Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Salvador Dalí, 1969, Printed on Mandeure paper, Gift of Richard and Georgette Auerbach Koopman, class of 1937, 1985.30.1.

This week we will be hearing from senior student docents before they graduate on Sunday. Today’s post comes from Michael Reback.  Mikey has been a docent at the Art Center for the past two years.

As May marches on, the Vassar campus comes to life — trees bloom, tulips pop up around Main Circle, and the Art Center holds events in the outdoor sculpture garden.  I always assumed these changes occurred because of the warm weather, but now I know better; in fact, Vassar comes to life every May in honor of that year’s graduating seniors.

Now that I’m one of those graduating seniors, standing on that metaphorical precipice between collegiate comfort and “the real world,” I can’t hep but reflect on the last four years.  Nostalgic reflection inevitably brings with it a hearty blend of happiness and regret, but I won’t be in Poughkeepsie much longer, so there’s no time for grieving; instead, I’m trying something new.  I’m trying to look back on the little things that I never paid enough attention to, and to keep an eye out for the ones I haven’t even noticed yet.  Yesterday, for example, I admired the silly way the tulips in Main Circle all leaned slightly to the left so as to catch optimal amounts of sun, and couldn’t help but imagine they were dancing in unison like the flowers in Alice in Wonderland.

If Vassar is a wonderland (and I would strongly argue that it is), then the Art Center is akin to the Queen’s Croquet Ground.  Okay, maybe not, because the director would never urge for the offing of anyone’s head — but in my mind, it’s the most endlessly wondrous cache of treasures on an already wondrous campus.  Here, the little things aren’t always so little:  as a student docent, I constantly discover new works of art and new histories.  Like when I discovered that Vassar has only had four professors of painting in its 150-year history, or when I found out that Agnes Claflin, once a professor in the art history department, was friends with Alexander Calder.  Then there was the time I adventitiously discovered a bundle of watercolors by John Marin while working on a term paper about — John Marin, or when the same thing happened while I was writing an essay about Walker Evans.

Of course, there was also the time that I discovered that we own a limited-edition copy of Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by my Salvador Dali.  Things just get curiouser and curiouser around here — and while I’m sad that I have to drag myself out of the rabbit hole in a matter of days, I can’t help look forward to coming back in five years and continuing my exploration of Vassar’s infinite nooks and crannies.

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