Freeze Frame: Celia Glastris, BFA + BA '21
Swoosh. Glide. Jump. Spin. Celia Glastris spent her formative years on ice, competing in figure-skating championships alongside her older sisters in the outskirts of Chicago. As a high school junior, she won a sizable sum at the Greek Junior National Championships. However, triumph was undercut by pain — a hamstring injury sidelined her career. She spent the prize money on a camera and retreated from the rink to the photo studio. There, she found a new home.
Glastris wasn't a photographer in the traditional sense. No artful portraits or rolling landscapes for her.
"I enjoyed using the darkroom in an experimental manner. I never really took 'good' photographs in the sense that mine weren't well-developed," she said, laughing. "I didn't fit with other photographers."
For example, she used overexposed photos that she'd taken at a tournament in Greece to create a 10' by 4' tapestry of film strips. The photographs themselves were unusable, but she managed to turn the strips into an unusual piece of art.
Welcoming the Avant-Garde
Glastris has found the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, which combines avenues for artistic exploration with a strong academic tradition, to be a welcoming place for her avant-garde work.
Eager to understand the creative process from a cognitive perspective, she initially planned to design her own "creative process" major. However, the combined-degree student found that both the SMFA and larger Tufts course catalogues offered everything she needed. In addition to working towards her BFA, Glastris is also majoring in art history and minoring in both film and media studies and cognitive and brain science. She calls herself a "research-based artist" and cites linguist Noam Chomsky as her hero.
"I had to be at Tufts. That was the only place I could study this," she said. "I came to Tufts knowing I wanted to live an interdisciplinary life. I wanted, and still do, to be an artist, in the art world, and to discover something. Here, my interests coalesce into a perfect partnership."
For instance, she recently took a course titled "The Behavioral Image," which melded cognitive science and art. "I became a much better student and also found a sect of art history that matches what I'm interested in and solidified my realization that I wanted to write about art as a career," she said.
A summer internship at Jim Kempner Fine Art in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood further underscored Glastris' desire to write about art professionally. There, she conducted research on artists for the gallery, immersing herself in the works of Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana — envelope-pushers much like herself.
"I was given the opportunity to write about works of a few artists that I had looked up to since I was a kid. I don't think I really realized how natural it was for me to do research and how much I loved doing it. It was a moment of solidifying a real place for myself in the world," she said, noting that her combined-degree pedigree impressed her gallery interviewer.
Thinking About Thinking
As a combined-degree student, Glastris said, she can contemplate the concept of metacognition through an artistic lens.
"Psychology plays a huge part in my work. I'm really interested in the relationship between the computer and the human hand in the production of art as well as cognitive processes and linguistics, and they continually show up as themes in my work," she said. "My work is all about metacognition — or thinking about thinking."
In one recent project titled "Silver Blue Is the Least Political Color," she studied the shade and its notably apolitical presence in society. A performance piece titled "Womb Room," meanwhile, examined the primal urge to return to the womb and the true definition of comfort. The performance featured familiar sounds — old videos, friends' laughter — overlaid with the sound of a heartbeat in utero.
Although she's no longer performing axels and flips, Glastris believes her work ethic and artistic endeavors dovetail with her unique past as a successful figure skater.
"I'm always trying to make sure that I'm fulfilled with what I'm doing, so I check back in with my younger figure-skating self and ask if she'd be happy with me," she said. "The nature of [my] creativity seemed to find two different conduits, but it's the same essence."