I enrolled at Santa Monica College in the Fall of 2020,
and never set foot on campus until June 2nd, 2022.
It wasn't for a class... it was time to pick up my cap and gown.
When I finally walked around the beautiful campus on that day,
everything that had transpired in the time between flooded my mind.
The pain and uncertainty of a global pandemic.
All of my classmates on Zoom and Canvas.
A contested election, an attempted coup.
The books I read and the papers I wrote.
The mandates, the vaccines, the death.
All of my teachers who showed up to teach anyway.
So much happened while I was a student here.
But I wasn't really here.
I thought about how much I changed during my education.
Learning about astronomy and statistics.
The history of wheat cultivation in early civilization.
The hypothalamus and the hypothesis.
Toni Morrison, Tennessee Williams, and Carl Rogers.
So much growth and knowledge,
more than I ever really imagined I could learn in 2 short years.
During my time at SMC,
much of what I learned ended up in my art.
Perhaps it was a kind of study skill,
creating abstract representations of class material
to learn in a way which I was sure to remember.
I made a lot of art in those two years.
I was finally in the place I was supposed to be.
But it was already over. I had my sash and tassel.
I had received so much, not just knowledge,
but a path to understand myself, my potential, and my purpose.
It led me to continue my educational journey at UCLA.
The next phase of my life was created by and entirely dependent on
the support I had already received from this institution.
Without them, I haven't a clue where I'd be.
Or who I would be.
As I was walking through the campus on that June day,
I tried to go to all the places I thought I would have had to go
as a normal student who wasn't dodging a deadly pandemic.
I walked around the math complex, reading random bulletin boards.
I sat in the courtyard, eavesdropping on students between their classes.
With nothing to do, I had one idea left.
I wanted to see the library that I never got to use.
So I walked over, and walked in.
I showed my student ID, the only time I'll ever use it.
It didn't look much like me anymore, my hair had grown so long.
The library was cool and almost silent, like a library should be.
Like a dream, I walked every single aisle in that building.
Learning where each section was, like it was my first semester.
Making notes of interesting books I would never check out.
But I started noticing something else. Art on the walls.
What if... what if I....I have... I have some art. Maybe I could...?
The idea came slowly. For every piece of art I saw on the walls,
I also saw a beautiful empty space where a piece could be.
There was no one around. I didn't know who to ask.
But in a library, there are librarians. And they know things.
I walked up to the information desk.
The person behind the plexiglass cheerfully asked how they could help.
I knew what I wanted, but not how to ask.
Librarians are great at that. I asked for their name.
"Patty... this might be a little odd. I'm graduating soon and
I would like to donate some artwork to Santa Monica College.
The library specifically. Is there anyone... who could help me do that?"
Sure enough, Patty picked up the phone,
and the interim director Steve came down.
I told Steve and Patty then, what I will tell you now.
"Santa Monica College gave me so much in my time as a student.
More than education, a community in a time of distance.
More than knowledge, an understanding of myself and the world.
I would be deeply honored to donate a piece of my artwork
as a token of my gratitude,
and as a way of physically connecting myself
to the school which I respect and love."
It is a privilege to hang these pieces in the Santa Monica College library.
It is my hope they may encourage and inspire
the eyes and minds which see them in this special place.
We may create a better world through
the compassion and wisdom which education provides,
and I salute whomever may visit this library
along their journey towards that better world.
This installation is dedicated to the Faculty, Staff,
and Student Body of Santa Monica College.
It is an honor to have been in community with all of you.
Justin C.M. Brown
Santa Monica College, Class of 2022
This piece was created to illustrate the idea that while our past and our history is a fixed and knowable complexity, our future is still yet to be determined. We are not bound to any particular outcome, as individuals, societies, or citizens of Earth. Through education, we may reach a more positive outcome.
This piece was created using a photo of the Santa Monica College library, actually taken after my initial conversation with library staff. This title is inspired by my own physical feelings of coming upon knowledge while reading. When I see a library, I see shelves of knowledge, patiently waiting for the reader to come discover it and form their own ideas based on the contents. It is a feeling that immense knowledge already exists within these pages and shelves, and it is ready for an open mind to absorb and reflect upon. It is to reflect the idea that students who wish to improve the world do not have to figure out every piece of the puzzle on their own. In a library, there are the lives and ideas of uncountable scholars, waiting to share their knowledge to the student who desires to learn and carry this wisdom forward. The layering is to reflect how these discrete pieces of knowledge come into conversation with each other in the minds of the reader. Every human being’s reading list is 100% unique, especially when considering the order that they were read in!
This piece is titled Quasiopticon to present an idea of how societal security could work, albeit in a convoluted and possibly invasive manner. It reimagines Bentham's Panopticon as a reciprocal and more supportive network, each watching over another, while also watching the central figure from multiple perspectives. As an artist, I make no claims about the effectiveness or equity of this system, but perhaps it is worthwhile to consider the escalating one-sided nature of surveillance and privacy in the 21st century. I will say I am fully aware of the dystopian nature of Bentham's design, and reject the larger premise of privacy invasion and social control through the illusion of constant observation. I would hope this design moves more in the direction of mutual aid, but in all fairness, it could still use some work as a social structure.
Thank you to each and every one of
my teachers, counselors, and administrators
I encountered in my time at SMC.
Your professionalism, care, and expertise
will be remembered well.
Thank you to the SMC library staff:
Steve Hunt, Fariba Owlya, Walter Butler,
Tracey Hughes, and Patricia Sophos
for their kindness in allowing me this privilege
and professionalism in seeing it through.
Thank you to the SMC maintenance staff
for drilling the holes and placing the screws
on which this art hangs.
I would also like to extend a general appreciation
to all teachers and librarians around the world
for dedicating themselves to educating others.
Thank you to my wonderful partner Andrea,
who continues to be a central inspiration and motivation
in my pursuit of higher education, in my career as an artist,
and in my life in general. (ILYATMIF)
Thank you to the Brown and Gambino families,
your support continues to inspire and affirm
my creative identities in more ways than I could ever describe.
Thank you to Joey Castanon of (The Spindustry Podcast)
for his excellent videography and insightful commentary.
If you enjoyed this work,
please share it with your friends
and browse the gift shop at JCMBmade.com
you are a unique creative force in the world
Love, Justin C.M. Brown | @JCMBmade
pacino says hi
Finite Past, Infinite Futures
from the collection "Inspired By True Events (Part VI)"
File Created 12/27/2021, Justin C.M. Brown, JCMBmade.com