The Wall: A Public Reading

Merging art, from page to stage

Professor Gina Shaffer and Faculty Advisor Charles H.M. Foster. Photo credit: Beau Hein

The wall publication has been our cross-campus anthology for many enriching years, and this year’s installment continues a vital artistic presence on campus.

This past Thursday, students and relatives came together for a public reading in HS 145. For the unlucky many that were unable to attend, here’s a quick recap of the night:

The show began with three black-clad dancers making their way through the aisles, arching and twisting to “Vogue” by Madonna. The lights were up, and the beige walls made the experience feel intimate and lighthearted. The emphasis of this, as stated by event organizer Charles Foster, is to show how we are all in some way “striking a pose” and presenting ourselves as media to consume.

After the kinetic display, Professor Gina Shaffer and Faculty Advisor Charles H.M. Foster begin the opening pleasantries. The hard work of the staff and workers involved, the students’ and artists’ experience and many cooperative thanks. The motif for the evening: viewing life through a lens of hyperreality that dulls waking life, creating a need to outperform.

Our first reader is Charles Foster himself, stepping away from the announcer’s podium to the artist’s throne in front of the crowd. He wears a deep maroon suit and bold red-framed glasses. While reciting his poetry, “Dreaming While I’m Awake”, Foster’s voice is deep and sorrowful, accepting of all that should anger him. The room lies somber and heavy.

In an atmospheric turn, Melanie Nuccio takes to the stage with her charcoal piece titled “Home”. She has a young voice and wise hands excellently practiced to create a life-size self-portrait in willow charcoal. Projected above her on a screen is a digital copy of her work, where a woman sits in a corner, cross-legged, on a stool. She is inspecting a small house, holding it up to the light that pools in from the right side of the canvas. The shadows thrown against the left wall are crisp and clean and leads to a very balanced image. Nuccio describes her work as a look into the concept of home.

Another turn of emotion: Susan Namazi-Austin arrives onstage like the Patchwork Girl of Oz. With a tie-dyed hair bow and a batik-inspired shirt, Austin showcases a sculpture that feels similar to her. “Visions of a Diplomat” is a mixed-media dedication to her father, who was a diplomat for the Kingdom of Iran. The base is a chair, and upon the backrest rises 19 frames, each hand-sanded and painted with milk paint. Set inside each frame are her father’s drawings, delicate and emotive. Austin relays to the audience how many of her father’s drawings hold opposing themes, like finding hope after apocalypse and a gentle, differing love. In the end, Austin draws attention to her father in the audience. They both stand to a rousing applause.

After a brief intermission, we are brought back down to earth in a sobering poem by Aiden Mitchell, whose long dark waves of hair tremble as she recites a poem about her mother, titled “Shadow in my Mind.”

Brandi Michele Ortiz and Amanda Franklin take this baton of parental strife and run with it: straight into a short story about gaining freedom after a housefire. Ortiz’s red dress is a prelude to her story, “Flick,” and is the brightest thing in the beige-painted room. After an artist’s introduction, she steps down to allow Franklin to read. Franklin wears a white dress, fitting for the smoke from the house fire. The two storytellers stand like twins in the tragic story.

Candace Meridith’s illustration emphasizes the story “Flick,,” and so shares its title. Meridith’s “Flick” is a negative-space drawing of a lighter. It the image, the flame burns black, and the glow shines white, illuminating a hand that holds the lighter. The concentric flames feel dramatic and bleak at the same time and is a fitting companion to the short story.

In a semi-theatrical performance, Dahlia Colak, a current UCI drama and music student stands with award-winning Saddleback speech team member Mason Knittle. Together, taking turns, they read “Playboy of the Modern World.” Written by Colak, the story involves a young adult spending his first sexual encounter with an escort. Filled with small talk and humorous insight from Knittle, the duo turn this uncomfortable exchange into something much more than that.

The cover of this issue was drawn by previous student Devin Lillemon. Her inspiration to draw this dramatic image came from her experiences with social media- how it changes her friends, and more importantly, how it affects herself as an artist. Lillemon further explains the intent to make the picture uncomfortable, and show how social media has become the new Big Brother, one we were supposed to be afraid of.

The night ended with an exit speech from Professor Shaffer and Advisor Foster, thanking all the writers and viewers for their presence. As the showcase closed, however, Foster turned our attention to the screens above the podium, where a live feed of the audience was displayed.

We were left with these words from the organizers: “With social media, we will all have our fifteen minutes of fame.”