“I Graduated with an Art Degree from Farm School,” Brian Vandeputte

Sep 10th, 2014 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

A 12.6% unemployment rate among recent fine art graduates is not the worst statistic to be confronted with upon graduation.

Within that 12.6% lies an even higher number of lower job prospects – a number that hasn’t even been calculated before, because it is so sad. In fact, a recent statistic confirms that our university’s fine art program has more unemployed graduates right now than there are pedophiles looking for work as babysitters.

That university is Michigan State, which has the distinction of being the nation’s first land-grant institution. Yes, admittedly, I chose to pursue art at farm school. While my graduation party resembled a funeral, I believe my degree offers me a unique, albeit lonesome, position within the art world.

You see, most fine art wannabes scurry off to New York to spend four years and $90,000 just to learn how to make oversized balloon animals. On the other hand, I spent the same amount of time – and half the tuition – living, breathing, and fornicating within the painted worlds that made artists like Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Norman Rockwell famous. My college experience provided me the license to give authoritative analysis when discussing classical works of American art.

For example, in my opinion, American Gothic resembles my illustration professor getting photo-bombed by his wife during yearbook pictures. Christina’s World could’ve easily been some hung-over sorority girl on the walk of shame. And Millet’s The Gleaners doesn’t depict peasant women picking stray grains of wheat after a harvest, but FarmHouse pledges cleaning up after a tailgate. Yet, we learned more than just our fair share of art history.

During our still-life class, we couldn’t just buy a bushel of apples and some maize from the grocery store. We had to go out and farm the crops ourselves. That meant learning proper irrigation, conservation, fertilization, and other “ations.” We weren’t handed a syllabus, some brushes, and a color wheel on the first day of class; we were handed the Farmer’s Almanac. None of us would complain about being “starving artists” because we knew how to grow our own food. It was only after a successful harvest that we could begin to paint our still-lifes. And at that point, we would’ve already moved on to cubism. Once you’ve sacrificed two semesters and a summer vacation working on one 9” x 13” painting, you’ll see what a hack Giorgio Morandi was. The same goes for those who make oversized balloon animals.

Life-drawing class was also a challenge. Each week, a different nude model would pose for us. But since this is farm school art school, we were often forced to look at a naked Old MacDonald. This is why I have such contempt for Leonardo da Vinci. His drawing, the Vitruvian Man, was not a real person, but a depiction of what the ideal proportions of the perfect human should be. First off, thanks for making the rest of human civilization feel like shit. Second, instead of drawing someone who doesn’t exist, try drawing someone who does. My suggestion is someone who’s covered in liver spots, missing half his teeth, and looks like Pa Joad.

Ceramics class was where our professors tried to pick out the pot-smoking “craftsmen” from the pot-smoking craftsmen. Thus, most of the traditional materials, such as earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain, were strictly forbidden. Due to the armada of cattle, poultry, and swine surrounding the college, animal manure ended up being our primary alternative. Pro tip: chicken litter is more potent in nitrogen and phosphate than pig manure, which makes the former much more durable when building bowls or vases. The key is to get to the potter’s wheel while the manure is still fresh so it’s easier to shape. At the end of the semester, students enrolling in still life were allowed to recycle their manure pottery as organic fertilizer.

Graduation is always a special occasion. It’s the last chance students have to ask themselves: Did I make the right decision? And, if I leave now, can I still claim to be an art school dropout? However, those who graduate are automatically admitted into the UFW, and receive a César Chávez bumper sticker with their diploma. This year, our class had the pleasure of welcoming the Farmer in the Dell as our commencement speaker. His lesson was telling everyone what the heck a dell is, and why he was there.

Now that I’ve left East Lansing, friends often ask me, “If you could go back in time, would you do it again?”

People say that great artists must be willing to suffer for their work. Vincent van Gogh was so troubled that he sliced off his ear. Christopher Burden crucified himself to a car. Mark Rothko lived in poverty before committing suicide. But I am convinced that there is no greater torture aspiring artists can impose upon themselves than to graduate from Michigan State University’s Department of Art, Art History, and Design.

Which is why it is the greatest college in the world.
Defenestration-Brian VandeputteBrian Vandeputte is a person who enjoys indoor and outdoor activities. He especially likes outdoor activities done inside, like water balloon fights in the living room, and indoor activities done outside, like playing video games in the background.

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