By Justine Betti
A curtain of floating ginkgo-tree leaves, which once sprinkled Sarah Dahl’s front yard, fluttered overhead as visitors stopped by UC Santa Barbara’s Glass Box Gallery to admire the hovering city maps of places Dahl has called home. Dahl, a senior Physical Geography and Art double major, displayed her installation, titled “Please Forward, No Longer at This Address,” in the Art department’s student-run gallery exhibit “Body of Proof.”
Originally from San Diego, Dahl has lived and grown up in New York, New Jersey, and Davis. Her installation in “Body of Proof” was a testament to her past relationships with different places, people, and memories that have started to fade.
Dahl is the latest recipient of the Wendy Anne Finkle Memorial Award. Presented by UCSB’s Honors in Art program, this award distinguished Dahl as the program’s “most promising junior.”
In a recent interview, she shared her experience as an honors student in the Art department and spoke about her inspiration for her gallery display.
Q. Why did you decide to pursue art?
A. In high school, I took two years of AP studio art and I really loved it. When I came to UCSB, I chose to do a double major in Geography and Art, because I thought, well, I’m going to be taking art classes for fun anyway so I might as well do both.
Q. What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on while in the art program?
A. One that stands out that I really enjoyed was my final for one of the upper division art class, Personal Narrative – the first time I took it. It was with one of my favorite professors, Kip Fulbeck. I used ArcGIS, a geographic information system that I was learning about in a geography class, to make a map of the travel-distance time from everywhere in Isla Vista to the room where our class met. I painted sections of possible routes on the back of different postcards and then went around to my classmates’ houses — 15 or 20 people — and made assumptions about their lives just from what I saw from the outsides of their houses. Then I would leave the postcards at other peoples’ houses, and they all brought them to class and read them out loud about each other. And all of the postcards were numbered. So after they read them, I arranged them into a whole map of Isla Vista, showing where we lived.
Q. What has been your most touching or memorable moment while in the art program?
A. I got the Wendy Anne Finkle Memorial Award and Scholarship. You don’t apply for this. The professors take a vote and choose the “most promising junior” in the honors program to give this to. It felt really good and really affirming that they chose me, and they liked the direction I was going. When I received the award during [the 2018] graduation, everyone was just so congratulatory, saying things like “we love Sarah so much, and she totally deserves this.” It was just really touching, and I really felt the community.
Q. And what does the “most promising” part of that honor mean to you?
A. I was hoping that they saw, besides my being passionate, that I was trying to push myself to try new things and bring these new, weird perspectives like geography into my work.
Q. What would you say to a student who is considering the Art honors program or trying to find their passion?
A. One big piece of advice I have is to talk and get to know your teachers, technicians, advisors, grad students. They are great resources for mentorship, learning about opportunities, and finding a sense of community in such a large university. They’re human and their job is to work with you, so don’t be intimidated by them. Talking to them about their experiences is a great way to see if you are interested in what they do.
Justine Betti is a fourth-year UC Santa Barbara student, majoring in Psychology. She conducted this interview for her Writing Program course, Journalism for Web and Media.