Though summer is in full swing and I have a fabulous new job (read about it under posts tagged "artworks") to keep me busy, the even newer job that awaits me in mid-August is always creeping up to my most frontal lobes daily. Last week I signed on as an art teacher for the upcoming school year at Scott High School here in Kentucky, and I'll be teaching drawing, painting, and Photoshop classes. In my planning, I'm trying to focus on one course at a time, and right now, I'm knee-deep in drawing. I'm trying to gather up examples of some of the most exciting, avant-garde, envelope-pushing, interesting drawing work out there in hopes of inspiring my future students.
I can thank regretsy (where I like to go for the occasional satisfying serving of snark) for this lovely discovery: artist Melanie Bilenker:
These teensy, elegant line drawings are - get this - rendered in the artist's own hair. This romantic idea stems from the Victorian tradition of keeping hair in a locket as a reminder of a lost loved one, and the nostalgic feeling is further reinforced by the everyday moments Bilenker captures in her drawings.
What I love about her work is not only the intimacy of the size (small work has always really appealed to me), but in that it challenges the conventional notion of what a drawing really is. This is something I'd really like my students to know: that drawing isn't necessarily simply pencil on paper - it can be done with earth, light, water... almost any material you can think of.
Even your own hair.
Which is kind of gross.
But still awesome.
EGADS, it's hot out! I'm surprised the whole state hasn't burst into flames - it makes the already challenging mural project even more so. The blacktop of the parking lot beneath us is like a skillet, and the freshly gesso-ed wall is blinding in the direct sun. Scott, Joe (my co-Teaching Artist; see/hear his awesome work here), and I tried our best to rig up some shade on the scaffolding using tarps, but the sun still finds a way to weasel in. The heat makes every second feel like an eternity.
Yet, miraculously, the crew stays on point. They are truly amazing art-making machines, pushing through the merciless weather like professionals. Today we nearly completed the drawing using a grid system, and that means that come next week, we will finally...
...wait for it....
I can't wait to crack open the first bucket and really start to see the mural take shape! In the meantime, I'm going to hide out indoors (I might not come back out all weekend) and try to return my body temperature to normal.
We've got the first week of work under our belts, and it has been BUSY! As the Taft Museum is our partner for this mural, the design is based on some of the more iconic paintings in the permanent collection. So the crew spent some time in the breathtaking museum, sketching from the landscape, the architecture, the draperies, and of course, the art. Not only did they flex their creative muscles in their sketchpads, but also in a polished and professional presentation to all the donors, sponsors and partners in the project. They really knocked 'em dead - I felt like such a proud mama bear!
Come Friday, it was finally time to face the wall and tackle the first step in prep: wire-brushing the bejeezus out of the surface. This takes off any crumbly bits that might encourage the paint to peel later on, as well as a few layers of skin off of our knuckles (see above) in the first of what I suspect will be several small sacrifices to the art gods. Though as long as we stay hydrated, alert, and sun-screened (no one gets melanoma on my watch!), I think we'll manage just fine.
Six more weeks to go! It's hard to imagine that this massive expanse of ordinary wall is going to turn into a one-of-a-kind work of art, especially in such a seemingly short time frame. Today we got through just a mere fraction of the gesso process, and we're hoping to have the thing gridded and drawn by the end of the week. Phew!
And as a side note - today I signed my contract with Kenton County Schools and am officially the newest art teacher at Scott High School! Hooray for art!
Last night, after being turned away at the movie theater door because Brave was sold out, I racked my brain for how to ease the crushing disappointment for Cricket (everything is a big deal when you're 6). Being summer in Kentucky, and in a very Catholic part of town, little festivals are popping up nearly every weekend through July. So, we decided to hit one near the airport where the Dungeon Master and I worked and first met. I wish I could describe the delighted squeal that came charging out of her mouth when we rounded the corner and she saw all the spinning rides and blinking lights. "Memmy, we go dere? You tate me dere?!!!"
Homegirl was in heaven.
The night was perfection: dance contests, pony rides (where she was so very brave), ferris wheels, free ice cream (for winning the dance contest), bumper cars, and getting a cool prize when her strong daddy swung the mallet and nearly broke the bell... that last one might be an exaggeration, but that's how I'm choosing to remember it. And I want Cricket to remember it, too. I want her memories full of summer nights of such unwavering, joyful perfection.
Here's to many more :)
Today marked the first official day of my summer gig with ArtWorks, the Cincinnati-based creative machine for regional transformation. The non-profit organization employs 14-21 year-olds to work as apprentices on various projects (lots of murals) in nearly all of the greater Cincinnati area neighborhoods. Luckily for me, they employ Teaching Artists, too. This summer, I'll be working under local artist Scott Donaldson with a team of 8 teens on the very first ArtWorks mural in Bellevue, Kentucky.
Pictured at left is Scott's 2008 mural in Camp Washington, which towers at 45 feet and is aptly titled Campy Washington. You can check out more of his incredible work (I love his portraits) and read all about him here.
Today was just the orientation, but I am already ridiculously excited, even though most days, we'll be facing brutal sun and thick, heavy heat as we work at the wall. I got to meet all of our apprentices, but I look forward to really getting to know them in the coming weeks. Collaborative art-making is such an exquisite (and unfortunately these days, rare) pleasure, which forges deep connections that can't be achieved through mere conversation. Art reaches into our depths and touches us at our most human level. I like to call it the Great Connector.
And really, anything that gets me out of my studio/hobbit-hole/head and interacting with people (what are those?!) is a good, good thing. Stay tuned, friends, as I chronicle the journey.
Well, it's done.
Last week, I finished my 44-page humdinger of a thesis paper (titled Seeing Red: Re-conceptualizing Approaches to Native American Arts) and installed my arts-based research project (titled The Messenger Brings the Gift) in the student exhibition. Here's my artist statement, which explains the conceptual nature of the work better than anything my burned-out brain could come up with right now:
In the beginning, there existed only two entities that were at once separate and the same: Thought and Grandmother Spider. Engaging Thought, the Spider spun great bundles of knowledge, casting them out into space where they remained, latent and vibrating. Grandmother Spider then called on her granddaughters, and together, they sang the bundles of knowledge into bursting existence, creating the universe and all life within it.
As an artist, educator, researcher and storyteller, I have cultivated a curiosity about my own cultural heritage (Cherokee and Appalachian) that has served as a driving force behind my work. As a budding educator, I am curious about how to teach “authentically” about and from works of Native American art.
By engaging creative narrative, art-making, and my investigations into my Cherokee ancestry, I set out on a perilous journey to find out what an educator should do or consider when approaching a Native American art curriculum. The endeavor was rife with questions: How does one teach authentically from art? What does “authentic” even mean? How do we know what we know about Native Americans? What can we know, and how can we know it? How can we encourage students into their own investigations?
This artwork is as much a manifestation of my research as it is evidence of a ritualistic communion between hand and material. Each stitch within the embroidery is representative of a lesson learned, a record of thought, and a conversation.
The large center hoop is a multi-layered artistic application of my research findings. It references the Sacred Hoop – a ceremonial, medicinal, and educational tool used by many indigenous people groups and is a symbol of simultaneity; the embroidery hoop, which is, in its own way, a site for ceremonial and spiritual activity; the web of Grandmother Spider, a prominent figure in Cherokee mythology; and my Cherokee ancestry though the printed text and the pattern itself, which is gleaned from centuries-old embroideries. The ravens encircling the central Sacred Hoop are the carriers of seven “messages”: these are representative of seven considerations that should be made by art educators when teaching about and from indigenous arts and peoples.
As an educator, I am the messenger who brings the gift of a burning curiosity – one that fuels a lifelong learner. Like Grandmother Spider, it is only through engagement with students that knowledge can be sung to life.
There you have it. With that, I am finished with school. Possibly forever. Wonderful and terrifying at the same time.
What a gorgeous weekend for an art fair! This marked my third year exhibiting at Summerfair Cincinnati, one of the longest-running outdoor art fairs in the country, and one that I have been attending since childhood. Friday was cold, rainy, and generally miserable, but my oh my how Saturday and Sunday dried up any thoughts of that first bad day: huge crowds, good sales, roasted corn, iced tea and glorious sunshine! Such a weekend made me wish that doing the art fair circuit was my full-time gig (though really, it's so much work that it's like having TWO full-time gigs!). Maybe one day, after I have a good long nap. Between the shows and finishing up my thesis, some R&R is looooong overdue!