I hope you feel a whole lot better, Today

Erika Egliskis '23, Staff Writer

On Thursday, March 31, artist Chris Manning visited Peddie and showcased a solo exhibition titled, “I hope you feel a whole lot better, Today.” Chris Manning is the head of exhibitions at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, as well as a professor of visual art at Manhattanville College.

During lunch that afternoon, AP and Honors Studio Art students had the opportunity to attend a presentation led by Manning on his pathway to becoming an artist. Prior to his junior year in college, Manning never had taken an art course, as he was originally on the pre-med track. He also attended college on a track scholarship; however, when his hip broke, he lost his scholarship and had to drop out of college. At his new university, Manning needed to fulfill a liberal arts requirement and chose a drawing class. He fell in love with the subject, enrolled in other art courses, and was an art major before he knew it. He went on to intern for numerous companies and artists, where he grew as an artist himself. Hearing this, AP student Ava Bajwa ’23 said “[she] was surprised how one incident in his life could lead to such a change in the interests and mindset of Mr. Manning.”

That evening, AP students were also invited to attend a private dinner with Mr. Manning, where they gained a deeper understanding of his artmaking process and interpretation of other artists. As the dinner progressed, students engaged in casual conversation around Manning’s sources of inspiration, most despised artists, impacts of wealth on the success of an artist, etc. When asked the meaning behind the title of his exhibition, Manning replied that the title was dedicated to his father, who had passed away. While his father was in the hospital, his sister had given him a letter that said ‘I hope you feel a whole lot better,’ and Manning decided to hold onto that phrase and make art inspired by it. Now, a silver plaque that reads “I hope you feel a whole lot better, Today” is the centerpiece of the exhibit, forever honoring the life of his father.

Finally, the entire student and faculty population was invited to attend his exhibition, followed by a Q&A led by Honors students. Throughout his pieces, Manning said he explores an “autobiographical excavation of the self with interest in duality and fragmented storytelling.” He uses a variety of mediums, such as iron, old sketchbook papers, acrylic paint, beer cans, thread, and magazine covers, and creates physical self-portraits out of them. “Each piece possesses bits of life lived – a teetering of truths and lies, light versus dark, success and failures — presented as an amalgamation of memories, and experiences that we preserve/destroy, expose/cover, and eventually what reemerges, revealing both a lineage of masks and underlying layers of faces beneath,” he said.  

When asked what his favorite part of the exhibit was, AP student Bao To ’23 said, “I like how his story reflects his journey not only as an artist but also a development in terms of his passions and expressions of identity.” Manning continues his work not only as an art-maker but also as an educator and advocate for young aspiring artists such as To and Bajwa.