The Explorer

Hello folks! I’m Bryna Campbell, and I have a PhD in Art History and Archaeology from Washington University in St. Louis, but currently live in the Pacific Northwest, a place I’ll no doubt write about because it’s been a constant source of creative inspiration. Since graduating with my doctorate a year and a half ago, I’ve been on an expedition of sorts to find a meaningful and rewarding post-ac career. In this introduction, I’m embracing the identity of Explorer for that reason, and sharing some of the ways that writing has played a role in my post-PhD adventures.

FullSizeRenderFor me, writing is an infinitely rewarding if challenging practice that helps me to learn a little bit more about myself every time I work on it. I try do it as often as possible, even if that sometimes means just jotting down a few pages in a journal before going off to do something else. I like try out different genres in my writing. Most of all, I try to let myself feel deeply as I write, because when I do I find discover deeper truths about myself.

I haven’t always thought writing in this way. If you had asked how “the writing” was going when I was working on my dissertation, I’d have probably looked at you bug-eyed as I twitched a bit and grunted the words fine under my breath. Only after completely my PhD did I begin the process that led to how I think of writing now.

This paradigm shift began about a year ago when I decided to co-create The Art and Place Blog, a collective space where I work with others to engage my interests in themes of art and community, ecology, regional identity, gender, and politics. I began with the simple goal of working on writing about art for a non-academic audience. I find that I like writing in this way more than traditional academic writing. I enjoy thinking about the intersections between art, community, and the public.  There, I also serve as the founding editor and thus enjoy working with others as they develop their posts.

About six months ago, I began to edge further away from traditional academic writing with a creative online project, Un/Settled, which I co-write with my brother, another budding writer. This collaboration has been even more generative for my post-PhD journey. At Un/Settled we each explore the complexities of having grown up in the rural midwest and having left it – and the attendant feelings of longing, frustration, and loss, that comes with this experience.  I  look forward to sharing the risks and rewards of collaborating with someone I know so intimately, as well as talking about what’s drawn me to write less about art history and more about personal life. One result worth noting: I’ve started on a longer writing project about my maternal grandfather, a nomadic figure of sorts who never seemed to settle down. This project is in its beginning stages now, but I’ll share more about this project as it evolves.

I still do academic stuff too! I teach art history and gender studies classes at a university in Portland, Oregon. In that capacity, I write syllabi, regular lectures, assignments, tests, and the most difficult of genres – constructive and thoughtful comments on students’ work. I also have a short essay coming out in an anthology later this year about an artist named Joe Jones, a politically leftist midwestern rebel rouser from the 1930s who sparked some of the ideas that have taken root in The Art and Place Blog. On top of all this, I am married to a wonderful husband and have a six-year-old kid who surprises me everyday with his wickedly wonderful imagination.

I come to Smart Women Write to talk about the writing practice and to grow and learn…and maybe to nudge myself gently, or sometimes not so gently, to get my work done. Onward. Let’s all get writing!

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