Your dorm room wall: the spot on which you can tell the entire universe just what you’re ABOUT without uttering a single word. There are as many ways to go about this as there are people, as no two dorm walls look exactly the same. Even the basic building blocks of the exercise (that poster from your favorite movie or TV show plus those Polaroids of your friends minus that fire-hazard tapestry) are individualized through the prism of our own unique experiences. Her Breaking Bad poster was picked for a different reason than his Mad Men poster, even if they both just remind us of the days AMC had non-zombie shows worth watching.
For artsy pricks like me who put a print of a famous painting up, it’s as much about personal motive as the aesthetic of the painting itself. Of course, when you see Klimt’s The Kiss on someone’s wall, your first reaction is either an appreciative nod to their good taste or a cynical shake of the head at such a blatant display of Culturedness. But someone doesn’t turn their dorm into the MoMA solely to show off how cultured they are — though it doesn’t hurt. Dorm-room museum curation comes from a deliberate attempt at self-expression by a college kid’s raging id, albeit through images and connotations more abstract than the ol’ Blutarsky above the bed. Here are some examples of what famous painting you chose to plaster over the cracks in your wall and what it says about you:
YOU CHOSE: Jasper Johns’ Three Flags
WHAT IT SAYS: You are the quintessential college student on a budget. Sure, you technically only need one American flag, but three-for-one is such a steal, and who are you to deny it? Those modern artists weren’t all raking in the dough in their primes. They understood the struggle. There’s a reason Johns debuted Flag in 1954, took a step back, and decided it was two flags too few. It’s the same reason your laptop of choice is still the Acer Perspire you’ve had since sophomore year.
YOU CHOSE: Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes
WHAT IT SAYS: Strong women are your inspo. This is exemplified in part by the fact that you chose to honor Gentileschi’s take on this biblical scene over the version painted by Baroque bad boy Caravaggio, which depicts Judith as unsure, instead of assertive, in her revenge. It is exemplified further by the fact that you sleep underneath a picture of Judith literally #SLAYING Holofernes.
YOU CHOSE: Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
WHAT IT SAYS: You highkey value the concept of friendship and the squad. There are many, many pictures of you and the squad performing the rap squat. Les Demoiselles is an almost-perfect square for a reason — to fit perfectly inside an Instagram post. (Yes, the recent update does allow you to post full-frame photos, whether landscape or portrait. But how on Earth could Picasso have been expected to know that was in the works?)
YOU CHOSE: Titian’s Venus of Urbino
WHAT IT SAYS: Like the little girl in the background, you are always losing shit, like your ID and keys. Also, you miss your dog a LOT. In fact, there’s a lot of stress in your life. Maybe that’s why you dig this painting. When you look in Venus’ eyes, you can see your own struggles reflected in them. That’s you — calm on the surface but wracked with internal conflict underneath. (Although in Venus’ case, she might just be cold.)
YOU CHOSE: Edouard Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass
WHAT IT SAYS: Unlike the last two goons, you prefer the nekkid art ladies on your wall to still retain a hint of… coquettishness. Mystery. (Patriarchal supervision?) However you want to phrase it. There is also the possibility that you have confused Manet with his more famous contemporary, Monet — but does the world really need another Water Lilies on the wall? Honestly, I salute you.
YOU CHOSE: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks
WHAT IT SAYS: Four different people picked this one, and for four different reasons. Number one did it to rep Philadelphia, since the word “Phillies” is RIGHT there in PRETTY BIG letters. Number two did it to rep New York City, since the painting is based on a diner (since demolished) in Greenwich Village. Number three did it to rep Chicago, since the real Nighthawks is at the Art Institute of Chicago. Number four just likes diners, and number four, you win, because diners bring us together instead of splitting us apart.
YOU CHOSE: Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Surrounded Islands
WHAT IT SAYS: No, it’s not a “painting”. But: you have the biggest room on your floor. It’s so big, you and your roommate think it might have been a lounge once. What better way to stunt on the haters’ jealousy than by covering the walls, ceiling and floor with 6.5 million square feet of pink polypropylene? The guy down the hall who always buys everyone booze is gonna have a hard time topping you.
YOU CHOSE: Willie Bester’s Homage to Steve Biko
WHAT IT SAYS: You went to a high school where the Art History teacher didn’t skip over the chapters on non-European art. Lucky.
…And so on. As many different snippets of one’s personality can be conveyed through a painting as there are Starry Nights pressed into service for dorm-room duty. The study of art history is not a dry, emotionless one: it can be as messy, exciting and personal as you want it to be. All you need is a little background knowledge, a little bit of introspection, and some of that blue putty for hanging posters that never works as well as it should. And no matter why you pick it, now you can look at your awesome painting of choice whenever you want instead of having to haul yourself to a museum. Sometimes, life’s easy.