Written by Victoria Mullins and Ben Hurst
Sarah Goldstein, the artist whose piece “Eyeroll” will be the cover of the 2020-21 print issue, helps us all to remember that we have both lost and gained so many things in the last year through her work. Where we have lost certainty, we have gained the ability to improvise. Where we lost all sense of normal, we gained an ability to come together in new ways.
She notes that her love of photography and art stems from childhood.
“Art was my first hobby. I went to an art’s high school, and a big part of my curriculum was photography related. I did it for fun was I was younger, but it was helpful having it integrated into school.”
She highlights music as the prominent inspiration for creating art: “it really helps me set my mood. Outside of photography, I also like having a lot of different mediums. I do a lot of writing.”
“Eyeroll” highlights the life of a student in 2020. We have all witnessed the moment we work for over four years almost go up in a ball of smoke. Graduation should be a joyful and momentous time in our lives, but COVID-19 overshadowed it. Sarah highlights that “Eyeroll” captures some of these same feelings and its unique origin.
She remembers that she was working for the Scoop Magazine of the School of Journalism prior to the pandemic. She took graduation pictures to make a cover for the magazine, but “Eyeroll” was a mistake.
“It was an outtake I liked way more. It just kinda reflected what was going on. At the time, my boyfriend was helping me with it, and he was so mad he couldn’t use his cap and gown. It just felt really fitting that we caught that picture. It was on purpose, and we thought it was funny.”
She describes the picture as a metaphor for 2020 because she took it as everything was beginning to shut down.
“It was just very 'the pandemic just hit'. No one knows what’s going on.”
Sarah’s work extends to her other piece in the upcoming print magazine: “Life.” An image that physically shows the word “Life” on a destroyed building, a feeling that we have all witnessed as our daily lives were interrupted—even destroyed—in a matter of months.
“I was just in Chattanooga with a friend, and we were driving around town (since there was nothing to do). We saw that building. I thought it was crazy, so I ended up going back the next day and photographing it. I also felt like that was a really good reflection.”
She also notes that “Life” captures the overarching feeling of change that loomed over 2020.
“I feel like I already had a weird feeling toward construction and buildings being replaced but seeing the context of the 'Life' building felt very different. Something about the day and the time and the setting made it feel like more than just a building.”
We each experienced COVID-19 completely interrupt our academic careers. Spring Break turned into months locked in our homes, taking classes online—some of which weren’t built to be online. The anxiety of the unknown whether it be about school, or the news became a major part of our lives. She notes that the significance of these pieces stems from the importance of overcoming the uncertainty of a pandemic-centered world.
“When I took 'Eyeroll', my class wanted to switch the theme to be pandemic-related. I felt like it was really hard to make art I enjoyed surrounding a time period that I don’t want to think about. Pandemic-related art can be really uncomfortable. Art is, in a sense, a form of entertainment, and it’s hard to talk about what’s going on in that light. But at the same time, I guess it also shows how people are feeling. So, I guess both pictures, 'Life' and 'Eyeroll', reflected my year a lot on a personal level. Over the year, so much of the stuff I was photographing was playgrounds with caution tape around them and an ambulance sitting in a park. Things that were very much 'What’s going on?' and sad. And those pictures were a way to encompass those personal feelings. I still feel like this year has had so many downsides but also so many upsides, so the 'Life' building being really colorful stuck out to me.”
“2020: the year of the pandemic” as it will come to be known in textbooks. We witnessed our lives change completely. We lost the simple coffee dates with friends or visiting the mall. Sarah’s work captures that feeling of loss. “Eyeroll” emphasizes the annoyance of graduating in a pandemic. We must choose which family members get to experience a graduation that we worked for years to achieve. “Life” embodies our lives crumbling around us. Sarah’s work embodies 2020 for the student along with the lives of everyone who escaped such a tumultuous year.
Photography by Sarah Goldstein