Brendan S. Millstein ’06


Alison M. Tarwater

Every artist eventually finds his or her ideal medium. Manet had canvas; Duchamp painted on glass. Certain Lowell house seniors find inspiration in more mundane rectangles of plastic—their designs and text have recently graced many of the Lowell house dining hall trays.

Brendan S. Millstein ’06, one of the artist-culprits, is known for textual art in the postmodernist vein. His trademark is the insertion of the word “tray” into an unrelated saying. “April Showers bring Tray Flowers” and the Shakesperean “Et Tu Brutray” are some of the wordplays that have delighted diners this year. Millstein says he was inspired by his brothers, who went to Vassar and participated in the schoolwide tradition of decorating trays. He also mentions the students at UC Berkeley who are known for their “grout puns,” wordplay written into the putty between bricks.

Other trays have surfaced which take a more neorealist view, such as the intricate “trayl of tears” design, which Millstein says was done by someone else, a more talented draftsman.

Lowell House students are divided on the issue. “Some people think it’s funny, some people think it’s dumb,” he says. As for the dining hall staff, “I don’t really think they care one way or another.”

Meanwhile, another tray artist—a Winthrop mystery resident—has taken out his carving tools, inspired by the Lowell atelier. Since the two dining halls share trays, artistic cross-pollination has begun to flourish. It just may be that a second Renaissance is upon us.