In Dr. Caesar’s AL 210, a class where students learn to create all new types of writing by enhancing their skills, students explored a new way of approaching their ideas through writing. The class visited “Do You Have Anything To Declare?” which is an exhibit at the Union where people take their passport photo and try to make it convey more of who they are. After this exhibit students were asked to create their own self portrait and write about their experiences in designing their own. Here are the stories of how they decided to create their self portraits.
“My self portrait represents my awareness of the world around me, my mistakes, and my connection to my own self. I acknowledge in my letter the ups and downs of life and why I should keep moving forward.”
Taylor Kaigler, first year Citizen Scholar
“My collage self-portrait shows me reading ‘Flatman,’ an anti-Trump poem at the Poetry Room, against a background of the Blue Wave, the retaking of the House of Representatives by the Democrats in 2018 (and, I hope, the retaking of the Senate and the Presidency in 2020). I am trying to convey that, while I do not coerce students into sharing my views, my identities of professor, poet and political protestor are all combined.”Dr. Caesar, professor of AL 210
“First with strongman, I drew the logo of the sport itself along with the T-Shirt design of the current world’s strongest man, Martins Licis. He is a huge role model in my life, being a big reason of what drives me to work hard all day, every day. Everything on this poster mean the world to me, quite literally. The Zelda pieces embody how I really bonded with my siblings, and Star Wars was the first initial bridge bringing my passion for film to life.”
Brien Smith, first year Citizen Scholar
“When looking at my self-portrait the first thing you notice is that it is a flower. Flowers have been a huge part of my life and are very symbolic for beauty and growth. I grew up working at a flower shop where I learned so many things about who I am and who I want to be. Those life experiences are something I will always cherish. My mother is obsessed with flowers and has been since I was little. When I see a flower, I think of her and how strong and kind she is. The color scheme is all very bright and radiant, which is meant to show how happy and upbeat I am. My sister’s favorite color is pink and my mother’s is purple. I left the one petal black and white to resemble my future and the fact that it can be whatever color I want it to be.”Maya Schuhknecht first year Citizen Scholar
“What my portrait says about me is that I am a very colorful person. I am a person of color and have multiple cultures in me. The NASA sign does not represent NASA itself but the metaphor behind it. NASA reaches for goals beyond the sky and they strive to reach places no other human has reached before. For me, I aspire to reach goals I never thought I could have before. I try to not limit myself and strive for greatness. I want to go to places I never thought I could ever in my life. Around my picture, there are words in Spanish describing me. Spanish is my first language and I talk about how I am the daughter of immigrants of Mexico. In big symbols, I have the word hello written in Korean. I am doing a Korean minor and want to be trilingual. In Spanish, there’s the word “get to know” and it’s pointing to the world. I want to get to know places of the world that aren’t well known to people. The world is too big and life is too small for me to not see it all.”
Alexa Delon, first year Citizen Scholar
“I think my self-portrait says I’m a person who is all over the place. It’s messy and all over the place, just like me. I split it up into four quadrants that represent something different about me. I somewhat covered my face because I don’t want people to assume everything about me, like a book you have to dive in. I think it says I’m a writer, an explorer, a person with an open-mind and much more. It shows that I’m on a path, where I have no idea. I drew a path/road all over the sheet of paper to represent my path in life. The notebook and pen represent that I’m a writer.”
Anayeli Anguiano, first year Citizen Scholar
“I want my self-portrait to be an expression of my internal aspirations and feelings as an artist, written on it are thoughts I’ve had to myself on my journey as an artist, as well as labels that I feel like limit me. On the backside at the top there is a list of all of my projects from newest to old. My self-portrait isn’t meant to be an accurate portrait of what I want to look like, it’s more of a distortion. This is inspired by my style as a visual artist, I want pieces of my work to feel like they’re from their own universe.”
Mizeal Rodriguez, first year Citizen Scholar
“I feel my self portrait represents me really well. When looking at it it’s very simple and a little messy. Words are scattered around and it’s decorated up to be a little more colorful and pretty. The things that are the shiniest and bolder are what is the most important to me. The photo itself is of my sisters and I before I left for college. They are in the center with me because they are the center of my life. Surrounding the photo are a few “I am” statements, just a few things I tell myself every once in a while to keep a positive mind set. The portrait is simple and to the point which is how I am perceived by others.”
Cheyenne Mireles, first year Citizen Scholar
“My self portrait speaks more about what I want the world to know about my thoughts rather than who I am as a person. My page listed words and phrases like, ‘we are all just people,’ and ‘human’. The message was that at the end of the day we are all human and we make mistakes. We all should forgive more and blame less because we all have feelings and should be more accepting of people. Another phrase included was ‘flesh and blood’ because no matter our differences, everyone is more similar than we are different and should always treat each other with respect.”Sarah Mclean, first year Citizen Scholar
“My portrait shows off my art skills through a collage of random things. But these random things represent many aspects of myself. The fire is for the spontaneous decisions I’ve made. Joining this program was a spontaneous decision and i got my friends to follow along in this journey. The little game controller is for the fact that i think of life as a game. I’m aware that life is full of hardships. This mindset makes life fun because you can always come back from your mistakes. The heart has my name in Japanese to represent my love for Japanese culture. The rest of the piece is like the rest of the world around me. Nothing is the same. Everything and everywhere is as different and spontaneous as me.”
Kayla Robinson, first year Citizen Scholar
After the students designed their own self portraits, they put them together for a group portrait. Dr. Caesar says, “As I watched the nine AL 110 students combine their individual portraits into a group collage, I thought that their work process reflected how they had become a community over the semester, as well as how they had honed their writing skills. They began by laying out a grid of green and white, the MSU colors — but two shades of green, suggesting that there are different ways of being a Spartan. They arranged their (and my) self-portraits on the grid, and then Maya Schuhknecht began drawing graceful vines between the portraits. I like this choice of flora rather than a central Citizen Scholars tree, which would suggest that the students were united mainly by the program. Instead, the vines suggested that the students had formed connections among themselves, not just through the imposed classroom setting. Then they took turns adding initials, but not their own initials — instead each student wrote “CS” in their own handwriting, conveying a shared identity interpreted through each individual personality. Next Taylor Kaigler handed out hearts that she had colored and cut out, and each classmate attached a heart in a different location on the poster. Finally, Brien Smith trimmed the rough edges of the poster — literally, with an X-Acto knife.” As a part of this project, students gave songs they listened to in their creation of their project, which you can find below.
“I was delighted to see the whole class practicing the steps of brainstorming, drafting, peer review and revision: with a visual group project, just as well as they have done it for individual writing projects. It signals a happy and successful end to our semester,” Dr. Caesar concludes.