Students, faculty and staff who happen to be walking across Oakland University’s campus on evenings this fall may discover some unusual behavior involving throw pillows. Or sunglasses. And cameras.
While it may seem odd, these exercises are all part of the spirit of creativity, evolving perspective and community art, according to Corrie Baldauf, special lecturer in the Department of Art and Art History. It is her course in visual literacy that has students throwing pillows at dusk.
“Students in the visual literacy course explore the many ways that art can be defined through class discussions, writing, art exercises, and field work,” Baldauf said. “Looking for connections between our field work, the work of local and contemporary artists, and history is an exciting part of the course. All of the students participate in the field exercises. The project is fun, simple, question provoking and leads to strong photos with a unique perspective.”
The semester kicked off with the throw pillow photography project, where students brought in throw pillows to photograph against the sky. Initially hesitant, the students soon warmed to the project.
“This was an excellent photographic experience,” said student Mike Reipen. “It began with some directed tasks, and turned into a creative masterpiece. Throwing the pillows in the air in any manner we chose created sort of a directed chaos. Almost like watching fireworks, the pillows came together and fell apart in an explosive manner. As the natural light began to fade, some of us were able to get some pretty fantastic shots. This project definitely sparked some ideas for the future.”
Student Samone Davis had a similar reaction.
“In the beginning, I actually thought the project was a little strange,” she said. “When we were first told to bring throw pillows to class I assumed we would be photographing a huge pillow fight, but when we got started it was a lot cooler. My favorite part though, was the reactions of people walking by. They stopped and watched, asked if we were a society, association, or a club. There was even a photographer that started taking photos of the class taking photos of the pillows.”
Next up for the course is a project that explores public reactions when each student spends a full day wearing sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt. The students will also work on a number of other interactive and community art projects that will culminate in a dynamic self-portrait that relates to the student’s chosen career field.
“Work that supports interaction between communities is a big emphasis in the art world right now,” Baldauf said. “We are part of a fast-paced culture. Students in this course are asked to question how symbolism in our visual surroundings reflects this. There are clues all around us. Branding, categorizing, parking lots and roads bursting with traffic...art can reflect and even improve our everyday navigation and interactions.”
For more information about programs, courses and events in Oakland’s Department of Art and Art History, view the website