In the my three years and one quarter at UCLA, I’ve never been much akin to attending office hours. This was always because I was seemingly unprepared or afraid to have more intimate conversations with my professors. I would dismiss office hour opportunities by telling myself the I don’t really like the professor or I can always get to know professors in the upcoming quarters. But as I am graduating in two quarters… I am running out of time to form relationships and get letters of recommendation! It sucks that the real world requires that accredited professionals vouch for your awesomeness while you still have to compete to prove yourself. But alas, I must all abide by these so-called rules and convince my professors, sometimes inexplicity, why they want to invest in our relationship and brag about me on paper. Numerous times.
After some hurried preparation going through lecture notes and readings, I showed up to Professor Lee’s office hours with some questions and discussion points. Professor Lee teaches my class on “Art in Modern China.” Professors are SO intimidating because they know so much and have many pieces of paper to prove it. Sometimes I forget they are real people with families and lives and experiences too. [Remember when you would run into your school teachers at a restaurant or supermarket and think it was just a dream? Surely teachers cannot materialize outside the classroom!] I showed up at 2:35–her office hour was from 2-3p) and there was another student in front of me, as well as one in the office. It would be my fortune that there is no time for me on the day I am actually prepared. Luckily, Professor Lee noticed me on her way to the restroom and made some time for me, even though it was past 3p.
I explained to her that I had never taken any type of Asian art class and it seemed so foreign to me because I have mostly taken Modern and Contemporary Art classes. My first question was about whether the artist or the sitter of a portrait determined the sitter’s positioning in relation to the artist/viewer. Chinese portraiture was a dynamic genre in the 19th century, and one’s position, posture, and demeanor spoke a lot to his status in society. What a loaded question! After deconstructing the theory behind it for a few minutes, Professor Lee told me it was a great question–one that could even be thoroughly explored in an honors thesis. We continued on to calligraphy, which is regarded as the highest art from/genre in Chinese art and she explained to me that the process of calligraphy is so greatly revered because of its 3-dimensionality. Not only do calligraphers move the brush up and down, side to side, but also in and out. Calligraphy is not easy, people! Wild cursive is nothing without a solid foundation.
I concluded by asking about the quiz we are supposed to have tomorrow and as I was leaving, she asked me my name again and told me I had great questions and “think well.” HOLY MOLY, I AM SO FLATTERED. Why was I ever afraid of going to office hours?! […and why is it that I need authority figures to validate my intellect?]
Other fun facts: Professor Lee did her graduate work at Yale and her husband is also a Chinese Art History professor (at UCSB).