Bill Basquin, class of 2011, graduated with a Philosophy major and a Gender and Women’s Studies certificate. Bill completed most of their undergraduate coursework in the late 1980s and early 1990s, circling back to finish their degree so that they could apply to graduate programs. Bill completed an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California-San Diego in 2015.
How does GWS matter in the day-to-day of your professional life?
GWS teaches critical thinking, and that is a skill I use every day – both in how I construct meaning within my art practice and in my job in a worker-owned cooperative.
Do you have advice for students who share your interests and may want to purse a similar career?
Continue to tune in to and follow your specific interests as you develop your skills. Try to be honest with yourself about areas for improvement and work on those. Learn how to be specific and convey your ideas to others; this will be useful no matter what you do. I find it helpful to write down my goals (as I become aware of them) and figure out the many small steps I can take to move toward achieving those goals.
Looking back, what undergraduate experiences were most helpful?
I was a college athlete (Women’s Rowing). The focus and intensity of rowing was a good fit for me, and this has fed into my work as an artist. My teammates were serious students, and I learned about Gender and Women’s Studies from one of them in the locker room one morning after practice.
What do you remember fondly from the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies? Favorite class? Instructor?
I learned important things from all of my Gender and Women’s Studies classes, but for sheer increase in awareness, I would say Stanley Jaymes’ Gender, Race, and Class, and Nancy Worcester or Mariamne Whatley’s Women and Their Bodies in Health and Disease. Jill Dolan’s Lesbian Culture and Feminism and Social Theory were also opportunities for focused inquiry that I have thought about many times since graduation. I don’t remember if Chris Cuomo’s Environmental Ethics class was cross-listed in GWS, but that class had a very direct impact on what later became part of my art practice as well as a life-long personal interest in resource cycling.
Basquin’s feminist ethnographic landscape film, “From Inside of Here,” will premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in March 2020.
What do wish you could tell your undergraduate self?
Self-care wasn’t a strong suit when I was a young person, so I’d say: do laundry at least once a week and floss your teeth. I was painfully shy and barely spoke, so I might also say: take a risk and try sharing something about yourself with other people.
In what ways does your work match your expectations?
When I was a young queer person, it wasn’t that easy to imagine that I could grow up and have a happy life. In that sense, my expectations were more about survival than about actualizing my dreams. I do have a happy life, and I was eventually able to turn my attention to my goals and dreams – I wanted to be an artist, and I am that – but first I needed to be in the world and have a job and learn how to connect with people who had shared interests. In addition to being an artist and sharing my work that way, I have made a life for myself in worker-owned cooperatives (first at Union Cab of Madison, and then at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco, CA). The work I do at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative provides ongoing opportunities to use the critical thinking skills I began to develop as a student in Gender and Women’s Studies at UW-Madison, and the work feels like I am making a concrete and positive contribution to my community every day.