c/o Ella Zaslow

c/o Ella Zaslow

For Allie Godwin ’23, as well as many other Wesleyan students, college is a time to explore interdisciplinary academics and different spaces for belonging on campus. Godwin, majoring in Studio Art and the Science in Society Program (SISP), is no stranger to intersections of seemingly opposite ideas. In the midst of thesis work, Alpha Delta Phi (ADP) rush, and the constant chaos of a senior’s life, Godwin sat down with us to discuss their time at Wesleyan.

The Argus: First question: why do you think you were nominated for a WesCeleb? 

Allie Godwin: Probably because of ADP connections. I’ve been involved with that for a long time. I feel like that’s not really a good or interesting answer, but yeah. I have worked at Red and Black for a long time—since my first semester sophomore year—and you meet a lot of people doing that. I also have my toe in a lot of different little things. Like…oh my God, why did we pick the week of me having [post-COVID-19] brain fog to do this? 

A: So what drew you to Studio Art and SISP?

AG: I went to an arts high school, so a lot of my decision-making process when I was applying to schools was like, “Am I gonna go to a pure arts school? Am I gonna do the liberal arts thing? Am I gonna pursue the sciences? Am I gonna pursue the arts?” These are my two deepest interests, one drives the other. I came to Wesleyan thinking I was gonna be a [biology] major and [that brought up] lifelong problems I had had with a pure-science education. Then I was like, “Oh wow, there’s a whole field of study dedicated to airing those grievances.”

I used to think I wasn’t smart enough to be a scientist because I never felt like I was asking the right questions. I didn’t understand how someone could “invent” something or “discover” something. But learning that those are actually narratives and myths that we develop about people who “make science,” it’s made the whole institution of capital-S Science feel a lot more alive and approachable.

A: Do you see any intersections between Studio Art and SISP? 

AG: Oh yeah. I’m doing a studio art thesis and it is rooted in a lot of the theory that I’ve read for SISP. All of the art that I’m personally interested in deals with ultimately the same fundamental questions as SISP.  “How do we interface with the world? How do we come to know things? How do we experience things?”

Also, just in terms of visual themes, my art is very much informed by the aesthetics of the body and medicine. [There] was always one thing people would say to me,

“Oh my God, you’re interested in science and art? You should go into medical illustration!” But that’s such an exacting thing that I was never really into. But there’s definitely a lot of references to biomorphic forms and colors and shapes and things that are gross and activate some sort of primal feeling within us.

 A: Talk a bit more about your thesis. How’s that going? What’s it look like?

AG: So far, doing my thesis has been truly one of the greatest experiences I’ve had, [not just] at Wesleyan, but also in my life. In Painting I and Painting II, you get a peek at the thesis studios of these upperclassmen and they’re hallowed spaces. To finally get one of those spaces for my own was so exciting; to feel that I could have this space of privacy and exploration and to be able to devote myself to making art…nothing could be better.

It’s been, obviously, extremely challenging and so intellectually rigorous. I’ve had to ask myself questions about my work and answer questions and be expected to talk about it in a depth that I’ve never had to before. I’m making the best work I’ve ever made. This is a project that I am not just doing for the sake of doing—this is my thesis. It’s as serious as anything that anyone else in any other department is doing. 

A: Have there been any particular classes or professors that have shaped or influenced your time at Wesleyan?

AG: Definitely. I think a big turning point for me was my first semester, junior year, I took a Calderwood Seminar called “Writing Science for the Public” or, or something like that with Courtney Weiss Smith. Before that I had thought that I was going to get into public health. But in that class we read, Donna Haraway’s “Situated Knowledges,” which is such a fundamental SISP text. It opened my eyes to the world of SISP as an academic field in a way that I didn’t know existed outside of undergrad.

I remember this one Donna Haraway quote that I came across junior year: it’s that science is striving for better accounts of the world. Hearing that definition completely changed my whole perspective on why I’m interested in what I’m interested in. It’s not the process of invention or discovery, it’s this kind of humble questioning and just doing your best. It felt very sensitive and compassionate to me in a way that had kind of felt void from the very hard masculine STEM field.

I think so much of that ethos has really carried over into my art and my thesis particularly because it’s all about striving for a better account of the world. How can I share my inner world and my outer world with the people who interface with my art? This is my way of making an account of the world.

A: Why did you decide to work at Red and Black and what has been rewarding about this? 

AG: I started working there during COVID-19 and it was, at the time, a really great way to get social interaction with people. Otherwise, I was locked in my room all day, [so] being able to see a revolving door of people was really fun and exciting. Also, I was a big Red and Black frequenter before I started working there, and the people who worked behind the counter always seemed like celebrities to me.

A: Now you’re a celebrity. 

AG: Yeah, now I’m a celebrity, and now I’m a WesCeleb!

A: Do you have any fun stories from Red and Black?

AG: A lot of failed latte art. When we’re slow, I’m always like, “I got this guys,” and then it never pans out. 

A: But you’re a studio art major!

AG: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m also not a coffee drinker, but I love to play with the espresso machine…it’s a love-hate relationship we have. 

I’ve always worked closing shifts, so it’s usually a little more quiet and it’s usually me, the two managers, and one other student. I’ve become really close with the people that I’ve closed with every semester. We play music really loud on the speakers when it empties out and it’s just a sort of fun, silly time we have behind the counter.

A: Oh, love. Then, obviously, there’s ADP. How’s that been for you?

AG: That was another catalyzed-by-COVID thing. I had known about it since my freshman year because my good friend and recent WesCeleb Sophie Penn [’23] had joined. I didn’t want her to think I was stepping on her heels, but it’s something that I’m actually so glad to have pursued because I never could have expected the role that it would’ve played in my Wesleyan experience. I feel like Alpha Delt has a really interesting cross-section of people from campus. At a certain point in your college career, I feel like you kind of become insulated because you’re only taking these classes in your major, you’re seeing the same few people over and over again. You walk the same beat every day. So being in Alpha Delt is an opportunity to meet people who are doing different things and [have] this little space and [get] that historical, classic, Northeast College experience.

I feel a lot of times Wesleyan has gaps in tradition and knowledge. Maybe it’s a coolness thing. No one wants to be the person to carry the torch over and four years is such a quick turnover. I think it’s hard for tradition to really develop and remain around. But I think because of the smaller size of ADP and people’s commitment to that, it’s really cool to feel like you’re a part of something, even for just the brief time that we’re in college.

A: What legacy would you like to leave behind at Wesleyan? 

AG: Damn. I really hope that I’m remembered for having a kick-ass thesis. That’ll be in the Zilkha Gallery April 4th. The opening should be [in] the evening of that day and the CFA will advertise it, I’m sure. 

A: If nothing else makes it into the article, that will make it into the article.

AG: I don’t really expect people to remember me after I graduate. I hope that the people that I know are able to have some of my experience as well and that I can somehow pass on the wisdom that I feel like college has funneled into my brain. I want people to know that things are good and things can be really good. If they were that good for me, they can definitely be that good for anyone that comes after.

A: What are your plans beyond Wes? 

AG: Me and some of my really close friends are planning on doing a big cross-country move. I’ve lived on the East Coast my entire life, and I think I’m ready to try something different and explore other parts of the country and different ways of living. Beyond that, my plan for a long time now has been to stay within the realm of academia. I just really think that this is the place and the type of people that are for me. So grad school is definitely on the horizon at some point. And eventually, I hope to wind up back at a university as a professor.

And I really wanna have chickens one day, that’s my big goal. I grew up in an apartment in the city and chickens have always been, to me, the ultimate pastoral fantasy. So if anyone has any good chicken names [let me know]. I have some myself. 

A: Such as?

AG: Well, obviously Hen-rietta. Peck-tor. Beak-atrice. It’s the girlies. So if I flunk out of grad school at least, hopefully, I can achieve that dream.

A: What advice do you have for current or prospective students?

AG: Do your readings, unless they’re dumb. Actually don’t put that in. That’s too lame. I wanna say something cooler.

I would say invest time in finding a little space for yourself. At college, even a small school like this, there’s too [many options] to do everything. So finding a way to develop a little space for yourself is a good way to feel that you’ve actually accomplished something. So for me, those places would be my little studio in the CFA and Alpha Delt. 

I would also say some light trespassing is always fun for memory-making. And, I don’t know, get a tattoo. 

A: This has been my favorite fun question that I’ve been asking people lately, so I’m going to ask it to you as well. If Jesus’ body was bread and his blood was wine, what is your body and blood? 

AG: For blood, definitely yellow Gatorade.

A: Let the record show that Allie is currently drinking a yellow Gatorade during this interview.

AG: Ugh, it’s so good. I’m not into juice or anything like that, but something about Gatorade…. I don’t know. It’s just like psychic fuel.

And my body…. This is a little Red and Black knowledge. So, no one ever order this because you will be laughed out of Red and Black. But my body would be Slop, which is a Red and Black container—one of the long, rectangle ones—with hash browns and then you put egg, you put a little spinach, you put onion, little cheese, little avocado, whatever you want. Lots of wet mush. And then you can chop up a little bacon or sausage if you’re into that. You stick it all in the microwave, you do a little sriracha mayo, you shake it up and you have Slop. It’s so good. And that plus a Gatorade—it can’t get better than that. So, Gatorade and slop.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Sam Hilton can be reached at shilton@wesleyan.edu

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