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UBC students walking across UBC campus with fading light
March 8, 2019
3 mins read

Hidden in Plain Sight: Opening yourself up to the unknown

Hidden in Plain Sight

As I head into the home stretch of this semester, and of my degree, I’ve been feeling grateful for my education—in particular, the opportunities university has given me to meet many amazing people.

I was always a shy kid and I was very nervous about talking to new people and making friends before I came to UBC. Part of me wanted to avoid the anxiety of meeting strangers by barricading myself in my room and putting up emotional walls.

But hiding behind walls, whether they be mental or physical, isn’t a great way to live your life. I realized that avoiding making new connections only ever made me feel worse.

With that in mind, I wanted to look at two pieces of outdoor wall art at UBC. Both these pieces seem a little different at a distance than they do up close. While they may appear as walls designed to keep something out, they actually lead to the entrances of the buildings they adorn.

Untitled by Robert Weghsteen

Untitled public art at UBC by Robert Weghsteen

This piece is located near the south entrance of the JB Macdonald Building.

Untitled was designed to incorporate into the building’s existing architecture. Though it appears uniform in colour at a distance, a closer looks reveals different tones of silver-grey and hints of brown. Up close, you can see that the surface of the ceramic tiles contains both raised and impressed abstract, organic forms.

It may have seemed a little mysterious at first, but looking at this piece up close allowed me to see it as a reflection of UBC. The mix of organic and inorganic elements reminds me of the contrast between our man-made campus and all the nature that surrounds it.

As with Weghsteen’s piece, the more time I spent familiarizing myself with my classmates, the less intimidating they seemed. I guess we have to approach art the same way we approach people—with an open mind and a willingness to see things from a different perspective!

Untitled by George Norris

Untitled public art by George Norris

This sculpture indicates the otherwise difficult-to-spot entrance to the Frank Forward Building.

It may appear a little peculiar at a distance, with its unique arrangement of shapes and bricks. Up close, however, it reveals itself to be a mosaic reminiscent of a crystalline atomic structure.

Norris’ sculpture has hexagonal symmetry and resembles a mineral compound like zinc, emerald, or ice. This is a nod to the Materials Engineering Department housed within the building. Even the designs on the bricks were impressed using metal instruments!

Since this piece looks like a random assortment of shapes from afar, it made me consider how we often judge people based on first impressions. This initial impression can make a person seem abstract.

It’s only when we get to know someone that they fully take shape, like how the sculpture on the Forward Building comes into focus up close. If you don’t understand someone, trying to push them away or build a wall won't help you understand them any better.

Build doorways, not walls

Instead of pushing someone away, try to get to know them! Things that seem abstract or intimidating (like meeting new people was for me) become much less scary when you open yourself up to them.

Meeting new friends at university has given me an even greater appreciation of the diverse world we live in. They’ve inspired me to be a more confident person, to relish challenges, and to face my fears head on.

Instead of building walls, build doorways—and challenge yourself to meet your fears. You never know what you might discover in the process!

Both photographs in this post come courtesy of UBC Arts & Culture.