Posted by: Staff | 03.11.2008

College Essay XII: Maddy

MADDY KIEFER ’08

I come from a family of artists. My grandmother’s basement is full of her hand-made dollhouses, complete with intricate furniture that she carved, and I spent much of my childhood in my mother’s studio, which was full of her graphic designs and canvases of landscapes and cityscapes. If that weren’t enough, my sister has a life ambition of seeing every single Vermeer painting, and we’ve spent our summers helping her achieve this. My family and I have been fortunate enough to visit a total of nine major European cities, and we spend the majority of our time there looking at portrait after portrait, landscape after landscape, and fruit bowl after fruit bowl, staring at gaudy gold ceilings and furniture in royal palaces, and craning our necks to get a glimpse of faded stained glass windows in cathedrals.

It’s not that I dislike art, churches, or palaces; I just don’t enjoy them the way my parents and sister do. For them, museums are a way of seeing the different cultures of each country and how they differ from one another. The way I take in the culture is harder to identify, however. It is not each individual painting or exhibit that stands out in my mind but smaller, seemingly insignificant things.

On every trip we go on, after spending a few days in the major city, we go hiking or biking in the countryside for a week. These rural parts of the trips are what I value most. The small villages and the varying landscapes capture for me what makes each place unique. I absorb the little details: I watch the villagers, look at the scenery and imagine what life must be like there. People and places mean more to me than art. For example, in Scotland what I remember most is the feeling of isolation from atop a hill we climbed where there was no sign of modern civilization anywhere, not even an electrical wire. In Holland, I noticed the cycling culture. Bikes had the right of way, and there were biking lanes on every single street, even in the countryside. We would see cyclists eating an ice cream or carrying enormous paintings, giving the entire country a unique culture that no other location possesses.

Other memories include the interactions I have with villagers. Ironically, many times the people I remember are the ones that don’t speak English. In Spain, I used my Spanish vocabulary to explain to our bus driver that my mother was carsick and wanted to pull over. In the Czech Republic, we ended up playing charades with our waiter, trying to understand that “bůček” meant bacon. Although it can get frustrating, these circumstances are the ones that I remember the most clearly and, often times, with the most pleasure.

For me, the art is in the people, places, and experiences, and because of this, I am headed in a different direction than my family. Although I don’t know exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life, I know that the idea of discovery and tangibility in social and natural sciences intrigues me more than arts and humanities, and this is what excites me so much about continuing my education next year.

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