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Students compete to recreate famous photographic series at Snite Museum of Art

| Friday, September 18, 2020

Students gathered outside the Snite Museum of Art Thursday, trying to recreate John Baldessari’s famous photographic series entitled “Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line.” This contest is a part of the Snite Museum’s promotion of the featured exhibit “Touchstones of the Twentieth Century: A History of Photography at the University of Notre Dame.”

Layton Hall | The Observer

Students participated in the Snite Museum’s competition to recreate John Baldessari’s famous photo series “Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line.”

The contest consisted of students throwing three balls into the air, attempting to align them, while a partner snapped a photo. This process is an ode to Baldessari, who, when creating the set of photos now on display at the Snite, threw three balls into the air 36 times as his then wife, Carol Wixom, operated the camera. Students who participated in the night’s activity were encouraged to submit their best attempts to the museum, with the top two entries winning a Snite gift bag that includes a copy of the 400+ page photography catalogue “A History of Photography at the University of Notre Dame.”

“It was surprisingly difficult to try to align all of the balls right out of your hands,” first year Michael Fraizer said. “But it was really cool to try and recreate the process that the artist went through.”

Fraizer said this was his first visit to the Snite Museum, and he wished to learn more about it after participating in the competition.

Bridget Hoyt, the curator of education for academic programs, was on site outside the Snite helping to organize the event. She and a few students helped photograph student attempts and displayed copies of Baldessari’s series of photos. 

“[We want students to] realize that photography is an active thing that we can all do, and that we have the resources to do it with just the phone in your pocket,” Hoyt said. “While celebrating photography as something to look at, it’s also important to celebrate photography as something that we can do.” 

Hoyt also commended Rachel Heisler, the assistant curator of education for academic programs, whose idea led to increased student engagement with art. They hope that through this engagement, students can see their own ability to create with the tools around them and also engage with the pieces that the Snite is showing, she said.

The Snite Museum will continue their student engagement efforts with activities planned nearly every week this semester. The second day of the Baldessari competition will proceed Friday afternoon from 2-3 p.m. and events such as Sculpt’d, Slow Look and Trivia Snite are coming in the next few weeks.

“Touchstones of the Twentieth Century: A History of Photography at the University of Notre Dame” will be available for viewing through December. 

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