Yale student’s miscarriage installation/performance

This is the second article I’ve read this week about Yale student Aliza Svhart’s senior project, er, performance. Reportedly, she artificially inseminated herself using voluntary donors while ovulating, and would later induce a miscarriage using an herbal method. The result of this performance will be a hanging installation making use of cellophane and video of the miscarriages.

The aforementioned Wall Street Journal article says it well, “Immaturity, self-importance and a certain confused earnestness will always loom large in student art work. But they will usually grow out of it. What of the schools that teach them?” The thrust of the Journal’s article seems to revolve around the educational aspect of art colleges. It suggests that most programs will begin by running students through basic drawing courses before channeling them into emphasis such sculpture or printmaking. Courses should, writer Michael J. Lewis contends, become increasingly challenging. This was my own experience, and also that of my brother who is a painter. I can’t imagine any reputable program diverging much from such a model without very good reason.

Another important point offered by Lewis notes the importance of two professorial archetypes key to the education of an artist: “It is often said that great achievement requires in one’s formative years two teachers: a stern taskmaster who teaches the rules and an inspirational guru who teaches one to break the rules. But they must come in that order.” I don’t think many aspiring artists realize the importance of rules, which are key to respectable craft and discipline. The young painter or sculptor’s ideas often outpace their ability to actually create a successful work of art. Further, the romantic notions surrounding working as a successful artist aren’t normally realistic. Professional artists need discipline, organization and so on.


Aliza Shvarts. Disarticulation. 12 in. x 12 in. x 24 in. Plaster, vaseline, towels, rubber bands, latex gloves. Photo from the Yale website.

Basically, Lewis lays out a proven model for the education of artists, and asks what happened with Miss Shvart and Yale? He doesn’t jump to any sort of dire conclusions, but the question is worth asking. There is a general feeling about art and artists getting away with basically anything and everything, as blatantly alluded to in the recent film Art School Confidential. “Given the choice of this arduous training or the chance to proceed immediately to the making of art free of all traditional constraints,” Lewis says, “one can understand why all but a few students would take the latter. But it is not a choice that an undergraduate should be given.” All of us need to pushed in order to become better. Just as the mind of a typical art student needs discipline, most business students will need some form of creativity in order to be the better graduate.

There is, of course, all kinds of press surrounding this story. I saw one link from the Yale Daily News suggesting the administration is not going to allow the exhibit to take place. We’ll see.

Clarification: The image included in this post is not the work in question, which has yet to be installed and photographed as far as I know.

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About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

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