• Fae Tyler

One Year Later: Reflections on My Senior Show

Picture of a fashion gallery show
Location: List Gallery at Swarthmore College

A year ago I created one of the most intense and ephemeral experiences of my life: my senior art exhibition. I worked for a year down to the bone, fingers bleeding from pin pricks and paint smearing my studio clothes. I was determined to reach my goal: to create a senior art show of my fashion. My work was not glamorous. In fact, I worked so much, too much, that a month before my show I developed overuse injuries in both of my arms. In inspirational movies or books when someone is pushing themself, they burn out but in the end it all works out. They triumph and maybe take a nap at the end. In reality, I have been dealing with the repercussion of my injuries for an entire year, during which I have taken a heartbreaking hiatus from working with my hands. I will probably never heal fully, as I have other health issues, and I will always have to create around and in spite of my limitations.

While I want to speak honestly about the realities of creation, overexertion, and disability, that is a post for another time.

This a post about the people who became my heart and hands. My two best friends in college, Amber and Kira, kept me company almost every day in my studio. I joked that I imported friends because I could not do my art elsewhere-- my equipment was too large to move. When I injured myself, Kira helped me finish making my plaster mannequins for display. Unable to use my hands, I switched to laser-cut work as a way around my injuries, and Kira and Amber spent an evening cleaning the burn marks from one of my laser-cut corsets. My mentor, Susan, helped me finish the sleeves of a robe after I was unable to sew. On opening night, Amber worked backstage, looking like a harried Rosie the Riveter keeping all the cogs running smoothly.

The show itself was so brief-- a year's work condensed into five minutes. You can see clips of it here. I was stunned at how quick it was. I felt I must be missing something. Where was the true evidence of all my pride, pain, and efforts?

I suppose like all things, it was the journey that mattered, not the destination. I carry the evidence inside of me, memories of the kindness from others that has shaped and uplifted me. It is also in the strength it took for me to overcome the many obstacles in my path. I had chosen to pursue a fashion at a school without a fashion program, unwilling to give up my practically free tuition to transfer to a school more relevant to my newly discovered interests. I was almost entirely self-taught. My relentless drive to meet my goals led to me succeed in my studies, but this drive also damaged me as pushed myself beyond my body's limits.1

At the end of the day, I am grateful to the people in my life. Here's to Craig, who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself; Susan, a bastion of practicality who selflessly volunteered to teach me; Ron, for teaching me even though I was never your official student; to everyone who collaborated in my show; and my family-- every artists needs her heart, and you are mine.

Opening night of gallery show
After opening night with friends