Drawings and oil painting by Megh V.

I think Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine would be an especially good fit for Bennington’s reading list. There are, admittedly, deeper and more substantive books around—but that would be missing the beauty of the novel totally. At 130 pages, The Mezzanine is a love letter to all the boring, ephemeral, and smallish details which make up 95% of our lives. Baker ruminates on everything from awkward bathroom experiences to shoelaces to the social etiquette of plastic bags. His brain thinks five subterranean levels lower than ours, leaving you with no choice but to gape at his observational skill. And the prose! Baker is one of my favorite stylists, but he outdoes himself here with the sheer richness of every phrase. His sentences, I think, easily rival those of 19th century masters; they have the density, but they’re more fun.
All said, The Mezzanine comes out looking like an early, prescient version of the blog, filled with trivial and personal details, but ones that are so indulgently observant they ring as universal. It is also funny. I can’t let this go unsaid: it is often surprisingly, weirdly funny. The book is relevant to 2014 as well. In today’s world, Baker’s narrator could easily be a hyper-literate tweeter, spilling out pebbles of observation on a daily basis. Instead, through a book, he celebrates the eccentricities of daily life, often with much richer results.
—a book recommendation from Stephen D.

I think Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine would be an especially good fit for Bennington’s reading list. There are, admittedly, deeper and more substantive books around—but that would be missing the beauty of the novel totally. At 130 pages, The Mezzanine is a love letter to all the boring, ephemeral, and smallish details which make up 95% of our lives. Baker ruminates on everything from awkward bathroom experiences to shoelaces to the social etiquette of plastic bags. His brain thinks five subterranean levels lower than ours, leaving you with no choice but to gape at his observational skill. And the prose! Baker is one of my favorite stylists, but he outdoes himself here with the sheer richness of every phrase. His sentences, I think, easily rival those of 19th century masters; they have the density, but they’re more fun.

All said, The Mezzanine comes out looking like an early, prescient version of the blog, filled with trivial and personal details, but ones that are so indulgently observant they ring as universal. It is also funny. I can’t let this go unsaid: it is often surprisingly, weirdly funny. The book is relevant to 2014 as well. In today’s world, Baker’s narrator could easily be a hyper-literate tweeter, spilling out pebbles of observation on a daily basis. Instead, through a book, he celebrates the eccentricities of daily life, often with much richer results.

—a book recommendation from Stephen D.

Picture the scene: an empty 1950’s-style diner; a tired, old waitress lazily wiped down a perfectly clean table; the clock struck three A.M., and two fresh faced redheads entered, one a voluptuous vixen looking for nothing but trouble, the other a practiced fighter preparing for the biggest challenge of her life. I was that fighter. It was true I had faced many a worthy adversary, from the hefty double pounder to the endless bucket of nachos, but none quite like this. This was a game changer. This was the infamous seven patty cheeseburger.
from an essay by Sydney R.
A small Balinese town of woodcarvers opened my eyes to a maker’s livelihood. The multitudes of sculptures ranged from mythical South Asian bird creatures, called garudas, to scenes depicting fishermen or farmers, all made from fragrant sandalwood and richly colored hardwoods. The intricate patterns carved into previously inanimate materials rocked my foundation as an artist, revealing to me the power of a maker’s hands.

…When I returned home from Bali, I was determined to apply the same dedication to sculpting. Instead of working apathetically on simple piggy banks and teapots, I spent months on a single piece, increasing detail and complexity. I made individual feathers and connected them one by one onto my birds’ wings instead of carving them in relief-style. I added more scales onto my dragons’ coils, and on their backs fine hair instead of none at all. As my concentration and love for sculpting grew, so did my appreciation for three-dimensional work. 

—excerpt from an essay and Nine Celestial Dragons, a sculpture by Bailey G.

A small Balinese town of woodcarvers opened my eyes to a maker’s livelihood. The multitudes of sculptures ranged from mythical South Asian bird creatures, called garudas, to scenes depicting fishermen or farmers, all made from fragrant sandalwood and richly colored hardwoods. The intricate patterns carved into previously inanimate materials rocked my foundation as an artist, revealing to me the power of a maker’s hands.

…When I returned home from Bali, I was determined to apply the same dedication to sculpting. Instead of working apathetically on simple piggy banks and teapots, I spent months on a single piece, increasing detail and complexity. I made individual feathers and connected them one by one onto my birds’ wings instead of carving them in relief-style. I added more scales onto my dragons’ coils, and on their backs fine hair instead of none at all. As my concentration and love for sculpting grew, so did my appreciation for three-dimensional work. 
—excerpt from an essay and Nine Celestial Dragons, a sculpture by Bailey G.
I have grown up molded by concrete. I can measure my life by the height of the skyscrapers around me, by the length of the highways I travel. My alarm clock is a distant car horn, my nightlight the glow of streetlamps outside my window. And yet, when I close my eyes and breathe, I imagine a vastly different place. If I think hard enough I can almost feel the dirt beneath my feet and smell the fresh country air. I am home.
from Sarah H’s essay, “From Cement to Gravel”
I was born in the middle. In the middle of nowhere, the middle of the month, the middle of the day, the middle of my parents’ divorce. I grew up in the heat of Elko, Nevada, and the cool mist of Santa Cruz, California, making a figurative, lukewarm haze of both dust and sea fog around me. My parents and their surroundings could not be more different, but since I was in the middle, I saw the extremes.
the opening of an essay by Lilly H.

Analytical Study: Blind Contour, marker on paper

Self-Portrait in Cadmium Red, vine charcoal, black pastel, white pastel, red conte

—Maddie M.

True change begins with questioning, and I’ve made the most change in my thinking by playing a game of Why? The rules are quite simple; I think of anything and I ask “why?” Then I ask “why?” again…and again. There’s no way to win the game, but it would be devastating to win, anyway. Asking “why?” takes the mind infinitely deeper into itself while simultaneously pulling it to every foreign corner of the universe. This game seems to be one programmed into mankind’s hard drive, for I certainly can’t take credit as the creator.


Socrates is attributed with creating this game, formally known at the Socratic method. He played this game to death due to how important it is to the progression of humans. At a certain point, the Socratic method collects itself into one conclusion; humans are grounded in intuition, not fact. We do not have a morsel of truth, nothing we can prove.

from an essay by Blaine F.

A knowledgeable person learns from the world around them, but primarily learns in an empirically based, systematic gathering of facts. A knowledgeable person is well read and has had academic success; usually memorizing facts well. However, facts can and will change. Facts can change due to politics, funding, or simply being proven wrong by more modern methods of scientific examination.

Wisdom, on the other hand, builds and grows. It is not proven wrong, it is never outdated, and is rarely discarded. Simply memorizing a collection of facts is not knowledge nor wisdom, leaving one unable to utilize either. Mere cold facts about subjects such as human sciences and ethics, will not be effective— there must be reason, morality, and wisdom as well.

from an essay by Lily H. on the question “Is knowledge the same as wisdom?”

Works in acrylic paint and charcoal by Savanna R.

Artifacts from applications to Bennington College

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