Right now, a slowly shrinking number seems to be on my mind all the time. Today it is 35. Tomorrow, 34. As I inch closer and closer to graduation day, plans for the future seem to be calling my name, louder and louder as that number disappears. I am finding there are many ways to face graduation fearlessly, and my current tactic is networking. I am talking to everyone I can, getting advice and my name out there. This week, I turned to recent graduate and former Hand/Eye writer Nicole Lane. What started out as two friends catching up turned into poignant comments on topics that we as a blog have been wrestling with all semester. She gave me some amazing advice and it would be a crime by me to not share it with all of you.
During her time at Guilford, Nicole was a photo major with a deep passion for writing. Through classes with Kathryn Shields and writing for Hand/Eye, her former dream of being a writer and her artistic passion collided. Now that the North Carolina native has picked up and moved to Chicago, she is able to write and photograph in a community where art, as she says “basically falls at your feet.” As a young artist and writer, she considers her new home to be a dream, filled with opportunities to explore and find inspiration, particularly with her writing. For the moment, Nicole is a contributing writer for two art-based webzines, Parallel Planets and Gapers Block, as well as resident “social media extraordinaire” for arts center Corks and Brushes. That’s where word of advice #1 comes in: “Try to apply to something new everyday.” She admits, “The internet might not be the greatest thing in the world but take it, run with it, use it as an advantage.” Whether it is applying for jobs or submitting art to studios, we are in a time where sending an email or two can go a long way.
Nicole is following this first piece of advice in her artistic practice as well. In post-grad land, her work has only continued to flourish. Her subjects are looked at from a voyeuristic perspective and every piece feels a bit like a found object. She shoots with both color and black and white film, but her continued passion is alternative processing. Up on her website she has a few different methods on display, but her work with painted caffenol is special. By revealing the exposed image through brush strokes, this method embraces her voyeuristic point of view both visually and conceptually (one example shown below). Nicole has found post-grad to allow for a lot more experimentation with her work. School was not the best place for her to explore her sexuality and self-portraits, particularly when it came to critque. “The whole ‘selfie’ bullshit really dampened some of my experience because there was always someone who commented on the fact that I took a picture of myself (AND exposed my boob, oh no!) Now, I don’t have to worry about that anymore and I have the ability to explore my own body and my own identity freely.” What’s really exciting is her slow acceptance into galleries in Chicago. A little risk taking, both in her practice and by putting herself out there, is getting her far. That is her piece of advice #2: take risks in your practice, be bold, and get out there!
Nicole is making strides out in the big scary “real world” and she knows how exceptional that is only one year after graduation. “I know that some art students find it difficult to adapt to the outside world once they graduate due to the lack of critiques, an artistic family and a Maia Dery shaking her finger in your face telling you to be more ‘assertive’.” Diving head first and taking risks has been her motto and most of the reason for her success, but she recognizes that Guilford missed out on some big ways to prepare her and she had some catching up to do the summer after graduation. “Guilford didn’t teach me how to make a website, how to get my art out in the world or tell me that I should get business cards. I didn’t really even know how to write an artist statement.” These elements are where many of our art students struggle post-Guilford, but when it comes to social necessities, like fitting in to a community and embracing independence, we thrive. So you heard it here, Guilford student, advice #3: get yourself out there, especially as an artist. Buy business cards, create a web presence, and make yourself and your art seen.
While she is a huge advocate of getting yourself out there when it comes to jobs in post-grad life, Nicole would say it’s even more important for students to do that NOW. “Y’all need to get OUT of Guilford and out and around IN Greensboro. Take a step outside of the campus and explore North Carolina before you graduate. I don’t care if you have a test tomorrow. I REALLY don’t care whose having a party tonight. If you don’t have a car, ask a friend who does.” Take the time while you still can to take the adventures you want to take, make the mistakes you need to make, and create memories and experiences that will shape you. Plunge in head first, and maybe one day pass along these words of advice to another nervous and excited pre-graduate.
To see all of her work, visit Nicole’s website at www.snicolelane.com.