Exhibiting Love

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Artwork by Hannah Mizell

By Hannah Mizell

Theses are far from an uncommon topic to cover for Infinite Wisdom. After all, it is only human nature that we love to talk about ourselves. In this case, I understand the need to prove that our hard work is worth it to those who have no idea what said work entailed. As someone who is just starting work on her own thesis, I had not planned to write anything about it until later in the semester, perhaps the year. Infinite Wisdom’s transition into doing themed months changed my plan.

My thesis is love exhibited in material form. It is the concept for a travelling museum exhibition of American art created in reaction to the November 16, 2015 Paris attacks and the French art created after we, ourselves, were attacked last June in Orlando. Though some may argue that the motives are incomparable, I still believe that both incidents were attacks meant to obliterate the concept of love.

In Orlando’s case, the concept of love is clear: Love is the connection between two people, regardless of race or gender. The connection that makes going deaf from pulsating beats and blind from the strobe lights that dance across the floor insignificant when that person, that single soul in your life, is present. That joy you feel when your hands touch and your eyes meet simply blocks everything out. Psychology could probably point you in the direction of why that happens, but, in my opinion, it’s one of the last bits of magic left here on earth. Unfortunately, anyone with a minute experience in history knows what kind of reaction people have to magic. In some cases, the powers that be try to boil this wonderful phenomenon down to a science. Some closed-minded people compare love to a recipe, as if it is successful only if certain ingredients are mixed and added in a certain way and baked for a certain time. Others go the extra mile by destroying any dish that does not meet the bigot’s qualifications to be considered food. The Orlando attacker, whose name I refuse to acknowledge, was one of those people.

With Paris, the concept of love is harder to see in just one place or time. The love that the attackers destroyed more than a year ago was not between two people, but between hundreds of thousands. The love of Paris is the roar of a thousand strangers when a soccer player makes a goal. Here, love is the shared, excited gaze of two people who share nothing in common except the colors of the jerseys they wear, and the war paint they have dutifully smeared across their faces in support of a team. Further down a Paris street, love is the silent thanks a customer gives to a chef as they savor their first bite of a delicious meal. Even the waiters and waitresses, who have worked endless hours on their feet, show love through the way they balance countless plates on one hand while never spilling a single drop of soup. Even further down that same road, love is found in an undulating mass of hundreds in the dim light of a concert hall. Love is the supportive cheering at a group of musicians who have devoted their lives to a craft so many appreciate but so few understand. When two people keep bumping into each other while dancing to whatever beat they wish, love is their silent understanding of each other’s clumsiness and musical immersion. But, even this love could not protect that November night’s casualties.

My exhibition, Convergent, displays a form of love that those men could not destroy: solidarity. The pieces exhibited within were created to say, “I support you. We may not share a home, but I support you.” Some pieces are detailed and some consist of a few strokes of a marker or pencil. Their complexity does not matter, but their existence does. On that note, it is important to remember where these works were first posted. They first reached the world’s eyes in the form of social media. In some cases, I will agree that social media has created unneeded societal divisions. In this case, however, I think that sites like Instagram and Twitter have given us the opportunity to bring love back to places where it was once obliterated.

Though I stray away from politics in my actual thesis, I will admit that politics is what brought me to this keyboard in the first place. Regardless of who tries to divide us, be it men in the capital or close to home, please remember that love can never be truly destroyed. People will try to hide it, suppress it, and punish those who dare defy them, but love will always find a way back.

Uncovering a Good Thesis

Keilani Hernandez is a senior maritime archaeology major at the University of West Florida. Keilani is currently working on her thesis for the Honors Program, which she must complete and present before her graduation this spring.

I sat down with Keilani at a fundraising event to learn a little bit more about her thesis work and the steps she has taken as part of the process.

I know Keilani Hernandez: she is from a small town in Central Florida, there is a story behind her Hawaiian name, and her dad farms. Keilani enjoys scuba diving and crafting. She is an avid reader and committed student. She makes excellent buffalo-chicken dip.

What I do not know is the story of her thesis.

Keilani’s interest in Southern Florida’s extensive history and marine culture led to her major, maritime archaeology, and from there, UWF. Keilani chose the University of West Florida because it was one of the few schools that offered the major of her interest. Beyond that, she was swayed by UWF’s face time with professors and hands-on approach.

During her time in the UWF Maritime Archaeology program, Keilani studied the maritime landscape of everything from shipwrecks to crashed planes to the Arcadia Mill site in Milton. Keilani already finished her program requirements and is currently working on her minor in Spanish and lab work for her thesis.

Keilani
Keilani will be attending grad school at UWF with a three-year Public Archaeology assistantship with the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN).

 

Keilani’s thesis focuses on the 1989 Hudson group model of Tristan de Luna’s expedition into the interior from 1559-1561. Luna and his men traveled inland to Georgia in an attempt to find new land to settle, but ultimately returned to their original settlement in Florida. Keilani is currently revisiting Hudson’s work to see if his 1989 model is still relevant when compared to new information on the subject. The idea for this project came straight from her thesis advisor as well as Keilani’s own desire to do work close to the community.

Much of her work involves reading scientific articles and primary sources written by members of the expedition. Most of these primary sources are written in old Spanish, which Keilani translates as part of her research. From there, Keilani compares the information she gathered to that of Hudson. When asked why this work is significant, Keilani explained that recently there have been many new discoveries involving the Luna settlement in Pensacola, so it is important to go back and update the old data.

At this point, Keilani has finished most of her research, but still needs to wrap it all up in a nice little 20-page paper. She will also need to present her research sometime this spring, and is hoping for a chance to get published as the final step in her thesis process.

Keilani is an active member of the Kugelman Honors Program. During her time in the program, Keilani regularly attended Honors Council as well as program events. She worked with many of the committees and went on to serve as the single chair for Social Committee her junior year.

Keilani is attending graduate school here, at UWF, to study historical archaeology. During this time, she hopes to continue research and to become involved with more projects associated with the archaeology department. When asked if teaching is an option for her post-grad, Keilani reluctantly replied that it is an option. She believes that her thesis will help polish the skills needed for grad school and later work in her field.

Keilani’s biggest advice for young honors students is not to wait. Get out there early, do some start-up research, and talk to your professors because they have “a ton of ideas just sitting around.”

 

Written by: Alyssa Elliott, third-year student, studio art major & Honors mentor