Irene Lam '17
"Comps." You’ll hear the word floating around from every senior you might meet, often accompanied by a groan or a sad shake of the head. "Comps" is short for your capstone senior comprehensive project—every major has one, and the format for each is different. STEM majors might have a lengthy examination or a presentation on their research. For most humanities majors, it takes the form of a long paper, typically somewhere between 20-40 pages. Comps for art majors, however, is completely different—you could say we have the most fun.
However, it’s just as challenging and time-consuming as any other comps. It’s difficult to be an artist, and to make work that you think matters. You have to love what you do. For many of us, our projects are extremely personal reflections of our identities, and it can be unnerving to present that before the public.
The process is highly structured but at the same time fairly flexible to our interests. We design and implement our own independent projects, install our own work, and show them in the Weingart galleries on campus. We worked closely with a professor who advised us and referred us to relevant contemporary artists, and we got feedback from other artists and faculty during critiques.
The project should be a substantial body of work that reflects development in your preferred medium. Among the seven seniors majoring in studio art, we featured work that was diverse in subject as well as medium, including: installation, video art, metal, photography, wood, paint (acrylic, gouache, watercolor), found objects, digital illustration, book arts, plaster sculpture, and more. It was incredibly refreshing to see how diverse our work was, which only goes to show how the art we make extends far beyond the basics we learn in classes.
What was unique about art comps was the feeling of community, not only from our Oxy peers and faculty, but particularly among the fellow art majors. There are typically less than ten studio art majors per class year, which creates a feeling of camaraderie. Each of us approaches art from a different perspective and with different goals in mind, and we all supported one another unfailingly. Things definitely got tough, whether it was trying to figure out how to move forward after a critique or scrambling to finish installing before opening night, but we managed to make work we felt proud of.