The Art of PWR

The Art of PWR

The third floor of Sweet Hall looks very different than it did a year ago. With inviting blue couches and collaborative working areas, PWR has worked hard to create a welcoming and friendly space for our community. On an average day on the third floor of Sweet Hall, it’s easy to spot a lecturer poring over a student paper at the couch or to eye a couple students in conversation in the lounge chairs.

An important part of this space is its original art. Anyone that has spent time on the third floor has probably noticed the large, mixed-media art pieces on the walls, created for PWR by California artist Jazmin Quill. These bold and provocative art pieces have a rich story behind them, and they aim to reflect PWR’s inclusive spirit.

When PWR first learned about the possible re-fresh of the third floor space, Adam invited his friend and colleague, Jazmin, to come and share her vision for how the spaces could move beyond the standard office vibe to evoke the values, traditions, and cultures that are part of PWR. Jazmin has a long history with Stanford; she is a Dinkelspiel Award winner, having served as an Assistant Dean, Resident Fellow, lecturer and co-founder of Stanford’s Introductory Psychology Program. She is also a practicing and accomplished mixed media artist in the abstract expressionist tradition.

After visiting PWR, Jazmin did more than just offer a consultation; she created and gifted to the program the gorgeous three-panel installation that hangs along the back wall.  Measuring 60”x130”, the triptych is composed out of sand, paper, and pigment. Designed to be a piece with political, social, sociological, and ethnic resonance, the work was inspired by Harlem artist Norman Lewis. It is entitled Procession II in deference to the many processions he created. Procession II features abstract figures emerging from fragments of torn paper, walking across sand infused with charcoal under a burnt orange sky.  Coiled wire traverses all three canvases, bridging them into a single art piece. She writes of the work, “Some viewers see refugees, some see families; there are so many circumstances that bind us together for a moment. But no ‘person’ in this procession connects with another (nor are any fully pieced together themself). It is the meaning conjured in the viewer’s mind that will tell the true story of who these people are.”

Adam Banks offered the following comment on the triptych, speaking to how it represents the spirit of the program, “[T]his combination of people standing, being, being in motion separately, and yet still bound, resonates with so many of the themes we've been talking about and building on in the program, from our attempts to find meaningful ways to support undocumented students to work we're starting to dig deeper into culturally-specific traditions of rhetoric, writing and speaking so that our students are not subject to western traditions only as the basis for their experience with us.” The fact that our space can reflect those values is of great import to our program as we work to establish our visibility on-campus.

However, Procession II, wasn’t Jazmin’s only gift to PWR.  Shortly after, she created another “thought prompt” for the third floor from her Banned Books Series. This artwork is composed of five square pieces, each 2’x2’, featuring torn pages from The Catcher in the Rye, a book that was banned countless times in American history. Each panel is connected to the other by metal rods – carefully cemented into place by Jazmin and her assistant one early October morning after the canvases had been mounted on the wall, so they now function both as individual pieces and an integrally connected statement on censorship, voice, and free speech.  Jaz describes the work as follows: “I used metal here too, but in straight lines this time, never barring or blocking or banning the text. I think of Steve Biko and one’s thoughts as freedom. I see the grid-like bars of the Birmingham jail cell that could not imprison MLK’s ideas.” Adam’s description of the artwork echoes Jazmin’s intent: “[As] a visual representation of words representing actual freedom – and/or at least its possibility— [this piece from the Banned Book Series is] tremendously inspiring for our space.”  Hanging prominently above our PWR library’s collection of handbooks, readers, rhetorics, and texts from the field, these panels remind us of the power of words that refuse to be silent and instead work to make positive change in the world.

To read more about Procession II and Jazmin Quill’s other work, visit her website.