What Does It Mean to Be a Mellon Scholar? (Part 1)

    In my quest to become a digital humanist, I’ve started to wonder: what is it like for everyone else? So over the next couple of months, I will be listening to the experiences of several Mellon scholars past, and present, to figure out what does it mean to be a Mellon Scholar?

An Artist Among Us

Cherish Joe is my first subject. A sophomore who has just started the program, she is a Studio Art major. In my quest to understand all sides of the Arts and Humanities aspect of the Mellon Scholars Program, I decided to choose Cherish first because unlike myself she is in tune with art. At the time, her sculpture “My Legs” was being displayed outside the Kruizenga museum, this is what my inquiries led to:

    Tell me about your sculpture, what does it represent?

“My Legs” is an inflatable sculpture piece. I created the piece to start a discussion on rape culture. I think my piece engages the viewer in an interesting way that connects to the idea of rape culture. When you look at the big inflatable legs, you may want to touch them, sit in between them, or interact with them in some way that you as a viewer knows is socially inappropriate. Those are “my legs.” I created them, and they belong to me. I think that’s interesting that a piece of artwork or an object on display can easily be seen as desirable but unattainable, unless consent is given. When I think of rape culture in connection to this piece, I consider the social standings involved. For example, most victims of rape culture are female. When a female is unconscious or unresponsive to the interest of a viewer, she is not seen as unattainable. Her body is at the viewer’s disposal. Rape culture goes beyond the physical act of rape. It can be seen in a magazine article that criticizes a woman for her short skirt. I only want to start the conversation with this piece about rape culture. Because I’m curious as to why there is a social barrier with a work of art, but not a human body?

    Why do you like being part of the Arts and Humanities?

I became an artist because there is a tremendous amount of responsibility that comes along with it. People who work in the humanities often have a tough time because their work involves the process of creation and redirection of society. This is why like the humanities and chose art as my medium.

I learned a lot from Cherish and her amazing sculpture. Her insights have allowed me to realize that there is so much more that comes with being a digital humanist. Like she said, there is a lot of responsibility with these fields and with time there will be new aspects to discover. Who knows what I’ll learn next time!

-Sarah Herrera