Student Stories

The Student Lending Art Collection includes more than 700 framed original works of art, primarily prints and photographs by leading contemporary artists, which are made available to students each September to live with for the school year.

Students participating in the Student Lending Art Program proudly hang artwork borrowed from the collection in their private rooms and communal spaces. Hear from students about how the artwork impacted them and their living space. 

Interested in sharing your story about living with work from the collection? 

mitlistarts [at] mit.edu (Contact Us )

2022–2023 Student Stories

Emma Swarney

Emma is a first year master's student in MIT’s Science in Transportation program. Her research interests include transit equity and emerging mobility. She is currently working with the Chicago Transit Authority to quantify transit service equity. In her spare time Emma enjoys reading short fiction, watching films, and baking for her colleagues and friends. 

Cindy Sherman
Untitled1975.

Gift of Ruth Bowman

What drew you to this artwork?

So I knew who Cindy Sherman was before, and this piece is really striking, just with the expression. It's pretty small, actually. For some reason, that made it kind of compelling for me; it's just kind of tiny and powerful. Cindy Sherman is a very famous woman and I really identify with her... I like [her] expression in the photo. It's kind of mysterious. So that's what drew me to it.

Did this piece change your appreciation or thoughts regarding professional artworks?

I feel like I had a good impression of professional artwork before, but this has made me think like, how does MIT let students take multi thousand dollar pieces home? I don't know. I couldn't believe that I was so lucky. It just made me feel really lucky. I was like, no way am I going to get to live with an authentic Sherman. It was a very accessible kind of ethos and I was just more impressed with MIT and their attitude towards their students. It just made me feel like so much trust has been given to me, and I was like, oh, wow, I guess art is for everyone.

How'd you hear about the Student Lending Art Program?

My friend, who's a civil engineering artist, was like, ‘sign up for this!’ She's really tapped into the List and just the art world in general, in a way that I'm not.

Has this artwork sparked any conversations amongst visitors, or do people take note of it?

When I first got it, I was very excited, and I do have people over, despite it being a bit difficult. People definitely are interested in it and have taken a look at it. My brother is coming in mid March and for Christmas… one year, I got him a book of Cindy Sherman photographs. That's kind of how I got to know her. So I'm excited for my brother to come and see it because he's been a fan since he was in high school.

So would you participate in SLAP again?

Absolutely, yes. I wish I wasn't graduating so I could.

Carmelo Ignaccolo & Elena Sobrino 

Carmelo is a Ph.D. Student in City Design and Development at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. He is a Research Affiliate of the Civic Data Design Lab and an Adj. Assistant Professor at Columbia University GSAPP, where he coordinates and teaches the core GIS class for Urban Design graduate students. Elena Sobrino is an anthropologist and PhD candidate in MIT's program in History, Anthropology, Science, Technology, and Society

Oscar Niemeyer
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, 2003.

Gift of Anthony T. Podesta to the Student Loan Art Collection

 

What drew you to this piece?

[Carmelo] Since I moved to Cambridge, in 2018, I have been looking at this piece because I have an architectural background. So having a drawing done by a very well known architect, brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, was super exciting to me. And I've tried to get it [through the Student Lending Art Program] multiple times. This year, because the Student Lending Program changed its process, we were able to secure an early spot. We entered the museum and it was there, so I had no doubt, I was like, ‘okay, I'm going to finally get it this year.’

How familiar were you with this artist prior to choosing this piece through the Student Lending Art Program?

[Carmelo] I studied urban design, urban planning, so I was super familiar with the well known, leading pioneer architects of modernist architecture like Oscar Niemeyer, and the amount of buildings that they built all over the world, from, of course, Brazil, the US, Italy. This piece is a temporary pavilion that was commissioned in 2003. So I like this idea that it was a temporary thing, it was not a building that was supposed to last forever.

How did you decide where to put the artwork? Did you move it at all?

[Elena] We were looking at several places with light. We had already gotten all of our other furniture, so the only other place that we had discussed having it was in front of the couch so we could see it from here, but honestly, we don't even use the couch that much, so we thought this would be the best place for us to see it.

Have you had visitors come into this space and notice the artwork, or has it sparked any conversation with people?

[Carmelo] Definitely. Last Saturday, for example, I had a colleague coming over for dinner, and as soon as she entered the place, she immediately noticed the piece and got closer to it because there are some nice small details in it.

What's your favorite part of the artwork or your favorite part of having it in your living room?

[Elena] We had not much to play with in this apartment, but it really brightened it up. And even though I'm not an architect, I appreciate the abstract forms. Then, of course, I know the history, so I know that they're not abstract. 

I also am immediately drawn to it, even if I don't know the history behind it. And then it pushes me to ask more about it. When we first got it, [Carmelo] showed me the old pictures and how [the pavilion] was supposed to be and where it was when it was taken down. [Carmelo] And again, the architect was aware that this was about to last only a year. But the print series stays in time. Now, young architects can enjoy it and be inspired by it.

Kartik Chandra

Kartik is a PhD student at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) studying visual computing systems. In the past, Kartik worked at Facebook, NVIDIA, UW Seattle, and Berkeley. He enjoys spending his time writing, playing music, juggling with friends, and marveling at the world.

Nicole Eisenman
Tiffany Crossing the Albroz, 2015,  

Purchased with funds from the Alan May Endowment

What drew you to this artwork?

I saw this little label that said Tiffany Crossing the Albroz, medium: glow in the dark ink. And I really liked it, and that it was done with glow in the dark ink. That makes it very unique compared to the other artworks, and there's so many to choose from.

How has having this piece in your apartment changed your appreciation or thoughts around professional artworks?

Yeah, we often think of art as something that is designed to hang in a museum or in a public place and be appreciated in a very specific context. You're at the museum with your friends or you're in the town square, but when you've got something hanging in your room, it's there when you're happy, and it's there when you're sad, and it's there when you're tired, and it's there when you're hungry. And a great piece of art… it's there with you no matter what; it meets you where you're at. That's something I'd never thought about before, because I would only see works of art in a museum or on a projector in a course, but never kind of just with me, even in moments when I was not primed to engage with art. 

Did you struggle with where to put the artwork? How did you choose where to place it, and did you move it around at all before landing on its final spot?

I hadn't thought at all about where this piece was going to go when I grabbed it off the gallery wall. I opened the door to my apartment and just saw right in front of me, next to the window, there was this space, and it just made sense. I put it there, and it hasn't moved. I love it, the perfect fit.

Do you plan to participate in SLAP again, or would you recommend it to friends? 

Yeah, absolutely. I had a great experience and would absolutely do it again. One of my lab mates also participated. 

Vanessa Sun

Vanessa is a PhD student at MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. Vanessa is interested in carbon sequestration and is exploring her passion in isotopes.

Bruce Nauman
Untitled, 1996,

Purchased with funds from the Student Center Preview Program

What drew you to this particular piece? 

I chose this piece because it's by my favorite artist, Bruce Nauman, and it's the only one in the collection that's by him. Having it in my space was really motivating for me to just keep making work because I hadn't made any artwork during this pandemic, or the past two or three years. And my art degree kind of got cut short a little bit, which was really difficult for me. So, having it here was really motivating for me to have during this time.

How did you become familiar with Bruce Nauman and his work?

I did my undergrad art degree in studio art, and I was assigned to go to the Bruce Nauman show during art class. He had a show at the MoMA and his installations really resonated with me. That was the first time that I saw his artwork and I felt really excited about it. This work that I have here in particular, I knew from when I saw it that it was an intaglio etching because I've done printmaking before. And that really excited me because it reminded me of this part of my past. I can tell that it was all made on one large, probably copper, plate. It was exciting for me to remember that and reminisce about my art degree as well.

Any memorable moments resulting from your participation in the program?

I do have a funny anecdote actually. I was tweeting about some art books that were borrowed from the MIT libraries. Most of the books were about Bruce Nauman, although there's other artists as well. I know a lot of mathematicians on Twitter and one of them saw [my tweet], he works as a math teacher in New York City, and he knows Bruce Nauman's son so he tagged him in the post. I ended up having a conversation with Bruce Nauman's son, and he told me he hadn't seen this work before. So that was pretty cool.

Do you have any other comments on your experience living with this work?

I was one of the first people who got to pick out the artworks. And I feel really excited about getting to tell people that this artwork is by my favorite artist.

Hope Schroeder

Hope is a new student in the Media Arts and Sciences Program at the MIT Media Lab. She is interested in the spread and impact of ideas through information and media networks.She likes skiing, yoga, hiking, and rollerblading.

Nina Bovasso
Tree House Diptych, 2008

Purchased with funds from MIT Friends of Boston Art

So what drew you to this particular artwork? 

I was drawn to this piece because it felt optimistic. And one thing that I love about it is the fact that anyone looking at it can take away something different. What I saw when I looked at it was a playful brain. You have this very alive, playful feeling, but there's also structure and interconnectedness. I also love that I'm able to ask the same question of other people when they look at it. And I got a lot of good answers. Probably my favorite random answer that I've gotten is that it looks like a ball of objects that have formed a planet, like from the video game Katamari Damacy. I've even been able to show it on Zoom to older family members. Some people have told me it looks like a patchwork quilt. It definitely forms an important centerpiece of this room. So I like the fact that this is open to interpretation, and it feels uplifting to me to have in my space. 

How did you decide where to display this artwork?

I recently moved into this apartment when the lottery happened. So I knew that it would be a goal to find something to fill this huge wall. I did have it in mind for this wall when I was in the lottery space, just kind of thinking about what large horizontal piece would make sense there.

And the smaller artwork placed beside it? 

The day I came to choose an artwork, I was really torn between two pieces; this and then a really interesting woodcut that depicted an eerie grotto full of trash. I ultimately decided to go with the Nina Bovasso because it felt more aspirational than having an eerie grotto trash fill up most of the wall. I still loved that piece I was leaving behind so much that I took a photo of it, and I printed it out. I put it in a little frame, next to the main piece that I actually picked up from the Student Lending Art Program.

Did you learn anything new about the artist after choosing this piece?

Yes, I did. She's a living artist and I followed her on Instagram. She's currently in a housing crisis, so I learned about the dire state of housing in New York. Now her artist page is about trying to fundraise for her legal fees as she is in a major crisis over some legal issues with her landlord. So,  it exposed me to this artist in a new way, but also a set of issues that she's going through very much in real time that I now feel connected to and like, I should advocate for.

Do you have any other comments or thoughts to share on your experience with this program?

I love the fact that this program creates stewardship over art as something to be lived with and protected and interacted with on a personal level, not just something for a gallery. I think the best part of the MIT spirit is really getting your hands dirty and interacting with things, not just looking at a distance. When that can also include the arts at MIT, I think that's an ideal combination and leads to some really special interactions in the community.

Katiya Fosdick

Katiya is a first-year graduate student at MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research studying the evolution and formation of the Universe’s most massive galaxies in the center of galaxy clusters. Outside of science, she loves to set up and care for fish tanks and sing Opera.

Hannah Barrett
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone, 2008

Purchased with Funds from the Artist's Resource Trust of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation

What drew you to this artwork?

I was originally looking for an oil painting. My space is kind of Gilded Age inspired. The woman in this artwork has the historical hair piece and the corset, the kind of fashion elements of the era. So when I saw her, I was like, I really like her; I have to go home with her. She'll fit the vibe. 

This is your first time participating in the Student Lending Art Program, how did you hear about it?

I was told by a friend. When I got admitted to MIT, she took me to her apartment and I noticed she had such cool art. She explained she got it from the Student Lending Program. 

How has this program changed your appreciation for professional artworks?

I wanted a real oil painting for a while, but they're so expensive, so I knew I probably couldn’t buy one. This program is really cool as a way to get art into people's homes who normally can only afford cheaper prints. 

How did you decide where to place this piece? 

I tried to segment the decor in this room into different eras. So this era over here, is kind of Gilded Age inspired, with the gilded mirror, the neoclassical architecture artworks. So I felt this artwork fit that vibe.

What has been your favorite part about borrowing this artwork?

I think she definitely just ties the space together. And it's just cool to have something that somebody actually made in my home. It's not just like a print or a reproduction, it’s a real piece of art. It's cool to participate in this program, because, again, as a student, you're not always able to buy art like this.

David DePalma

David is a graduate student at MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research pursuing infrared and optical cosmology. He hunts galaxies and quasars near reionization with the Hubble Space Telescope and Magellan Telescopes to chronicle the first stars.

 

Walter Iooss
Jim Rice Fenway Park - Boston, Ma 8/78, 1979

Gift of Souren Ouzounian, Sloan 1996

What drew you to this artwork?

What initially appealed to me was that it was a Red Sox photograph. I'm local, I'm from Boston, I like the Red Sox. What initially appealed to me is that there is something so local in the program. But when I brought it back here, I got to thinking that there's lots of information in the image, like encoding the image. That's probably a very MIT way of phrasing it, but when you look at the photograph, you could see information about the game and so you can actually pinpoint when in the game it's happening and even what game it is in the first place. 

After picking up the artwork, did you do any research to learn more about the artist or about the photograph?

I mentioned that there's information in the photograph. Because I like baseball, I know of websites that track baseball games historically. And you can see in the photograph, the matchup is between the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox. And you can see how the game has progressed in terms of the score. I also knew from the title that the player here was Jim Rice, who played in the late '70s. So I clicked around even to a subsequent season and I found a game that matched that criteria.

In examining this photograph, what jumps out to you as significant? 

I actually kind of noticed an emotional aspect to the photograph. I think it's a combination of a bit of foreboding and tenseness, anxiety, but also ultimately perseverance

and resolution. In this photograph, the Red Sox are losing, the game is not carrying much hope at this point. Jim Rice is also standing in front of a 37-foot green monster wall that’s rather impending. However, the Red Sox ended up winning the game by two runs. As the information in this photograph implies, even in a tough situation, with intent, perseverance, and probably some confidence in the bottom half of the inning, it can lead to a good resolution in the end.

Do you have any other thoughts or comments about your experience participating in the Student Lending Art Program?

Yeah, I really enjoy it. I like having quality artwork available to me as a student. I like being able to bring it home, hang it in my room, and feel that  there's extra thought, frankly, in the room. I talked about how there's information here as well as emotion. The fact that an artist or photographer saw this image in real life and captured it, is pretty impressive to me. And now I could hang a bonafide work of art in my room and bonus that it fits my personality.

Kimberly Becerril

Kimberly is a candidate for a masters in City Planning at MIT. She is most interested in Investing her technical and interdisciplinary education for the equitability and sustainability of environmental resources, in the face of constraining social and political powers.

 

Byron McClintock
Shelter Island, 2008

Gift of Cynthia F. and Dr. Michael W. Weisfield ('66)

What drew you to this artwork?

I was moving into a very simple space with clean lines; very modern. So I wanted something that was sort of the opposite of that, to balance it out. I gravitated towards this more organic looking piece with soft edges and a lot of color.

How did you decide where to place this artwork?

I remember thinking I want to place it somewhere where I can look at it often. This just felt like a natural option, in front of my desk, a place where I'm often sitting. With that said, I have a very small home with it being one room, so it could have gone anywhere, but I really did want it to be the focal point of the space. 

What has been your favorite part about living with this professional artwork?

Coming into graduate school having had some professional experience, I really wanted to have a more holistic approach to my graduate school program. So, for example, right now I'm taking an ‘Intro To Black and White Film’ class and I feel like having this art piece has been a constant reminder of that balance that I want to have during my time here, and how it's important to prioritize something I value.

I think you can actually give yourself space for all of the things that you value, not just career and education.

Any other comments or thoughts on what it's been like to participate in the Student Lending Art Program that you'd like to share?

I'm so grateful for it. It's almost shocking how much an art piece can improve the feeling of a space. When I was moving across the country from California, there were very few decorative items I could bring because the essentials took priority. So it was just nice to be able to add something else that felt very substantial and again, like a reminder of a value that I want to be pursuing here.

2021–2022 Student Stories

Caroline Jaffe

Caroline is a third-year Ph.D. candidate and research assistant in the Responsive Environments group.  Her research is focused on finding creative and thoughtful ways to apply technology to issues of sustainability and human behavior. She is currently developing sensor technologies to support sustainable agriculture and food systems. 

Jack Pierson
Pat's Place, 2004

Purchased with funds from the Artist's Resource Trust and the Student Center Preview Program

What drew you to this artwork?

Part of why I wanted to do this interview in my last year [at MIT], is because I've done the SLAP program, probably four or five times, and I always had my eye on this piece. It was very special to be able to get it in my last year. 

I loved the sunflowers and light. The feeling of this really quiet, peaceful domestic scene has always been something I've strived for in my own life. During the pandemic, taking peace and pride in my home life was a big focus for me. Also, I spend so much time in this room, writing my thesis here, a few months ago I caught COVID and quarantined in here… so having this cheerful, but peaceful piece of art has been special.

How did you decide where to place the artwork? It’s certainly in conversation with these two artworks on the right. 

I had these two larger pieces of art and wanted to put them together and there are some tonal similarities between them. Obviously, between the birds and this one, they’re both more natural scenes. I also think some of the colors speak to each other.

These [on the right] are both done by a good friend of mine from MIT who has moved across the country, but was in my lab group my first two years and is a special person to me. So it is a nice thing to have.

Has this piece sparked any conversation with friends and visitors?

Not a ton. I definitely have told some people about the program, but I haven't had a lot of people in this room. 

What would you say to other students interested in participating in SLAP?

SLAP was convenient for me because I was in the Media Lab and could pop down to the List Center. I feel like my approach is probably a little different as a grad student. When I was an undergrad, I didn't think as much about curating my space or making it homey, but especially in the pandemic, when I've spent hours and hours here, being really intentional about the way things are set up became important to me.

I'm sure a lot of people say this, but as a student, it's really cool to have a real, nicely framed piece of artwork in your house. I know some of my friends in the Media Lab have gotten edgy, more conversation pieces. I thought that would be cool, but I wanted something just a little simpler.

Kevin Paeth

Kevin is a graduate student at the Technology and Policy Program (TPP) at the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society.

Jean-Pierre Hébert
Twenty-Four Views of a Megaton #23, 1999


Purchased with funds from the Alan May Endowment

What drew you to this artwork?

The thing that drew me to this one was that it's not very in your face. I really like the geometric pattern and the color scheme. I like it from a mathematical perspective… I know the artist was pretty big in mathematical and geometric inspired art. At the time, I didn't have any other artwork in my apartment, so it allowed me to think about how I could start that room. For me, it was subtle without being boring.

Has your perception of this piece changed since when you first picked it off the wall during the SLAP exhibition?

I actually began to appreciate it more when I got the email that I have to return it. I sit here and have my morning coffee, and it's always there and I quite like it. I was actually thinking about trying to get a print of it or something similar.

How did you choose where to put this artwork? 

I wanted it in a space where I get light in the room. I wanted this to be something that I saw every day. I'm slow when it comes to decorating my space, so it takes me forever to put something up on the wall and actually commit to it. 

Has this artwork sparked any conversation with people coming into your living space?

Yeah, some people really enjoyed it. There's a geekier subset of people that are like, wow, it's inspired in this way… I like to point out to people that every side of each polygon is actually the same length and it's just a really simple idea.

For others, it's just another piece in the room. Two friends of mine in particular really enjoy it, but I think they were similarly interested in the kinds of subject matter I am.

What's been your favorite part about having this in your space?

I honestly just like looking at it. Like I said, it takes me a while to put things up in my space that I want to be there. So I have to really want it to be there or connect with it, for it to be there. 

What would you say to other students interested in participating in SLAP?

I've already recommended it to a bunch of people, to check it out. When I won the lottery, I think they were all kind of envious that I had the choice. 

Giuliana P. Cabrera Sanchez

Giuliana is an undergraduate student at MIT studying Computer Science and Engineering. She is interested in developing technology for social good. Specifically, she would like to explore the intersection of engineering, computer science, and public policy with climate, education, and social justice. 

Sun Yanchu
Pine Study after Qing Masters, 2017

Gift of James and Audrey Foster

How did you learn about the Student Lending Art Program? What made you want to participate?

I got an email from the dorm spam and it said that the List Center was giving away different artworks if you got picked from the lottery and I like art so I said why not? I entered with a couple of my friends but I was the only one that actually got it so it was kind of unexpected.

What drew you to this artwork?

There were quite a few still available when I went to pick. There were a couple of others that had a bit more color and, at first, I was looking for something more colorful,  but I thought this was a really nice piece of artwork and it’s an older style of chinese painting. I thought it looked like a tree and I really like trees. It felt very nice and calm and I like the brush style so that’s why I picked it.

How’d you decide where to place the artwork in your dorm?

I wanted it to be somewhere I could see it. I had already filled up my walls so that was kind of the only open space, but it’s also on display.

What conversations has this artwork sparked?

I do point it out to people. My friends all agree that it was a good choice and it does fit in with the room. They’ve said it seems like something that I would pick out, so it goes with a lot of things that I like. People ask about it a lot, how I got it, why I borrowed it… so I explain to people that it was through the lottery and that MIT has a Visual Arts Center. When I first got it, I went to the List to get it with a couple of friends that didn’t know about the building. It’s cool for people to find out that MIT has more arts centered initiatives. 

How do you feel this artwork has affected your living space?

I feel like I’m a bit attached to it because I’ve had it in my space all year. It’s always nice to look at. My walls have a lot of photos but not a lot of artworks and I’m not an artist so I can’t put anything up. So I am sad to give it back.

Are you interested in participating in SLAP in future years at MIT? Would you recommend SLAP to your friends?

I do want to participate every year, it’s just whether I get picked out of the lottery. I would tell my friends to do it, especially if they like to decorate their walls. I think it’s cool to have a piece of art on display and take care of it.

Did this piece change your appreciation or thoughts around the visual arts in general?

I think going into this program I didn’t think twice about art at MIT or art in general because it’s more of a STEM focused school. After participating in the program, I got signed up for the mailing list for the Arts Center. The emails they send have brought a lot of initiatives to my attention. People at MIT do care about art and different social sciences. In a way, this artwork has brought different issues and events around campus to my attention that I probably wouldn’t have known about otherwise. It’s been a cool butterfly effect. 

David Preiss

Davis is a masters student at the Center for Bit and Atoms at MIT. Before returning to school, he worked for five years as a mechanical engineer at Formlabs and ShopBot Tools. David enjoys working on problems related to digital fabrication and exploring new ways of creating. 

Bill Thompson
GYRO, 2009

Purchased with funds from MIT Friends of Boston Art

How did you decide where you wanted to hang this piece? 

We decided on it pretty spur of the moment. In the summer, we have more plants on the opposite wall so it was nice to have green to balance out the colors in the plants.

What drew you to this artwork?

I like that it’s geometric. I do a lot of digital fabrication stuff so I was also thinking, ‘oh well I really like this, maybe I could try and recreate it.’

You’ve been living with the artwork for nearly nine months now, did you notice anything new about the piece after spending more time with it? 

As I looked at it more, I noticed the depth and the subtle texture. 

Has this artwork sparked any conversations, or do people take note of it?

I don’t think anyone has explicitly said anything, but all my roommates thought it was really cool when they first saw it.

Did you have a favorite part about borrowing this piece of artwork?

My favorite part was transporting it, I felt like some kind of secret service person. That was really cool.

Do you think it affected the space it was in at all?

Having art on the walls especially when it is really vibrant definitely did change the space

Do you have any other comments you’d like to make?  

It’s such a great program and I’m super grateful I got to participate. 

2021 Student Stories

Anonymous Student

Zeke Berman
Untitled, 1988
Gelatin silver print
Purchased with funds from the Student Center Preview Program
CNS.1990.009

Chalkboard with triangular shapes, an infinity symbol and lines with a shelf below that has a glass pitcher.

What drew you to this particular piece?

I like the tryptic composition as well as the fact that it was clearly made out of several physical elements. I also enjoyed the balance of figurativeness and abstractness in this picture.

How did you choose where to display the piece?

I wanted to see it when I entered my bedroom, and that was the only available wall.

Due to COVID-19, this piece has been with you for an unusual extended period of time, living in your space for two years. How has the extended loan period added, changed or affected your experience with the piece?

The piece has become even more familiar, to the point that I could no longer imagine the room without it (it looks very empty now).

Has the piece sparked any conversation with friends, family or roommates who have seen the artwork in your space? (via Zoom or otherwise)

Everyone who comes to my room really likes it and feels like it fits well within the space. The piece was not visible on Zoom.

What have you enjoyed most about having this artwork in your living space?

I enjoyed not having a blank wall.

What advice would you give to other students hoping to participate in the Student Lending Art Program in the future?

Do it!

Rijul Kochhar

Sergio Gonzalez-Tornero
At Sea, 1966
Etching
Gift of Cynthia F. and Michael W. Weisfield ('66)
WC.2011.028

Copper colored print of a boat at sea with a flag and a large army on board.

What drew you to this particular piece?

It’s an aquatint etching of what looks like a slave ship (or is it a ship of migrants in search of shore?), and the idea that really drew me was the struggle within this. There’s an interplay of light and dark as the piece depicts people who are suffering in all types of ways, and it also depicts them in their humanity. We’re all undertaking journeys, and what I really found interesting was the power of these journeys and the movement of people.

How did you choose where to display the piece?

I live on campus, and this piece was hung in my living room, up on the wall next to my work desk. Light falls the best in the living room, next to the big windows, so the piece comes out nicely in the afternoon sun. The colors within the piece change their hue through the day based on the movement of sunlight.

Due to COVID-19, this piece has been with you for an unusual extended period of time, living in your space for two years. How has the extended loan period added, changed or affected your experience with the piece?

Having this piece for an extended period of time has made for a more intimate relationship between myself and the painting. It was almost as if a guest was invited into one's space and the guest stayed longer than anticipated. The artwork created a sense of the familiar and served as an anchor through COVID. This image of a slave ship has also felt relevant to the times we’re living in as it's a powerful and painful reminder of the inheritance of racism in this country. So many people were displaced early in the pandemic; however, this artwork has seen me through the pandemic and borne witness to the time we’re living in. I have a fondness for this painting, and it’s been quite meaningful to have this particular piece with me through COVID.

Has the piece sparked any conversation with friends, family or roommates who have seen the artwork in your space? (via Zoom or otherwise)

Unfortunately not. The artwork was not in view in my Zoom background, and I’ve not really had any visitors through this past year. There has, however, been an ongoing conversation between me and the artwork, which I guess is another signature of the times. Despite the lack of visitors this past year, I have been able to withdraw within and think more deeply about the piece, both in terms of its depiction and its quiet material existence over a half a century.

What have you enjoyed most about having this artwork in your living space?

Each artwork is a traveling exhibit in its own right. I like that it has a life prior to me and will continue to do so after me. I like the idea of the circulation of the artwork. You never know where these pieces have been, and I find it interesting that this material object carries the experiences of other people.

What advice would you give to other students hoping to participate in the Student Lending Art Program in the future?

It’s a unique experience, and I would urge people to participate. If you don’t receive the work you feel drawn to on your first attempt, you always have an opportunity in years ahead. And not to mention the pleasure of participating in the process of selecting artwork, standing in the List Gallery with so many other people all in the pursuit of curatorial curiosity—that’s sublime!

Marissa Beth Kondtadt

Marilyn Minter
Shit-Kicker, 2006
C-print
Purchased with funds from the Student Center Preview Program
CNS.2006.009

Close up photograph of a person wearing blue heels stepping in a brown puddle, making the water splatter all over.

What drew you to this particular piece?

I love the bright colored shoes contrasting with the muddy water. She seems like such a badass—willing to rock a great outfit in any and all conditions.

How did you choose where to display the piece?

In both my living spaces, I wanted Shit Kicker to be of central focus. That way, I could enjoy the energy every day in my living/working environment.

Due to COVID-19, this piece has been with you for an unusual extended period of time, living in your space for two years. How has the extended loan period added, changed or affected your experience with the piece?

I got to live with Shit Kicker in two different apartments because of COVID19—she has really become a central part of my Boston décor. I miss her deeply now that she is gone.

Has the piece sparked any conversation with friends, family or roommates who have seen the artwork in your space? (via Zoom or otherwise)

Constantly—mostly because I point her out to any new person that comes into my home, but also because it is impossible not to notice such a neat photograph.

What have you enjoyed most about having this artwork in your living space?

I have often struggled to select art for myself. Having this piece helped me realize the style that I appreciate the most, and how it would fit in with my existing furnishings.

What advice would you give to other students hoping to participate in the Student Lending Art Program in the future?

Go with your gut! I think I won Shit Kicker in the lottery because others may not have listed it as highly. But she was my #1 choice because I knew as soon as I spotted it, it matched me.

2019–2020 Student Stories

Julia Chatterjee

Audra Skuodas
Vibrational Conscilience, 2005
Color serigraph
Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta
CNS.2007.010

A girl in a red striped shirt sits at her dorm desk with her laptop open and gazes at the posters on the wall in front of her.

What drew you to this particular piece?

First, I liked its size. I also noticed that it matched the color scheme of my section of my room. The pale pink and evergreen lines matched my “Grand Budapest Hotel” poster also hanging on my wall.

How did you choose where to display the piece?

I hung it above my desk. In my bedroom at home, my walls are a mosaic of hung items ranging from postcards to a thrifted tennis racket. The wall above my desk is a continuation of this practice. Displaying it among my own posters made the piece feel truly incorporated into my room.

How does the piece interact with your space?

The piece definitely draws people’s attention, but it also makes sense among the items in the room. Its presence in my dorm is similar to the one it had in the gallery when I first saw: it blends in, but once you spot it, it stands out.

What has your experience been like living with the artwork? 

Living with the artwork has been a source of inspiration for me. I did some research on the artist, Audra Skuodas, and the ideas behind her work are very intriguing. She portrays the concept of vibrational vulnerability: the invisible phenomenal of incremental cause and effect. Living with this art has introduced me to new ideas that I otherwise would not have encountered.

Do you think that its presence has an effect on you personally?

I watched a video where Skuodas compared art to science because they both are pushing boundaries. I have always been interested in the humanities and the arts, and at a place like MIT, I was nervous I would only focus on technical subjects. I have been happily surprised that there are so many opportunities here that highlight the intersection between science and art. Skuodas’s work helped me locate my interest in these crossroads.

Has the piece had any effect on visitors when they enter your space?

I am very proud that I was lent this piece, so I often point it out to people. The precision and colors within the work create an abstract piece that leaves a lot up to interpretation. I see it as being inspired by the female figure, and this often sparks conversation among my visitors.

What has been most exciting for you in having a professional art work in your living space?

The most exciting part for me has been the trust that having professional art work implied. When I picked up my piece, I literally walked into the museum and took it off of the wall. At most museums, censored wires prevent you from simply standing too close to a piece of art.

What advice would you give to other students hoping to participate in the Student Lending Art Program in the future?

You should totally participate in the Student Lending Art Program. There are so many great pieces that can make dorms feel more like home and inspire new relationships with art. Look for a piece that you personally connect with or find interesting.

Madeleine Daepp

Carmen Herrera
Ariel, 2008
Silkscreen
Purchased with gifts from Brit d'Arbeloff, Karen & Greg Arenson, Karen Ho, Colleen & Howard Messing, John & Cynthia Reed, Sara-Ann & Robert Sanders, Sarah Sarvis & Frederico Milla
CNS.2011.016

A woman reads in a chair in the corner of a room with houseplant to her right and a blue silkscreen print to her left.

What were some things you looked for in a piece while you were making your choices from the collection? 

I’m so used to getting just a few minutes with artwork in a museum. I was surprised to find that I looked for very different characteristics when picking out a piece to spend a whole year with. There were some funny text-based pieces and surrealist works that I loved in the gallery but that felt a little overwhelming for a long-term relationship. I thought that pieces with big, bold colors might create a more comfortable, long-term sense of joy.

What drew you to this particular piece?

I liked the clean lines, how even though it’s really simple there’s something new to discover every time you look at it.

How did you choose where to display the piece?

I live in a small Cambridge apartment, and it’s easy for the rooms to feel cluttered. The geometric minimalism of the piece ensures that it always feels clean and comfortable in that corner of the room, at least.

How does the piece interact with your space?

I live in a small Cambridge apartment, and it’s easy for the rooms to feel cluttered. The geometric minimalism of the piece ensures that it always feels clean and comfortable in that corner of the room, at least.

What has your experience been like living with the artwork? 

It has been a treat. When I got it, I sent photos to some members of my family. It was really special to hear their reactions – everybody connects with it in a different way.

Do you think that its presence has an effect on you personally? 

I find it calming. If I’m stressed or if I need a break from my research, sometimes I’ll just sit on the sofa and enjoy the artwork for a while. It’s a reminder to be grateful for daily interactions with beautiful things.

Has the piece had any effect on visitors when they enter your space? 

The piece is definitely the first thing people notice. Sometimes it’s hard to get people to leave the living room. I particularly like sharing it with friends who have pieces of their own, because we can see how similar or different our preferences are—it’s fun to go to a friend’s place and to see a photograph or painting that is amazing, but in a totally different way.

What has been most exciting for you in having a professional art work in your living space? 

It’s nice to have a personal connection to this artist and this work – I didn’t know anything about Carmen Herrera when I selected the piece. It wasn’t until I stopped by the List Center to pick it up that one of the staff there told me about this amazing Cuban-American artist whose work had been overlooked for years before she finally found success at age 89. I now seek out her art whenever I can. It feels like I’ve made a new friend.

What advice would you give to other students hoping to participate in the Student Lending Art Program in the future? 

Give yourself lots of time to spend in the gallery – there are so many extraordinary pieces in the collection. And tell your friends, because you’ll be able to enjoy the pieces in their living rooms, too.

Tony Shu

Mary Sherwood
Mnemosyne, 1988
Monoprint
Gift of Dana Friis-Hansen
CNS.1991.001

A man sits at his desk on his laptop surrounded by houseplants and a burnt orange mono print on the wall in front of him.

What were some things you looked for in a piece while you were making your choices from the collection?

At this point in time my place was only half furnished, so I was really looking for something to guide future design decisions. There wasn’t a specific checklist, just a vaguely defined emotional assessment: I had to really want it. I strolled through the gallery three times before making a decision. Part of the fun was busily obsessing over all the details.

What drew you to this particular piece?

I’ve always been a softie for nostalgia, a sense of vastness, etc. For me, the strongest idea from the painting is passage of time. The dominant colors are various shades of rust while the building’s foundation is heavily eroded, yet the building itself still stands. What will fade?

What will remain? After looking it up, I found Mnemosyne to be the perfect name. It’s one the painting shares with the Greek goddess of memory, mother to the nine muses.

How does the piece interact with your space?

I think mid-century modern design does a good job of being thematically clean, allowing other elements to stand out. There’s instead a sense of overgrowth as soon as you enter the apartment due to plants overflowing from every corner and every wall. A planted fish tank with a bonsai moss tree takes center stage. I also have a couple of vaguely Greek busts, pieces of art, and bookends. The painting really drives the image of some civilization’s ruins being reclaimed by nature.

Has the piece had any effect on visitors when they enter your space?

It definitely provides something for the mind to work on a bit. Even though there are lots of plants, foliage is only interesting for so long. Green everywhere simply becomes the background. People visiting for the first time usually mention the painting, comment on its colors, and ask about its origins.

What has been most exciting for you in having a professional art work in your living space?

Haha, definitely displaying original artwork without the associated cost! But with this apartment, I also got to furnish and decorate my own place for the first time in my life. I’ll be here for at least a few more years, and Mnemosyne will always be the first thing I think of when looking back. Wow, look at me getting sentimental about an apartment…am I an adult now?

What advice would you give to other students hoping to participate in the Student Lending Art Program in the future?

Give it a try even if you don’t have any strong feelings about visual art; I certainly didn’t a couple years ago. It’s a free service that is unique to your time at MIT. I’ve personally found appreciation of art to be one of life’s highest benefit to cost activities. Oh, and just like with your children, try to love all your choices equally since it’s a total lottery and some pieces are extremely desired (looking at you, Picasso).

Rachel Thompson

Steve Locke
Untitled (Our Honeymoon-blue), Family Pictures, 2015
Epson Ultrachrome K3 pigment ink
Purchased with funds from MIT Friends of Boston Art
L.2017.001

A woman sits in the corner of her bedroom reading a book with a dresser to her right and a print on the wall behind her.

What were some things you looked for in a piece while you were making your choices from the collection?

I wanted to find something that would grow with me in my last year at MIT. I knew that I would be spending many hours alone, researching and writing and lying awake fretting over my thesis, and I was looking for a piece that I could have a conversation with as my own work progressed. 

What drew you to this particular piece?

At first glance the piece seems unassuming. A photograph of a framed picture perched on a wooden table against a serene blue background. The layers unfold, though, first with the phrase “Our Honeymoon,” written in a cursive script, opposite a pair of beach sandals. Rather than the anticipated romantic image – a vacationing newlywed couple – the frame bounds the iconic diagram of a slave ship. This commercialized, contemporary mode for displaying domestic bliss embeds, instead, a historic representation of oppression. I’ve found some of these same themes in my research on popular media representations of incarceration, and I appreciate that this piece challenges its viewers to engage with their own culpability.  

How did you choose where to display the piece?

Because the work invites close, intentional viewing, I chose to nest it in my living space. It hangs in my bedroom, and I think that this placement serves to foreground the fraught relationship between domesticity and complicity at the center of the work. In particular, it hangs on my blue bedroom wall above a wooden dresser, mimicking the piece’s own composition. 

What has your experience been like living with the artwork?

The piece begins and ends each of my days. In the morning, it reminds me to be intentional about my choices, and, in the evening, it reminds me to reflect on how I navigate the world around me. It doesn’t matter if I’m overwhelmed or running late or exhausted – I am always moved to interact with it.

Do you think that its presence has an effect on you personally?

I chose this work precisely because of the effect it has on me personally. It makes a stark, jarring juxtaposition, which, for me, has been generative and critical in these final months at MIT.

What advice would you give to other students hoping to participate in the Student Lending Art Program in the future?

Pick pieces that speak to you! Whether they challenge you, like Untitled (Honeymoon – blue) challenges me, or if they simply inspire joy when you look at them, or anything in between.

Past Student Stories