From my first year of pre-school to my final year of university education, I have had 19 first days of school. That’s 19 days of my life on which I was ready for a new beginning, and excited for the numerous possibilities that a new school year would bring. As a senior at Boston College, my 19th “first day,” of course, held special significance—it was quite possibly my last first day of school.
With the first day of classes inevitably comes the question, “How was your first day?” While my response to this question has been fairly consistent in years past (usually an underwhelming “fine” or a sarcastic “great”), this year’s was quite different. For my final first day, I was able to give a much more enthusiastic response. Not only were my classes great (really great), but I was also able to go to a museum exhibit—the newest installation at the McMullen Museum, Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds.
Now, first days of school are generally similar year by year: wake up earlier than necessary, have time to actually sit down and eat breakfast, pack a bag with clean notebooks and empty folders, and make your way to new classes, where you will see faces both new and familiar. For my last first day, I decided to stop by the McMullen in between classes—a new twist to my generic first day routine. When I walked into the museum space, however, and took a preliminary glance around the room at the paintings inhabiting the wall space, a strange feeling came over me: this is all very familiar.
It was strange because I had never been previously acquainted with Lam’s work, and I didn’t know much about the artist himself. So, how could this all be so familiar, as if I had seen it before?
As I began in the first section of the room, showcasing the work of Lam’s early years in Spain, I read about his own journey as an artist, and his movement from a realist style to an embracing of surrealism. Lam is often noted for his unique “hybrid” style, infused with cross-cultural symbolism, which was reflected in the many pieces included in the collection. I read through the caption labels beside each painting, learning that Lam drew inspiration from painters such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso—artists who I had studied in previous art history and 20th-century culture classes. It was one of those “ah-ha” moments when you actually put something you learned in class to real-life use, and I realized why Lam seemed so familiar. It may not seem like much of a big deal to some, but for me it served as an affirmation of just how much I have gained from taking the time to learn about the fine arts, and what it means to have a course come full-circle.
In that moment, I felt as though my mid-day museum excursion was like my first class of the day: the artist and the course were both new to me, but there were still some familiar faces scattered throughout. And, while the possibility of something new is always exciting, there’s something very comforting about finding the familiar amid a change. It’s natural to make those connections, and whether through art or an academic course, it can feel empowering to bring your previous experiences and knowledge to a new situation.
As I embark on my final year as a BC undergraduate student, I look forward to the new faces, adventures, and challenges that I’ll encounter. However, I’m even more excited for the chance to reconnect—with old friends, favorite books of the past, and lectures that have really stuck with me—and use everything that BC has given me to make this the most memorable year yet.
Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor