See below for our recent interview with Lauren Friedman ‘09 who started this blog: http://myclosetinsketches.com/
1. How did you get started with My Closet in Sketches? What keeps you going with it? How do you spend your time otherwise?
I started My Closet in Sketches in the middle of a creative draught - I was sick of coming home from my 9 - 5 job in the non-profit world and just watching TV. As a lifelong lover of art (and doodling!), the website was born when I made a quick sketch of an outfit I wanted to remember for the next day. I realized almost instantly that I’d never seen anything like it on the internet before, and thus, MCIS was created.
It’s been really important to me that MCIS remains a creative outlet, free of outside pressures such as making money or getting more traffic. Because it takes me over two hours to make an individual sketch, I never force it - when the inspiration strikes, the inspiration strikes.
While I started MCIS with a full-time job, I am now completely self employed - which means that I have a lot of side hustles. I illustrate every month for Lucky Magazine’s “Dear Lucky” column, I do closet consultations, I do chalk and menu art for cafes and restaurants, I teach art classes, I am working on a book (to be published in spring ’14), and I spend far too much time loitering at my best pal’s coffee shop.
hello boston area W alums and WU readers:
remember the good ole days in the pub (whether at mollys in schneider or the long red vagina that is punches alley)? lets reminisce together and meet some of these new kids on the block tomorrow at 9ish in the “lulu.” we can even have some champagne (its champagne campaign night!) as we talk about the orgy (and subsequent closing of said pub) that took place at this fine establishment circa 2007-2008 (remember that?!). we’ll have the fabulous Tuck ‘10 (@tuckneverending), Liz ‘09 (@madebyjane) and Shelly ‘08 (@shellypolitik) along with some other writers/contributors and alums (hopefully)!
hope to see you there!
With the premier of its second season, HBO show Girls is a hot button topic once more, making it nearly impossible to scroll through your facebook feed or head to the newsstand without seeing Lena Dunham’s face peering out at you. While much of the standard press continues to laud the show for its ‘raw’ portrayal of the rising generation of twenty-somethings, several articles have come to my attention that continue the discussion of racial diversity in Girls, which caused controversy last spring.
Such articles have largely been written in the wake of last week’s episode “I Get Ideas” in which Lena Dunham self consciously addresses the privilege and ignorance of her character Hannah through the character’s break up with her love interest Sandy, played by black actor Donald Glover. The general consensus of most is that Dunham tried to address the lack of diversity in Girls by creating a central black character and featuring a discussion about race, but that the character’s inclusion of seemed forced and inauthentic. This criticism has caused Judy Berman of The Atlantic to lament that American society has come to a cultural ‘impasse’ when it comes to white artists portraying people of color stating that Dunham and others can’t win because ‘if white artists don’t portray characters of color, they’re whitewashing; if they do, they’re appropriating or misrepresenting. That both criticisms are valid makes it even harder to imagine a way forward.’
As an ally and artist myself, this sentiment - that white artists are now creatively paralyzed because they can ‘do no right’ when it comes to race is frustrating and ridiculous. To me it is above all a lazy notion, which suggests that white artists everywhere throw up their hands and say ‘I tried to be inclusive but it didn’t work! I mean, what do you people want from me? I quit.’ Poor white artists! What are they to do? Well. Try harder…do better.
The reason that the inclusion of Donald Glover and the subsequent tense discussion of race during his breakup with Hannah feels unsatisfactory is because it feels like Dunham’s hand was forced by last spring’s criticism of her show. After the controversy that her show caused for being completely devoid of diversity she decided to try her hand at mixing up the homogenous cast and addressing her critics head on but was largely unsuccessful. ‘But she tried!’ you say. Yes, she tried. For that she can have a ‘Great Effort’ sticker if she wants one. But homegirl just didn’t do a good enough job to deserve a big gold star.
So what if she wants one? According to Berman, now would be the time for Dunham to throw in the towel in the face of a cultural ‘impasse’ and that certainly is one option. Dunham can go back to writing stories about the white upper middle class lifestyle that she is familiar with and many would prefer it that way. As Ta-Nehsi Coates puts it ‘I would just prefer she plug her ears and keep moving. We must tell our stories. And others must tell theirs…The first rule is to write what you know.’ Writing what you know is indeed sage advice but what if Dunham came to know something more? What if her failure at being inclusive prompted her to take a look at her existence and say ‘Whoa, why don’t I have any friends of color? Why is my creative world limited to what I personally have lived? …Shit.’ Maybe she would seek out new friends with lives very different from her own and meet people coming from different backgrounds and collaborate with them on creative projects instead of writing and speaking for faceless, imagined people of color she has never met. Maybe she could even use her own race and class privilege to get these new creative friends in the doors at HBO so they could tell their own stories. This would, of course, be the harder option and would involve a lot of stumbling and breaking down assumptions about the way the world works. This to say that there is a route around the cultural ‘impasse’ described by Berman, it might be a challenging road but it does exist.
Being an ally to people of color takes a lot of genuine, difficult, and frustrating self-work. Given that fact, I could not fault Dunham for throwing up her hands and doing as Coates suggests by returning to penning clever narratives largely based on her own small world. Sure, the show won’t be diverse but does anyone really want it to be if its going to be inauthentic? Girls is a well written and interesting show that speaks to many people. It is also problematic, but the issue with Girls isn’t that it doesn’t depict people of color. The issue is that Girls bills itself as being representative of the lives of an entire generation of young women when really it is very specifically about upper middle class white women. Even the title says it.
Last fall, Lauren Woelfel ‘13 did an excellent photography project addressing just this misnomer by featuring her diverse group of friends at Wellesley in a recreation of the Girls poster. Needless to say, her portrait rings a lot more true to the full range of those who fall into the category of ‘girl.’
The media loves to talk about Girls’ raw and honest portrayal of our twenty something generation but, lets be real, the show is only truthful for people who are upper middle class, or upper middle class and white. I myself definitely fall into the category of white and after four years of absorbing the ways of Wellesley I now culturally fall into the category of upper middle class. When I watch the show there are absolutely things that ring true for me. There are clever jokes, occasionally some hysterical ones, and some pretty sweet body activism. All of that is awesome. But you know what would be way better? If the media and everyone who adores Girls would stop talking about the show as if it is some truth bomb on young womanhood and recognize that, unless Dunham does some serious ally work, the show should change its title from ‘Girls’ to ‘Upper Middle Class White Girls’ and leave it at that.
Artemis Jenkins c/o 2012
We’ll just leave this here…
Not sure how many of you received/read the January 2013 Parent News Letter but there was one section which really bothered me.
In the Spring of 2007, I signed up for my first Africana Studies course at Wellesley. This would end up being the first of many courses I would take to study this history, my history, and would ultimately be the best course among them all. In nearly every seat in that Founders Hall seminar room sat an eager brown face (with a few eager non-brown faces sprinkled in there as well), ready to learn about Black history and ready to discover the roles that we could have in making that history known or keeping it hidden. Although it was my second semester of college, when I walked into that classroom I knew that I was finally going to receive the education that I had signed up for.
Professor Tony Martin taught me more than Black history. He taught me to think. About the hard stuff. To think about what I said before I said it. To think about what people are saying to me and how they are saying it. To think about what I read and how I read and what I choose to believe. He taught me to take a long hard look at my how I formed my perspectives, how I had come to define the truth, and he made me understand that we all have a “truth” that we believe in. A truth that drives us and shines through with every word that we speak and write. When in a disagreement, he taught me to always ask myself “what is this person’s truth? And how does their truth relate to mine?”
Professor Martin was hilarious and witty and incredibly profound and I find myself quoting him regularly to people who never met him and now never will. He’s the only professor I ever fought for, the only professor whose readings moved me to tears, the only professor who my parents know by name. He taught his students not to be afraid to let ourselves be excellent. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Tony Martin was a founding member of the Africana Studies department at Wellesley and spent 34 controversial years teaching students more about themselves than they ever knew they could and should learn. Rest in Peace Professor Martin. Your influence knows no bounds.
-Makkah Ali, Class of 2010
You can offer reflections on your experience with Professor Martin here.