In one of the pieces hanging in a new student-curated art show in Smith Union, two middle-aged people lean over a cake and a diminutive white-haired woman, helping to blow out three numbered candles, 1-0-1.
In the accompanying text, photographer Samantha Hoegle ’17 explains that the man in the photo is her father, the woman her aunt, and the small woman her 101-year-old grandmother. “101 years of caring for others and 101 years of loving life,” she writes. “In my book, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
In another photo in the new “This Is Love” exhibit, a middle-aged Taiwanese couple are smiling, but there is no physical connection or eye contact between them. Photographer Emily Shiang ’17 writes that these two are her parents. “It wasn’t love at first sight,” she explains. “To them love was loyalty. It was reliance, an intrinsic necessity when the rest of your world is oceans away.”
The show, in the Blue Gallery through April 16, is the inspiration of Sam Halpert ’20. He said that while he was impressed with the way Bowdoin College approaches sexual assault prevention, he thought the college could also address love and relationships, which almost everyone struggles with at some point or another. “There’s very little focus on healthy relationships,” he said.
Halpert, who had help with the show from Simone Rumph ’19, found an ally in Lisa Peterson, who is Bowdoin’s associate director of gender violence prevention & education, and the director of accommodation for students with disabilities. As part of her work, Peterson aspires to foster more dialogue on campus around what makes a strong, respectful relationship. After batting around ideas together, Halpert, Peterson and Rumph decided one project they wanted to do this year was stage an art show exploring students’ notions of love.
After sending out surveys and visiting art classes, the show’s organizers collected a few submissions. Next year, they hope to build on their momentum and create an even bigger show.
This year’s submissions are diverse. One photo depicts a student’s admiration for her girlfriend, another shows the tenderness between a student and his dog. Another three photos capture some of the exhilarating outdoor experiences we share with friends.
The show opens up the idea that love is diverse, and is difficult to define or categorize. Halpert added, “We have a lot of different takes on what love means.”
The organizers hope the show offers students new perspectives on love and its variety of expressions. Halpert said popular culture can skew people’s notions of healthy relationships, and Peterson said that abusive relationships are somewhat normalized in our culture. She added that schools and colleges rarely address the subject of love directly, partly under the assumption that students are learning these values at home or in their personal lives.
Halpert said he was motivated to work on the project because he appreciates Bowdoin’s culture and wanted to contribute to it. “One of the things that attracted me to Bowdoin was this intense sense of community that exists on campus and the overwhelming desire to improve the Bowdoin experience for yourself and your peers,” he said. “We can help make this a community where students feel happy and healthy and connected.”