semester:
The final prototypes showing lots of staining from the rubber cement used 35 years ago. Whereas today it would be a simple matter to print the artwork on an inkjet printer, in 1976 when I put this project together I had to spend hours producing photo silkscreen prints in enough quantity to make all of the cartons needed for the photo shoot:
Black and white photos I shot in my apartment of the final milk cartons. This was part of my final presentation along with the prototype cartons:
The following two photos give a sense of what the cartons would look like in the supermarket. Each carton had to be made by hand with my printed graphics applied after they were finished being constructed:
Graphic Design III was the class that had the assignment related to "Gotta Match?" which was featured earlier in this series. I produced an elaborate photo silk screen poster utilizing photos taken earlier in the semester including the one below. Unfortunately, these many years later the poster could not be located to be photographed for this post. The photo below was not used in the final poster but remains one of my favorite photos from the process leading to my final piece. The final critique was relatively good for the poster I had designed.
Weaving class had been the most artsy craftsy type of course I had taken in all of my four years at school. While most of my classmates had produced various articles of clothing for their various pieces in weaving class I took a different approach and used the loom as a way to make one-of-a-kind pieces of artwork. To enhance the fine arts look of the pieces I spent quite a lot of time carefully cutting black mat board for each woven composition. I wasn't sure what my teacher's reaction would be to this. I was really happy when she told the class she really liked my approach to weaving as a fine art and my written evaluation echoed that. All of the worries I had about not having enough work for the final critique evaporated upon hearing the positive review of my work.
Below are all of the final pieces I produced for the final critique except for one piece that was shown in the previous post. I had extra weavings of several of these and one was earmarked to be a Christmas present for Maria--number 5 of the group shown here:
Mass Media was the liberal arts class that both Maria and I had taken together. We were sure the teacher had mentioned at the start of the semester that there would be a paper to write for the class. With the class now complete there was not a term paper to write, so that was one chunk of work we never had to figure into our schedules for the semester. By the middle of December we had both amassed a huge number of notes taken both in class and from various books the teacher told us to take a look at. I felt I had learned quite a lot in this class, plus I really enjoyed the trip downtown to tour Channel 12's studios and offices.
I was really happy when I received my teacher's evaluation in my mailbox. He seemed to single me out as the most thoughtful in the group until I read Maria's evaluation and saw that he also singled her out for praise, too. I said to her that perhaps he told everyone in the class they were the most thoughtful just to make all of us feel like we were special!
All of my notes from my Mass Media class plus the original manila folder. The folder was labeled in my scribbled handwriting with the abbreviation of Understanding Media, plus with the full title of the class, Mass Media. Understanding Media related to Marshall McLuhan's book by the same name that I read during the semester which was not required reading but gave me a leg up on the class:
My degree project had progressed throughout the semester with a lot of brainstorming, but I still had not zeroed in what I was going to produce as a physical entity to present in late April as the final piece. By contrast, Maria was way ahead of me with her degree project having spent so much time in the fall photographing roadkill for her degree project photo thesis. She was going to elaborate extremes to enlarge each photo with careful attention to super sharp resolution, density, and contrast, etc. I still had plenty of time coming up in the next four months to pull the project together.
Ishmael was a joint Brown University/RISD journal of creative work ranging from poetry to photography. Somehow we never saw any announcements asking for submissions of artwork for we surely would have each tried to get some of our pieces in the publication. Any publication of this fine quality would make for a nice portfolio piece when he hit the job market. We'd have to keep our eyes open in the future for similar opportunities.
With just a few days left before I headed home I needed to buy Christmas presents for my parents, brother, and grandparents. Shopping for books at the Brown University bookstore on Thayer Street which was a ten minute walk from my apartment was the best solution for me. The evening before my teacher, Malcolm, who had a busy design studio downtown, hired another student and myself to help out at his annual holiday party. We each were paid $20 and my primary task was carving the turkey. The $20 was added to what I had to spend at the bookstore. The party was great and I saw two of my friends from graphics who had graduated the year before since they had come to town to attend the party. Among a host of topics we talked a bit about how the work world was treating both of them so far.
Below: the Brown University bookstore on Thayer Street as seen recently in Google streetview and looking nearly the same as it did in late 1976 with the exception of the summertime tree foliage:
It was now December 22nd and looking at my calendar I added up 122 days since Maria and I ran into each other at the school post office in late August. Further calculations indicated that it had been 89 days since September 25th when we had traveled to New Haven to hear my brother's band play and our relationship transformed that night to girlfriend/boyfriend status. Outside of Maria's roommate, Sue, there were few in school that knew we were together. Mostly, I surmised no one really was interested what our situation was. Everyone at school was so busy dealing with handling school assignments and their own lives and relationships.
It was also just at this time in December that I procured a full-sized mattress and box spring set from the hallway one flight down from my apartment. One of the architectural students who lived directly below me had left the set leaning against one wall for the last three weeks along with a homemade drafting desk. After so many times of passing by the pieces I finally left a note saying I'd be interested in putting the furniture in my apartment if they didn't want it. Within half a day the note was replied to with a comment similar to: "Help yourself, it's yours."
Normally, I wouldn't have been interested in a used mattress and boxspring, but this set looked clean and it appeared to have been manufactured in the last ten years and the architect who left in the hall was a clean living type of person. I was surprised they didn't want to keep it. No more having to sleep on the cot I brought from home or to sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag when Maria stayed over and slept on the cot...we were moving up in the world!
Maria stayed at her apartment the night of the 22nd due to last minute packing and preparations for leaving, but we did have dinner at my apartment and it was obvious there was a new bed in the apartment because suddenly some of the apartment's real estate had just been lost to the larger bed. We joked about the bed and drafting table. I claimed to have left a petri dish next to the mattress for a week and no bed bugs had landed in it to reproduce. She wondered how much action the bed had seen and I said probably not much or he would have kept it as some macho good luck charm.
Regarding the used drafting table, I said perhaps he was getting mediocre critiques on his architectural designs by his teachers and thought the table had bad karma. Time would tell how it worked out for me and my designs. I put the table by my west-facing window that had the interesting view of downtown Providence.
I mentioned, as we were cooking up a simple dinner, that we had not been apart since September 25th and how much I'd miss her during the vacation which was eleven days in length. She handed me a paper that had a schedule of when we could call each other. She said we could talk after 11 PM on a series of nights that went roughly like: December 24th, 25th, 27th, 29th, 31st, and 1st. We would alternate who called and the cost would be kept down by calling so late in the evening. I was impressed by her planning for the phone calls. In those days before flat rate calling plans the Bell system telephone companies were reaping lots of money from loved ones separated by geography. On the 2nd we both be enroute back to Providence with both of us arriving around 3-4:00 in the afternoon.
Besides having my wrapped present of the woven piece for Maria I gave her one of my photograms from freshman year which had multiple images of my hand. "Give the lady a hand" I joked as I gave it to her.
Maria handed me a photo that had been taken the year before in September in Nantucket during her time off from school when she visited her friend who lived on island. On the back she had written: Think summer! She said she besides wintersession coming up in January and our second semester after that, she was constantly thinking about our life together after graduation. Of course, that was my thought process, as well.
The next morning, the 23rd, she called me as she was leaving her apartment. I would meet her along Benefit Street as she headed to Union Station to catch her train on the first leg of her trip home. Experience had shown it was around ten minutes from the time she called me until the time she arrived in the vicinity of my building. Allowing for a duffle bag she was carrying I figured a little longer on this particular morning and it turned out to be around fifteen.
I took the duffle bag off her hands as we headed down to the station. It was no more than a ten minute walk. Due to concerns about all of the Christmas travelers she had purchased her Amtrak ticket a few days earlier to ensure having a seat to Boston.
There were no snowstorms that day and the mercury was slowly climbing to the predicted high of a few degrees above freezing. Inside the station Maria sat down for a minute on a bench and opened her duffle bag. She pulled out a wrapped present for me that looked and felt a lot like it might be framed artwork. With the presentation over we headed out one of the back doors and waited on the platform for the Amtrak diesel locomotive and railcars to arrive from the west. Since my four years of travel home had been on the bus I really had no feel for Amtrak's success rate for on-time arrivals in Providence. As it turned out the train was close to its arrival time and our conversation turned to one long hug and kiss. It would be a long eleven days starting at that moment.
It was a little after ten o'clock and my bus left around noon so I had a few hours left to go back to my apartment and finish packing. My plants were all in plastic bags that would act as mini-greenhouses. The refrigerator was cleaned out of any food that might spoil. In fact, the fridge was rarely full of much food at all.
I headed out the apartment door for the last time in the year of 1976 at around 11:00 and headed downtown. The last order of business before heading to the bus terminal was paying my current gas bill at the downtown office of the Providence Gas Company. $4.45 for the month considering all of the dinners cooked at my place...not bad at all! Come 1977 there would be plenty more dinners to cook with my partner.
As I walked some seven or eight blocks to the bus station a wave of nostalgia and fondness for Providence hit me once again as had happened before so many other trips out of the city. Even though I always looked forward to going home, there was so much that I had come to love about this old New England city.
More stories to come and the previous installments of the series leading up to this point are here:
Art school senior year chronicles:
Roadkill brought us closer together:
All photographs (except the photo of the Brown Bookstore) and text are © 2012 by B+Co., Inc.