Student creates challenges for himself and others

He’s an artist, a writer, and now he’s heading to law school. Michael Lente just likes a challenge — and to challenge others’ expectations and stereotypes.

“People have this idea that artists chain smoke and wear black,” says printmaking professor Catherine Chauvin, who had Lente in class last spring. “But Michael always walked into my class with a basketball under his arm [and would try] to shove it into his locker.”

Lente has no problems with contradictions. He is a senior studio art and creative writing major who plans to attend law school in the fall. A student who took calculus just because he wanted to and enrolled in a Foundations class about the New Testament to challenge his own Christian beliefs, he says law school is a logical way to further his education.

“It’s interesting that someone with a studio background would use the creative process for something like law,” says Chauvin.

In addition to creativity, Lente has cultivated critical analytical skills — an integral part of creating successful artwork as much as creating successful laws, he says.

Lente notes that much of his work — both written and visual — revolves around his American Indian and Irish heritage.

“Putting together a piece of art is more than creating something that is aesthetically beautiful, although that’s part of it,” he says. “You have to put meaning in it, and to do that … you have to know yourself and truly know what you believe.”

Chauvin says she enjoys how Lente uses humor to provoke and challenge stereotypes — in and out of the studio. “Michael knows himself strongly enough that he can sort of poke fun of that in his work.”

“I deal with a lot of sensitive issues about my culture,” Lente says. “I try to do it in a way that is smart but not too obvious.”

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