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Arts Review: Corinne May Botz

I don’t usually do things on campus because I’m most likely busy working, doing homework, or drawing, but while looking through my emails, I saw one of the “This week at Lesley” announcements, and decided to click on it. While looking through it I noticed something that caught my attention: an artist and photographer, Corinne May Botz, was coming to Lesley to talk about her work. I admit I didn’t know who she was, but I try to go to anything art-related because I’m a graphic design major and art is kind of, well, my thing. I went to her talk not really expecting anything that would make me really go “wow”… but her art did exactly that.

When I walked into the University Hall Amphitheater, she had a slideshow of her photos on display. When more people began to come in, she began to speak. Her photos have been categorized as “creepy”: old dolls, dark passageways with little light shining through them, windows with silhouettes of lamps, and monochromatic colors. Now I absolutely love creepy things; I didn’t even know the mere subject of her talk besides photography, because the description in that Lesley email was vague. But I absolutely love things that are paranormal, creepy, odd, spooky, you name it.  Botz even had a book of photos that she wrote in 2010 called “Haunted Houses,” which showed many a creepy photos she had taken in her career.

I found her presentation very informative and quite fascinating; there was a small section where she talked about doll house furniture and how she took photos of them in dark angles to make the photos appear more realistic. Then she started to talk about murder…which related to her 2004 book, “The Nutshell Study of Unexplained Deaths.”

Overall, I this was a good talk. Sure, the subject matter was kind of strange, but that’s okay sometimes. As a speaker, Botz seemed like she was definitely having a good time explaining her art to the audience and talking about it. She stood at the podium, explaining every photograph that showed up on the big screen, and she seemed quite friendly despite the fact that her photos were morbid and strange. But sometimes the strangest people are the most fascinating people. She didn’t seem nervous at all (perhaps she has given this type of presentation before), and I could tell that she was definitely proud of the art she had been making.

Every time a new image came onto the screen, she would look to it over her shoulder, then back to the audience, before talking about it and giving an explanation about why she took a photo of what she took a photo of. Some of her reasons were typical like “I liked the way this line of light contrasts against this dark wall” or “the way the silhouettes look in the window looks rather nice next to the color of the curtains”, which I totally understood. There were times where she would look out into the audience to see if they were still paying attention, but that was kind of useless in a dark room– when you present in the dark, if you have slides, you usually cannot see people’s faces out in the audience. But, again, that’s okay sometimes. Everyone makes mistakes.

I liked how she was very enthusiastic about her work and seemed quite passionate about it. It isn’t often that you see people embracing their artwork; or at least I don’t see it. I have many friends who just brush off their art as “no one will ever like this” (I’ve even been there, I think that’s just a thing artists go through). Perhaps when Botz was starting out, she too thought something along the lines of “wow, that creepy tree looks really cool, but if I take a photo of it, what can I do with it? Sell it? No, who would want a picture of a creepy tree?” but that’s the thing. There is a market for everything, as distributed by the fact that Corrine even composed several books full of creepy photographs.

Another thing she did that I liked was that no matter how weird her projects were, she seemed to stay positive and quite proud, as, well, because it was something that she made and she was quite happy with. I find it easier to give a more effective talk when you know a lot about the topic you are discussing. And given how effective her talk was, I was very disappointed that the audience was small. If more people had attended, I am certain this was a presentation that would have been memorable for them.

Art can also take many forms. It can be drawing, painting, photography, video, music, even cooking is art. And all of those things you can either be good or bad at. There’s no in between. Now, sure, people can think your art is bad, but that doesn’t mean it is. Surely there’s someone in the world who doesn’t like creepy dolls and would absolutely hate Corinne May Botz’s talk. But that’s okay. It’s impossible to please everybody. The only thing that really mattered for me was whether she held my interest: she did. And as for whether I found her talk interesting, yes, I did.

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