Small private school. Girls in plaid skirts, boys in ties. 1970’s.
A teacher who I did not think was important was the most formative.
Mrs. Hull was really old. I mean like maybe 60’s or 70’s. She stood under 5 feet tall even with the platform shoes she wore. Her clothes included groovy pant suits and paisley bright patterns. She complemented outfits with oversize jewelry. Pouffy white hair. Oversized teeth. Big thick glasses with styling frames. She taught Music Appreciation.
We all knew she had a son who performed with Up with People. Up With People, matching outfits with Brady Bunch choreography. Am I remembering this wrong? I think they played for an early Superbowl. They may have even performed in our gym.
Was Music class a semester? Two days a week? Like I teach Art Appreciation now?
She ran the class from a well used notebook and a phonograph player, the kind that comes in a suit case.
She began all her classes the same way. “Music is magic for everyone.”
We wrote these notes down. There would be tests. Mrs. Hull would walk in and out through the rows, not really policing the class but giving hints to anyone who could not come up with the answers. Oh, it was probably more than hints.
There was classical music as well as the current stuff. We listened to Jesus Christ Superstar. “Tension and Release’ said Mrs. Hull. We listened to Jethro Tull. Aqualung.
We were in invited to bring in our favorite albums. It was painful to listen as Mrs Hull place the needle.
But you got cool cred if the music was appreciated.
Imaginary David Bowie: You’re writing this now because?
Me: I doubt everything, but maybe I share some of that joy too.
In my work email, notes on faith take up a lot of real estate.
Mostly I give them a cursory view.
It is often a window as to have the sender is doing. I can see who is having a rough day and maybe send a note back.
If it is from someone higher up in work, it takes a more didactic color.
The images and fonts of these messages get to me. One image has accompanied daily Lenten messages. It is austere, verticals and horizontals, black and white. An older figure is present with the rounded shoulders of age. No comfort here. Each time I open my mail I feel a chill looking at this picture. It is not that sometimes the words aren’t reassuring (sometimes they are) but seeing the image changes meaning.
Other emails encouraging faith are prayers featuring bright colors, cursive fonts, fast images from the top of a google search. Accessible they are. Dismiss-able mostly.
F I V E is a critique group formed from the Lowres MFA 2018 class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Tyler Kirkholm, Jessica Mueller, Kris Shaedig, Laura Drey, and myself.
The first piece you might notice as you come into the gallery looks like a rock. And it’s a rock on a single grid. The piece is hung so that it’s eye level. Well, it’s eye level for me not necessarily so for my taller students. It looks like pink granite, but surprise! This is made out of clay. If you look in the back, you’ll see that it is hollow.
The way it is displayed references traditional trompe l’oeil paintings. It fools you into thinking it is something it is not. If it were placed on the ground, you might pass by and consider it a misplaced piece of landscaping. But in hanging it in this vertical manner gives it a different life. Is it a lie or an homage?
Continuing to the left is a case with three small ceramics and six drawings. Three terra cotta pieces are each about the size of an orange. They reside in a glass case. The one on the top shelf has roots. It resembles a sea creature out of its environment. I am reminded of the squid at the Smithsonian. Just beneath the shelf are two more pieces, one is a ceramic cup or a cap. Is this a cap for a tooth that has been enlarged for demonstration purposes?
The most terrifying piece is a screw type instrument. Looks like dental torture but the displayed documents tell us that this is a “second chance.” A second chance for a tooth or what?
The display looks like a Wunderkammer, a cabinet of curiosities.
On the next grid are two fabric pieces. They are suspended on twigs. There is stitching and different fabrics one on top of the other. These fabric pieces are a natural extension of her painterly practice. Here she paints with materials that have lived a previous life. You can identify pieces of bed linens, aprons, and kitchen cloths. These are remnants of the fabrics the family has been using for years.
These hangings are compilations of white-on-white fabric with these little bits of color. She operates the same way an abstract painter does, playing tone on tone. And then on top of these fields of different color she draws with zigzaggy lines that crossed these fields of a fabric.
In this space one may contemplate the composition while considering the past life of the materials. Bits and pieces of family memories are presented for appreciation for composition as well as content.
Drey: “I use farming packaging materials to investigate the layered identity of my American experiences and my Mexican heritage. I juxtapose traditional techniques with contemporary technology to create assemblages where weaving and storytelling come together as a hybrid of symbolic and literal objects. I incorporate hand-weaving and sewing as small ways to pay tribute to those who came before me and worked with the material under very different circumstances.” Drey’s piece here is a weaving comprised of red twist ties. Like Schaedig’s fabric hangings, meaning and material merge in an aesthetically striking experience.
Security Wear Panels. Four panels of paper works are up next. Completed during a Marmion printmaking session, students and teacher alike considered the Benedictine value of hospitality through imagery. I chose used security envelopes as a meaningful substrate. These were used envelopes, some from the school finance office, some from bills at home are in the mix. Some may have been used for tuition payments (names have been removed) some may have contained art supply invoices. Most were printed the image of an old-fashioned apron with hands offering a plate of cookies. The backs of some of the prints, feature crayon rubbings of student linoleum plates from February and March of last year (before Marmion went remote due to the pandemic.) They are tied together like a quilt with yellow ribbon.
Work done in art class is affected by the artists in the class through conversations and physical art pieces. My work has been improved by the interactions with my critique. In the same way my work and my students work inform and support each other.
The classroom interactions have changed due to the pandemic, but it is my hope to foster more collaborations and interactions with my socially distant students. Theater is also operating in a differently this year. Performers in the recent school radio play exaggerated inflections for delivery of content. The dialogue required effort. Likewise, this communication used to advance art and thought requires effort. The results are worth it.
January 6 was a long day. Hard to break from the news. Mother Art Revisited On Tyranny project was helpful in parsing out the current condition of American democracy.
I had written 2 letters to Vice President Pence. I thought perhaps his need to appear moral might be the angle I could work with. Pence could ask Trump to step down. Trump could frame this departure in any number of ways. Maybe he could retire to become a golf pro. He could have a good time manipulating his scores and handicap – right? He could rig the golf courses.
So much grief over the losses Covid has afflicted. More grief in the wounds our democracy has suffered.
Fever dream: herd of mini therapy horses in their little converse tennies march down Pennsylvania Ave towards the protestors. Long flowy manes, little snortie sounds.
In the face of such majesty and impossibility, all turn and marvel at the sight. Everyone turns and trots home.
Except the Senate and the House who respect the public’s wishes and declare Biden president elect.
Imaginary David Bowie: well….this is a different space
E: I know. This I question do I even show this to anyone?
IDB: You just did. Make the thing that you want to make. In a conversation with J Jenkins he said the same thing. He makes the things that interest him.
E: It really doesn’t have to matter to anyone else.
Oh, the Federation and Klingons had never been able to get along.
And now they find themselves on the Enterprise together.
But wait! They are not the only ones on the ship!
A malevolent entity is with them too. It implants false memories, of crimes and injustices that did not happen. These false memories inflame tempers. Weapons just happen to be lying around, so they use them.
But everything ends OK. Both sides discover they have been manipulated by the orange glowing presence. They realize it exists off their hate. So they stop hating and believing in those lies. They laugh and move on. The entity leaves. It gets even better. Klingons and the Federation work together in future Star Trek series.
No news or results for me tonight. I’m hoping for a Star Trek future-like ending tomorrow.
Since the pandemic quarantine began it has been a struggle to keep spirits up.
One thing that helps is a daily walk.
It was not just the exercise, it was also the hopeful messages on the street and sidewalk. “Be Kind” was one. There were birthday notes. “Happy Birthday Christi” with the obligatory heart-dotted ‘i’.
Though I did not see them in the early morning, I could witness these small visual manifestations of loves and lives of people in their homes.
BLM messages appeared in windows. Good to see these supportive signs.
Mother Art Revisited artist collective created their works encouraging efforts to stop the injustice.
Disease and racism color the world, antidotes and vaccines are elusive. Do what you can to alleviate pain. Do what you can to make
Neighborhood children have been leaving painted rocks by their mailbox or the street. There are hearts, rainbows, trucks and just messages of I love you. It is not easy to paint on rough rocks. They are small (rocks and children) and the image begs for a certain amount of legibility.
I do not want to litter but I left a painted pebble in the park. I then added a couple to my neighbor’s collections. Mini Pop-Up galleries.
Security Wear, Take Care (2020) three panels of security envelopes printed with a linoleum block of an apron with crayon rubbings of student-made linoleum plates of table settings. Yellow ribbons tie the images together as a quilt with suicide prevention cards.
The job of a mother to nurture. Provide structure and instruction. Protect them from danger. Keep it together. Take care of those in our care.
Today, I take care. I cover my face so my breath won’t make you sick.
It has always been messy and getting messier. Grown kids and students off into the world and the world is full of sickness we can’t see and maybe now we can see the reality of George Floyd.
Donate to the food bank. Check in on your peoples. Write letters. Stand and march together. Make art out of love for each other.