That Questionable Art School Party

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At my last job, I was the only employee that had gone to an art college. I’m sure this wasn’t hard to discern; I was the only person there who could tell you what the Fluxus Movement or Golden Ratio was. Instead of embracing my former education, abundant with tests of patience from Intro to Sculpture and overall conceptual art BS in every course, my new coworkers threw serious shade at my BFA and experiences.

“Your college experience was probably just a bunch of stupid “hipster experiences.” My co­‐worker Kenneth blurted, while toting his known “Associates Degree in Computer Sciences” like a freaking Oscar.
“Art school was pretty awesome: like Steve Buschemy awesome.” I replied.
Kenneth just stared incredulously like I had spoken in tongues to him. Clueless to my reference and not enjoying my version of the awesome meter, I returned his stare briefly, following with a “One Second!” hand motion and went fumbling around my desk pretending to have a sudden duty to answer a silent telephone.
Driving home from work I contemplated Kenneth’s narrow­‐minded remark. Had I ever had any “hipster” experiences at school? After going through stills of moments throughout the years of school in my head, the recollection of one night stuck out from many similar experiences. Yes. Although, not “hipster-ish,” I did have one pretty stupid experience; one that had even made me question art school altogether.
As a freshman, I met a lot of interesting people. Those that used their own vomit as a painting media, or had sworn off color and only believed in black and white, and even a guy who wore only an orange prisoner’s jumpsuit for an entire year. Somehow, I made my two great friends Bailey and Kira, early on. With our first quarter came partying at the same four houses, and after the cops had shut all of them down, our cycle of going out party hopping until 3am only to end our nights with pizza and instant eater’s remorse came to a screeching halt.
On a dismal Saturday night mid­‐quarter, Kira got a text from her friend from home Victor, a third year illustration major at our school. We’d been invited to a party at a new house. We quickly got ready and loaded ourselves into the back of Victor’s car that had blasting metal. We arrived at an old house in a cheaper part of town and from the looks of things it was far from an Andrew W.K. type party and one notch above a faint and ironic “awesome.” After passing through a backyard maze heavy with gray smoke clouds and a ton of people dressed similarly in all black, dark wash denim, and army green anoraks systematically smoking cigarettes in the backyard, we made our way to an empty kitchen that was haphazardly dirty with a large American Flag hanging on the wall next to a retro Fifties style refrigerator. Upon further investigation, we found that the fridge was empty except for one tiny bottle of Sriracha. Victor left to go say hey to friends in an adjoining room while we searched for a bottle opener. Bailey and Kira popped open their 40s and I opened the zero calorie seltzer I brought (due to my severe fear of the Freshman Fifteen – which later would turn into a Freshman Negative 30) and we wandered into a living room.
Entering the living room with walls covered in amazing large and small scale paintings, we settled on a small seventies style knit top couch facing a late eighties black and white television. The television was muted and playing an odd Japanese show that was a mixture between a game show and softcore porn with naked white women as hosts and participants. Trying our best to not to look at the TV, Bailey recognized a fully tattooed guy in the corner standing with a friend who looked like a much shorter and more folky version of a very high Matthew Morrison. They were semi social and our conversation consisted of droll on tattoos and branded clothing.
Shortly thereafter, the three of us decided to stand at the opposite side of the living room to hopefully to connect with different people. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to connect: talking about how a plethora of bands named after one word nouns and recent local exhibitions with agreeable, but still feigning disdain types, we ended up just talking amongst the three of us back in the living room.
Victor was nowhere to be found and the small knitted couch was now full with four skeletor bodies and their 30 rack of Miller High Life. One of those seated, a girl with an intentionally messy short blonde bob and spotty red lipstick, was wearing a terrible faux cheetah fur jacket and try-­‐hard ripped dress and sipping a beer. Seated to her right was a guy wearing crop jeans, high socks, skinny blue Keds, and the tightest Hanes crewneck ever under a starter jacket emblazoned with the Chicago Bulls logo. The starter jacket guy said something about photography, to which Kira replied and a genuine conversation about photo techniques and styles of portraiture began. The girl in her commercial faux cheetah and her friend with a matching choppy black bob on her left were noticeably peeved about a conversation happening in which they couldn’t assert their seniority or relevance. They began shooting acutely timed backhanded compliments and purely sarcastic retorts to almost everything Kira and Bailey said to their fellow couch mate.
Eavesdropping their dripping pithy remarks was only interrupted every once and awhile by the sounds of a very short guy wearing a full tux rummaging through the kitchen and in the backyard a bald guy, who had definitely drove drunk to the party, wearing the American Flag from the kitchen as a cape and struggling to stand up straight while smoking. Not knowing what to do with myself, I stared off over stiff mumbling people in dark clothing at a large blue painting on one wall, sipping my seltzer for what felt like a lifetime, but was probably an hour. I started actively fantasizing that I could just nap in the corner until it was all over, when a complete non sequitur came spraying out through the smudged red lips of the Courtney Love wannabe on the couch and crashing through my dream reality, bringing me present. “I mean yeah, I should just like try to get drunk on seltzer, like what a buzz. Seriously, like how fucking precious is that?”
At this point I was pretty turned off by faux C. Love and this genuinely blank populace and in one quick exchange of glances I could tell my friends felt the same. Bailey, completely over it, swiftly announced to the entire living room that we were leaving, and turning to face the snarky blonde declared that we would be “taking beers for the road.” Bailey quickly snatched up six of the last ten High Lifes and yelled, “Everyone cool with that?” to all of the lifeless bodies in the room that were staring back at us. No one even tried to respond to the question since breathing seemed to be such an imposing task already.
Looking back, I should’ve just laughed over how we ended up in a room full of caricatures, but at the time it was pretty unsettling. How could people be so be incredibly unoriginal and distant? It led to a torturous back and forth of inner dialogue in my head over a long list of anxiety inducing topics, like whether I understood what it meant to be creative and being around creative people, whether I would ever have a creative vision that would be shared or embraced by these types of people, and even if I should be in art school. What kept me from falling into this trap of “what ifs” and transferring was the realizations that for every sixty lifeless people masquerading themselves as the de facto arts intelligencia there would be one person like Bailey, and people like Bailey were the only ones whose critiques and opinions would matter anyway.
story /  Lexie Coon


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