Old Lyme - Dr. Pepper, bacon and eggs and the Raymond E. Baldwin Bridge all played roles Saturday afternoon when 15 students received bachelor of fine arts degrees from the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts.
The graduates had taken those ordinary objects and elevated them to art in their senior projects.
Following a procession at the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School, David Whelan Jr. delivered the first of three speeches offering advice to the graduates.
Whelan, representing the Alumni Association, recalled the alumni speaker during his commencement in 2008: "Get a friend with a car."
More seriously, he implored the Class of 2012 to take chances, go to uncomfortable places within themselves and dare to make a difference.
"You have to be constantly on the go," he said. "The world is waiting to define you. Society is designed to label you, make sense of you, to put you in a box, market you and pacify you.
"Art is the precise deliverance from this condition. When you start to feel comfortable, run. When you become confident, run. Move away from consistency, confidence and assuredness. They block your endeavors. Embrace contradiction. ... And, have a friend with a car."
William Bailey, currently the Kingman Brewster Professor Emeritus of Art at Yale University, was awarded an honorary degree and delivered the keynote address.
"This is a far different world from the one I grew up in, in the midst of the Depression," he said. "As a child, I drew people, planes and ships, all my imagination. Not for my teachers or for my parents, but for myself."
Bailey, whose artwork is found in world-renowned galleries and museums and private collections throughout the United States and Europe, said it was during his service with the 24th Infantry in the Korean War and during subsequent trips to Asia that he found the soul of his artistic style.
Morgan Wilcox was the student speaker. She said the Class of 2012 grew together into the Lyme Academy family and on Saturday found themselves faced with the same question.
"What will you do with that BFA degree?" she posed. "I think we all believe in our dreams, and our parents believed in us. Our colleagues will believe in us."
Wilcox also received the Diana Atwood Johnson Leadership Award. Her talent was on display among the senior project galleries back at the college, where a reception was held following the ceremony.
Wilcox's work included "Dr. Pepper Float," "B&E" (bacon and eggs) and "Gummies."
"I set them up the way I want them," she said. "If it doesn't match my feeling, I pour paint over them to amp up the texture. Then I photograph them and paint until it's awesome."
In a separate gallery were two 16-foot long paintings by the 2012 John Stobart Fellowship Award Winner, Andrew Pezzente. The paintings, "Morning Under the Bridge" and "Evening Under the Bridge," offer Pezzente's view of the railroad bridge south of Interstate 95.
Florin Ion Firimita, who came to the Unites States in 1990 from Bucharest, Romania, was awarded the Distinguished Service in Art Education Award. Firimita, the son of an amateur photographer and an art teacher and clothing designer, currently teaches art at Pomperaug High School in Southbury. He also critiques art and writes essays and short stories.