Overlooking Lake Lag, there stands a girl, one foot perched on the other leg’s ankle, with a pair of binoculars and a detective kit by her side, pen in her hair and camera around her neck. Wes Anderson, if he so desired to make a documentary, would have Jackie Lin as his artist-adventurer subject and this would be his opening shot.
Lin is whimsical. She’s also grounded and observant, but it is her quirkiness that gives her an artistic edge. Undeterred by her hearing impairment – maybe even encouraged by it – she is a complete creative being. As a dancer, drawer, painter, and photographer, she is a true Renaissance woman. Her decision to attend Stanford instead of art school was a difficult one, but one she has come to appreciate. In her search for an artistic community, Lin joined the ITALIC (Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture) freshman program at the beginning of the year as well as Stanford Swingtime.
Stanford Arts Review: What factors played into your decision to come to Stanford over attending the Arts Program at Cooper Union?
Jackie Lin: I was deciding between Stanford and a lot of arts schools, which I narrowed down to the Arts Program at Cooper Union. The deciding question I was asking myself was whether or not I wanted to go for pure art or not. Back then I was basing my decision off of assumptions. What I knew “for sure” was that the art community was not going to be as strong at Stanford as it would be at Cooper Union. Yet, going to Stanford would allow me to explore other things like the sciences and humanities. Also, because the art community is so small, you have more resources per person to use.
I also felt like it would be the one chance in life to be at a university that was like a utopia, where 2000 people your same age went to school, compared to Cooper Union’s incoming class of about 65. I’m someone who’s really affected by the environment I’m in. Going to Cooper would have been great career and direction wise with the arts, but then I would lack that social support from such a small class.
My situation at Stanford right now, career-and direction-wise, is not as solid as if, say, I were an engineer or pre med major. I do know I want to do an STS major because that has design theory, marketing and communications; all things I’m interested in aesthetically and career-wise.
My social situation at Stanford is perfect. I have people I work well with. I really really really love dancing. The social dance scene here at Stanford is amazing and we do have the top expert in social dance Richard Powers.
Act III – Finale – A Deaf Duet by Jackie Lin
Since coming to Stanford, do you think you found your artistic niche, compared to what you expected from the artistic community here?
I found something that works for me in a way I would not have thought about it. I did not know about the dance community here. So, the community that I had in mind was different at first… I was kind of afraid that I would not be able to find an artistic community here at Stanford. But that was because my idea of an artistic community wasn’t straight fine arts. It was this very unconventional, crazy kind of community. Think New York underground scene. That’s what I was looking for.
A self-portrait taken and edited by Jackie.
And I may still be looking for it so that is why I want to travel and go to places like New York, or other big art centers around the world. Somewhere like Amsterdam or Tokyo.
But here I found something totally different in the social dance community. It’s interesting because I hang out with a lot of engineers, and even though they’re not art people, they are entirely fascinated by what the underground art scene I had in mind is like.
The thing that I’ve found out about Stanford is that there are tons of people who are up to do anything and that in itself will allow you to do whatever art you want.
I’ll want to do some crazy project and most people will be up for whatever I put out there. And that’s totally an art in itself.
Do you think living in a major arts dorm like Burbank has had an impact on your change in perspective when it comes to Stanford’s artistic community?
Absolutely. If you like the arts then definitely apply to ITALIC (Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture) in Burbank as a freshman, or another art dorm like Kimball as a sophomore. You have people interested in same things as you are and are going through similar [artistic] struggles.
Photograph taken and edited by Jackie Lin
Since Stanford is so diverse you meet other artists who are doing things that you never thought of doing before. And I really like taking the same classes as other ITALIC students because that brings you closer together.
Does that closeness and course relationship ever result in collaboration?
Everything involves collaboration here in Burbank. Some of my closest friendships were formed through collaboration.
Photograph taken and edited by Jackie Lin
We were assigned into groups for the creative final projects fall quarter for ITALIC. I was grouped with a great singer, multiple people with amazing theatre backgrounds, and someone who has the craziest artistic insight ever. I was working with people that I would never have approached otherwise.
Picture taken from ITALIC fall quarter project; Jackie dances with a partner in the left corner of the image
Now I know I can walk into a room and just say, “Hey want to do this random project?”
And people will say, “Oh yeah, sure!”
Other than your consistent collaborations, what else do you think has shaped you as an artist? Do you think your hearing impairment has contributed to your stance as an artist in any way?
I’m classified as severely hearing impaired, which means I’m in the low thirty percent on the hearing scale. On the other hand, I have amazing hearing aids that I got this past winter quarter. I used to really struggle with hearing, maybe 70 or 80%, but now its really improved.
That impairment has actually not really affected me since I’ve been at Stanford in regards to the arts because I was already growing up with that. Growing up, I don’t really know if it pushed me into the arts. I know people say your eyesight gets better because you become more observant in other ways [especially visually] and that’s definitely one of the qualities an artist needs, to be observant. So that could be the case for me or I could have just been a really observant kid to begin with.
I would always doodle in class and draw my teacher’s faces because I have to constantly stare at them. When you’re deaf you stare at people’s noses because they’re close to their lips. You need to be able to read their lips, but you also need to be able to look at their entire face at the same time to capture their emotion.
So there was a big part of my art portfolio for Cooper Union that was just classifying different types of nose shapes that I’ve encountered in my life.
For Stanford, on the other hand, my portfolio was all my scrappy drawing, practicing my technique. It was not good at all.
The specific portfolio I have is actually of French noses. I took a lot of French in high school, starting in ninth grade. I had a lot of pen pals who I would Skype with to practice my French. That’s where I got all the noses. If I were to include all the noses that I’ve encountered in my life it would be way too much. I classified them into scientific genera and species.
The Textbooks of the Deaf, ‘Page 18 on French nose-species identified through constant Lip-Reading’ by Jackie Lin
How do you see your art in terms of your drawing and your dancing coming together? Any future projects that include combining both your training in dance and skill in drawing?
To begin with, art to me cannot be divided into categories.
My online portfolio consists of all drawings right now, because my Cooper Union portfolio was not only drawing, it was multimedia. I mixed sound, trash, sculpture, performance, videos, detective kits, and I had even engineered a light-up cube box. Everything was all mixed together; that’s what art to me is. My online portfolio has pictures from my dance performance and my 2D drawings, but really anything goes when it comes to art. It’s going to be all mixed in the future.