I am oh-so excited to dive into my new classroom, and I'm committed to being intentional about the space I'm creating, trying to be conscious about the things I bring in. As a firm believer in the idea that the environment influences the work we make, I've spent the past two years daydreaming about my ideal classroom: a safe place to share ideas and visions; a place that nurtures the individual voice; full of images and objects that inspire and are themselves inspired. And now, I actually get to put my dreams into action!
I know what I don't want: cheap poster reproductions of old-dead-white-guy paintings, or run-of-the-mill teacher posters that say things like "Hang in There!" or "You can do it!" Who finds these things inspiring or motivating? Anyone, ever?
So keeping what I don't want in mind, this afternoon I indulged and bought these two babies to hang in my classroom:
I picked these up on etsy from California-based illustrator Emily McDowell - check out her goods and get your own at her shop. I can't wait to get them in the mail and frame them up in color!
Other ideas: succulents and my Kachina collection for interesting still life, "Ms. Howard's Library of Wonders" full of all my best and favorite art books, a big wall devoted to critique and display, one of my own large paintings-in-progress (I think it's important for my students to see me keeping up a professional studio practice), and a few other inspirational goodies I'm cooking up that I'll share as soon as they're finished.
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.
Hot off the press (or vacuum table, if we're going to be specific)! A series of prints called The Gentlemen. They're printed in a group like pictured above in a limited edition of 10, and printed separately as well. Last night, I finished the prototype for their plushie forms, and I'm super-excited to see how they'll be received at CraftySupermarket, which is barely over ONE WEEK AWAY! My bestie will be there, too, helping to peddle my wares, so come see us and say hello, and maybe take a refined young gentleman home with you. Hope to see you there!
Here's the fruit of last week's labor! It was my first time doing a photo emulsion method of silkscreening (everything up to this point has been hand-painted with drawing fluid), and I must say, I'm quite enamored of all the crispy little lines I was able to pull.
Don't let my supersweet photo manipulation skills fool you - these babies are a gorgeous sky-before-the-storm blue on a lovely heavy white Stonehenge. True-color pics on the way.
Also coming soon: Moustached Matryoshka Man PLUSHIE for your cuddling pleasure!
I've been working on some of these text-based "companion" prints to go along with my Great Writers Series. The quote from Ms. Austen is just the kick in the pants I've been needing, as show season draws nigh (hooray!).
PS: just got Instagram for Android and I'm lovin' it! Expect to see lots of annoyingly vintage-looking photos in the future :)