John Payne ′12
Major: Studio Art
What brought you to Rhodes College?
I saw Rhodes and fell in love. It was really beautiful. I know everybody says that, but I feel smarter on campus and I was, like, “I need this! I want to be challenged.” I came for a tour, and then a prospective students’ day, and then I came back for a Diversity 201 overnight stay. I wasn’t sure how I would stack up against other students, but once I realized I had a lot of potential, I decided, “OK, I’ll give it a shot,” and I’ve been happy ever since.
How would you describe your artwork?
I do a lot of drawings and collages. My work mainly deals with imagery from comic books that I appropriate in a way that’s abstracted and, maybe, demasculinizing. It questions the association that we have with comic books and how super heroes are very masculine. I like to shape them in my own way and overlap them to create material that’s questioning that, destabilizing that. It’s kind of interesting how the work I am doing is tied in with what I’m doing in the community, with myself as an individual.
What are your activities outside the classroom?
I’m in a fraternity on campus, Sigma Nu, and I’m a Kinney Program coordinator for the arts. I work with groups and schools to provide creative programs for the community. I am the current vice president of the Gay Straight Alliance, a student-run organization on campus for anybody who supports Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) advocacy as a straight ally or anybody who wants to get further involved in that community at Rhodes. The meetings provide a great place of safety and serenity for those who maybe aren’t out yet and for those who find comfort being around people they can relate to. We work heavily with off campus organizations like the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center and Friends for Life.
You are also part of an on-campus working group dealing with LGBT issues. What is your role in that group?
Essentially, we are the faces of the LGBT community. This group of professors, staff and students discusses what we can do to improve the awareness on campus. As a LGBT student, I definitely think we are heading toward greater visibility and toward making LGBT (prospective) students who are interested in Rhodes aware that they can enjoy themselves academically and socially.
I came out when I was a sophomore, and it was definitely an experience for me. I didn’t identify with the LGBT community my freshmen year, and I didn’t know how my friends would take it. Being asked to be part of this group really helped me place my experience in perspective.