12 Alumni Discuss Their Drawing I Final Project on Podcast

(Story by Caroline MacNeille ’16/Wesconnect)

In a recent episode of the podcast Cellar Door, Piers Gelly ’13 and a handful of alumni discuss the infamous Drawing I final project: a life-sized nude self portrait. The podcast focuses on objects, featuring often-overlooked subject matter like pockets and pearls. Gelly, who reports, writes, mixes and illustrates for The Chipstone Foundation, an arts non-profit, produced this episode that also features music by Jack Ladd ’15 and Anna Schwab ’16.

The ‘Student Body‘ episode features a dozen alumni talking about their experience creating the final project and its fate after the semester’s end. No matter the final destination everyone seems to agree that the project stayed with them, many of them literally. Interviewees included Virgil Taylor ’15, Kate Gibbel ’15, Manon Lefèvre ’14, Alahna Watson ’13, Kevin Brisco ’13, Will Feinstein ’13, Kamar Thomas ’12, Henry Kiely ’11, Carolyn Wachnicki ’05, and Sarah Hirzel ’95 (who once taught Drawing I).

Cellar Door features many Wesleyan voices. In episode 4, we hear about Hannah Carlson’s ’90 scholarship on pockets; episode 2 features music by Craig Edwards ’83, who currently teaches fiddle and banjo through the music department; we also hear from his wife, Mary Bercaw Edwards, who once taught in the Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Wesleyan. The theme music of Cellar Door was composed by Daniel Nass ’13, a longtime collaborator of Gelly’s.

“I drew my back, and my face is turned towards the audience.”

“I drew it sitting down, with a pencil in one hand and eraser on the other.”

These are students from Professor Tula Telfair’s Painting I class at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Every one of them recently completed a life-size nude self-portrait in Drawing I.

Hundreds of students have created these self-portraits since the project began, maybe thousands.

The drawing’s precious but undisplayable. And for all its intimacy, it doesn’t mean much without an explanation.

“Mine was just full-frontal hands-on-hips, kind of confrontational. I think the drawing took like twenty hours or something. I probably did it over two days.”

I do know. Though they’re the product of long hours of lonely labor, these objects make light work of years and years of distance. Start a conversation about your self-portrait and suddenly you’re right back with that student body.