Yale unframed: YUAG and beyond

Hopper’s Game

A man and woman sit in an empty café in the daylight. The man is holding a burning cigarette, gesturing towards her, perhaps attempting to make a move. The woman’s head is cocked in his direction, suggestive, full of yearning, but her gaze is directed towards her hands. Sunlight streams in: rigid, frozen trapezoids. On the table rest salt and pepper shakers, the pepper shaker shaped like an hourglass, the saltshaker oddly phallic. There’s no one else in the cafeteria. The loneliness is stark. The sexual tension is palpable.

Man and woman sitting in an old-school post-war American cafeteria? Or lonely millenials post-Toads hookup, sitting in Blue State on a quiet Thursday? Clearly, they’re both tryna. They’re playing the Game. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, don’t show interest, act chill. If she replies too quickly, she’s desperate. So she looks down at her phone instead. If he makes a move, he’s coming on too strong. So he stares at the gross looking plant outside of the window instead of her beautiful face. And so nothing happens, trapped in a “thing,” where no one is willing to show their cards.

Ask each other out, dammit. Hopper wants you to.

— Yi-Ling Liu



Redon or JE fangirl?

Vibrant, shimmering flowers overflow from the silver vase in Odilon Redon’s “Nasturtiums.” Gold, crimson, and flaming orange petals float in front of softly green leaves, all fading into a background awash with pale reds. This painting, which hangs in the second floor European gallery of the YUAG, has always captivated me with its promises of whispered wealth and subtle luxury. Something winks through its metallic sheen, beckoning me to come closer, to peek in, to join…

Why am I so intrigued by the scene presented in “Nasturtiums”? It calls to me like a half-remembered dream or long-dormant desire. It’s familiar, but slightly out of reach, an elegant party glimpsed through a slightly ajar door.

Perhaps it’s one of the dinners I’ve seen through the leaded glass windows of Jonathan Edwards College, full of tinkling glasses and draped linen, where Spiders hobnob and laugh about their halcyon, ivy-covered days.

Oh, to sit in that ruddy courtyard, surrounded by eaves and gables, and feel at home. What would that be like for me? To walk among the crinkling leaves of fall, pass under the strands of twinkling lights in winter, and gaze upon the silken grass of spring — oh, would that I were in JE!

I’ve walked the Spiders’ pristine halls, sat in their worn leather chairs, and snuck into quite a few of their family dinners. From the angular tower of Ezra Stiles, I wonder what quirk of fate separated me from my burnished brick destiny.

Like the tulips that bloom in the spring, bursting into a patchwork of color from underneath a wintry blanket, I too await the moment when I can dress in silver and green, gain private access to the Sculpture Garden, and not have to ask to be swiped in. Onwards, my friends, to the Great Awakening!

— Claire Goldsmith



Bass Café, Night Café, nightmare

I am somewhat certain my hallucinogenic vision of Bass Café is a symptom of the purple mold spores sprouting from the book I retrieved from a dark corridor of Sterling. I prefer to believe that it is a result of the similarity of the tortured, creative genius I share with Vincent van Gogh. Perhaps the similarity between his Night Café in the YUAG and Bass Café is because it is always night in the Bass Café, because it is underground.

I walk through a cloud of angst and graduate student cigarette smoke after descending into a dark hole, before awkwardly shuffling through double doors. The air is thick, like waves of heat rising from sun-scorched ground. No oasis awaits me behind the Bass doors, only work and numerous abandoned Borrow Direct books. The sickening temperature of the light radiates from florescent bulbs not so different from van Gogh’s nightmarish eye-bulb light fixtures. Thain Family Café does not sell absinthe, but campus reps for 5-Hour Energy frantically peddle their poison.

When I became an Art History major, I pledged to only dress in grey tones, eat at Book Trader, and to never forsake my mother and life source: the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library. This subterranean battleground of so-called group work is as jarring as the upward tilt of van Gogh perspective. The freshmen wandering aimlessly around me, discussing their idea for a new, socially conscious student investment fund appear to be faceless aliens just like van Gogh’s fellow bargoers. Alas, this was the only location where my TA agreed to meet me. Can’t wait till the Schwartzman center opens.

— Jake Stein



Orange you lovely

Every time I look at this Rothko in the YUAG, my mind is on the Haas Art and Architecture Library.

First, the loud color of his orange is similar to the carpet in Haas. Ironic. Both spaces they occupy are supposed to be quiet. But are they? Bruh, your whispers are louder than those Sun Chip™ bags that are eco-friendly. This is not Bass Café™. Let me vibe with these vibrant colors in peace.

Second, I can’t bring in coffee to either spot. I won’t fight the rule in the art gallery since they have mad security, but I know I can sneak it into Haas in my Fjall Raven™ or my Patagonia™.

Oh wait, Haas has security too and they are artsy vampires that don’t actually have a job at the library. All that they have are their opinions that they add primarily to their moleskines™ with quill and ink when they aren’t sneaking up on their next victim to ask if the Blue State they are currently drinking is their own. Regardless of the answer, they will suck your blood if it is artisanal.

Third, both buildings are on York Street but they have an ostensible affiliation with High Street. It’s maybe a thing. It’s maybe a scene. Use those close reading skills you developed in Les/Gay to figure out what I mean.

But, after all this critique, Haas is bae. And so is Rothko, when we’re not on a break and he is pictured in your next profile picture.

— Austin Johnson




In a small corner of the seriously under appreciated Puritan art section of the Yale Art Gallery, I found an old friend, Jonathan Trumbull, hanging out in a miniature painting. The work was no larger than my hand, and it was surrounded by four other pocket-sized portraits embedded into a frame. As I expected of a governor, Mr. Trumbull confronted me with a confident pose, his steely eyes stern and unyielding, his lips downturned in a sturdy frown. He honestly looked like he had never ever laughed at anything. Ever.

I was first acquainted with this statesman over email a few months before this in-person encounter. Only a few hours after I moved into my room in Bingham, I had three messages from a “Jonathan Trumbull” waiting in my inbox, notifying me with mounting enthusiasm about a massive sale of Trumbull College gear and signed affectionately “JT.” I was surprised to see the colonial politician’s adeptness with emojis and colorful fonts, but I figured he was just trying to be a man of his people. It was weird—considering the portrait, he did not seem like the type of guy to send emails with exclamation marks. JT transformed?

I started looking at my college through the lens of JT’s portrait. Perhaps the Gothic arches were inspired by the shape of Trumbull’s hooked nose? Perhaps the severity and strict verticality of the buildings symbolized his political uprightness and moral virtue? I started to wonder: could I find characteristics of other colleges in the portraits of their namesakes? Wandering through the early American galleries, I happened to meet a number of other familiar colonial men. They sadly shared very few characteristics with their residential counterparts. I walked past a portrait of an intellectual but friendly-looking Ezra Stiles, surrounded by books (with right angles!), and made awkward eye contact with a rotund George Berkeley (who was very much intact, and not severed into North and South parts). Like college, like painting? Apparently not.

— Zoe Dobuler


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