“narratives of place”

Step One: Recall a place that has figured prominently in your life. Consider your relationship in all senses. How has this place affected the making of your work?

For some reason, I feel very compelled to write about my childhood backyard. All the days and nights spent playing in that magical slice of earth formulated my love for nature and actualization of what makes a strong community.

I recall doing homework atop a modest swing-set my father built. Sometimes, I would lie back, close my eyes, and see how light and shadows danced over my eyelids. I distinctly remember the symphony of rustling leaves and creaking timber.

Each season had a different smell. Fall smelled like damp foliage, prominent evergreens, and dewy grass. It was the smell of autumn that I missed most when I moved to the desert.

The raw nature of my experiences in this space infused into my being. Although I was a child who followed expectations and mostly avoided getting into trouble, I would frequently sneak into the woods at the yard’s end. The bruises and scrapes achieved along the way taught me lessons of perseverance while hinting at the power of the natural world. Nothing puts you in your place like getting lost. Having these moments to learn, play, and explore in solitude heavily influenced my lifelong dedication to the natural world.

In retrospect, my foundations in these excursions continues into today. When any of my wells run dry (emotional, creative, social, etc.) I reorient myself with the world around me.

Step Two: Many artists live transient lives. Ideas of belonging and connection emerge alongside themes of dislocation, displacement, and nomadism. Are such themes prominent in your work?

The concept of being a transient person is now a part of my being. I am absolutely a nomad. I currently reside in the fifth state I have lived in. Nonetheless, I don’t intentionally incorporate these ideas into my work. Life isn’t a progression or a destination for me. Life is simply existence. I am both completely alone and ever connected. These perceptions are my reality. Therefore, I have never considered representing this in my art.

“silence”

Does your work break silence?

As you will likely know by now, my work in the past was made to disrupt the status quo concerning the re-victimization of survivors of sexual assault. My work broke silence forced upon me by my school and my college community. During my senior show, I was empowered to own my own narrative in a public space. The content of my work established boundaries for the viewer to process and choose whether or not to acknowledge it.

Untitled. Pen on paper. 2014. 8 x 10 inches.

Pivoting to my work in community arts today, I incorporate a common theme to my work by asking:

“Who is missing?”

“Where is the greatest need?”

In relation to this prompt, silence relates to those missing in community spaces. As a community arts administrator, my primary goals include accessibility to programming and diversifying our community body. I hope to continue growing professionally to make progress in this much needed work.

Reading Responses (Week 4)

Sections Assigned

Liu, Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility, Part 1: The Premise: 1-39

.The beginning of this reading was rather off-putting. Eloquently descriptive allegories of individuals’ creative ideas being shut down were compared to murder. That kind of hyperbole makes it challenging to want to read the rest of the passage. Although I understand the author is framing these instances as killing the passions and ideas of others, a statement like “murder was committed,” is so cringeworthy. For one, it demeans the severity of death and murder, but it also is a false comparison. In each of these situations, these “killings” of ideas could also be considered setbacks under the right, supportive conditions. Death is finite.

Continuing this theme, there was also a very strange accompaniment to the quote, “The reality is that imagination comes first. Until and unless we have the emotional and intellectual capacity to conceive of what does not yet exist, there is nothing toward which we are to direct our will and our resources.” Although I highly agree with this statement, the author then goes on to use both Nelson Mandela and J.K. Rowling as examples of individuals with vision. It feels tacky to compare the legacy of an individual who envisioned a multiracial democracy during apartheid to a single mother on welfare who wrote about wizards and became the creator of a major media franchise.

But, seeing as this is an assignment, I must continue.

I was excited to see Geoffrey Canada’s work come up in the passage. I am a huge fan of his model and would love to see it replicated across the country.

I also support the sequence of inherent imagination leading to creativity and then innovation. I feel like this concept helps break down the concept of creative people and not creative people. We can all imagine, dream, think. It is the application of these thoughts that institutes creativity. That means some effort needs to be spent. Failure must occur and we must learn.

The author continues by saying “imagination can’t be taught,” which is relatively true in my opinion. Imagination, like strength, memorization, or flexibility, requires a willingness to try to expand. Growing one’s capacity to imagine requires intrapersonal and often interpersonal support. By continuing to stretch ones ideas and push concepts further, one can imagine more fully.

“ambidextrous wordplay”

After writing subtle, minor words with my non-dominant hand and then bold, powerful words with my dominant hand, I was then instructed to pair the words I wrote.

Image includes words from prompt.
  1. Lost – Know
  2. Reservation – Determination
  3. Gentle – Strength

The next set of instructions asks for three project descriptions. The first project incorporating words from my subtle list only, the second, only using commanding words, and the third project should be a blend of the two.

Subtle Project Description:

A quiet moment of gentle solitude might be lonesome, but meditative practices can bring harmony and balance to a distant, muddled mind. A project where participants lay or sit quietly, experiencing the faint nuances of the natural world. After a brief period, participants will be asked to create a visual representation of their experience using a variety of found, natural objects. This project will explore the ways in which the natural world whispers inspiration, or if some participants feel lost in relation to their artistic process.

Commanding Project Description:

After observing the natural world through movement, do participants feel connected through their actions and the space they inhabit? Participants will be asked to visually represent knowledge gained during this process using found, natural objects. Does a period of action influence participants’ determination to connect with the space through gentle use of materials, or will certain activities correspond to the level of force justified during their artistic process?

Combined Project Description:

Does the way we move through a natural environment correspond with our use of natural materials? This project studies the responses of participants as they lay, walk, dance, and force their way through the natural world. Does their use of gentile restraint or determined action alter the way they express the space artistically? After a brief period of movement, participants will create a work of art using found materials. This research project examines if specific types of movement justify destroying found, natural objects, or if certain actions cause reservations in how they employ the natural world in personal expression.

Reading Responses (Week 3)

Sections Assigned

  • Finkelpearl: Dialogues in Public Art: Interview with Mierle Laderman Ukeles 309-337
  • Tan: “Culture in Motion: A mobile, inflatable auditorium brings arts programming to tsunami-devasted regions of Japan.” 46-53

Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ residency at the New York Sanitation Department transcended perceptions of status and preconceived notions of artistic merit. For this reading, I had to go back further than assigned in order to gain context about the origins of her work and her original intent.

I found her work to be particularly compelling in several ways, but also lacking in others. In her “I Make Maintenance Art One Hour Every Day,” Ukeles was able to engage and transform workers’ perceptions of art and the process of maintaining systems in place. This, and her “Touch Sanitation Performance” brought visibility to the marginalized individuals making the city function. This work also elevates the conversation around maternal duties and the dichotomy of being a woman holding multiple roles.

Nonetheless, her work overlooked the larger socio-economic systems affecting the workers. Ukeles was able to use maintenance art to highlight the importance of the role of the sanitation workers, but was only able to better conditions in her life through the process. The sanitation workers she worked with, through perhaps given a new perspective on their daily labor, remain powerless in transforming their status.

The reading “Culture in Motion: A mobile inflatable auditorium brings arts programming to tsunami-devastated regions of Japan,” included several details in which I ruminated. The first was the Japanese concept of marebito or “sacred guests.” This term referred to those coming from foreign lands and the the positive attributes they incorporate into society. For many reasons, I believe it is important to learn an additional language. In the case of this example, there are words for concepts we do not have in our native tongue. Language can provide perspective and illuminate cultural connotations. Marebito reflects a willingness to learn from others and celebrate a variety of gifts in which all can benefit. What an exciting concept.

In reference to the auditorium itself, I found this project particularly interesting, as it reflects the essence of humanity in relation to the concept of providing humanitarian aid. When all is lost, do we become individuals or a collective unit?

Although I understand the two leading artists on the project are world renown, I am curious who funded this project and what channels were used to make it a financial and logistical reality.

“key words”

Read through all of your writings, noting key words. Write these words on individual post-it notes and build a compositional board.

The following word map is organized with the most frequently occurring words from my research and personal writings in the center.

Most frequent words as of January 31, 2020

Reading Responses (Week 2)

Sections Assigned

  • Heller: Becoming an Artist/Ethnographer in Visualizing Anthropology by Grimshaw 133-141
  • Garrett: “Free Your Mind.” 35

Heller: Becoming an Artist/Ethnographer in Visualizing Anthropology by Grimshaw 133-141

Roanna Heller reflects on her journey becoming an artist-ethnographer. This experience yields time for self-expression while reflecting on her role as an artist observing and as an artist participating in an environment. She shares, “I realized that the artist, like the ethnographer, is concerned with learning about and communication experience; however, artist learn though making (research by practice), exploring the world through imaginative material and conceptual interventions, whereas the ethnographer is trained to retain an analytical distance, to learn through text-based interpretation.” From there, her experience reminds me of Paulo Freire’s philosophy of reading. Heller reads the context of her environment and expresses this information by employing various artistic practices including visual arts, movement, and text. I find this work to be crucial in justifying multiple intelligences while providing a roadmap of this process.

Garrett: “Free Your Mind.” 35

Rob Garrett’s discussion of publicness and work in the public eye reminds me of a lesson I conducted with my students back in Phoenix, Arizona. We discussed the display of art and access to works. Sometimes, money or transportation were obstacles. Literacy could also inhibit an individual’s ability to see or understand certain art. However, when we began to collectively recognize and identify public art, students began to understand how accessibility can often reflect a work of art’s intended audience.

Garrett continues this discussion, stating “art can play an important role [in political change] by giving voice to what is silent in the existing balance of power.” Art in the public eye yields an opportunity to imagine the possibilities for social structure and individual liberties. Garrett’s concise article reflects my passion for public art and the dynamic possibilities for works to catalyze change.

Reading Responses (Week 1)

Sections Assigned

  • Freire, Literacy: Reading the Word and the World: Chapter 1, The Importance of the Act of Reading.  20-24
  • Searching for Art’s New Publics: Interview with Harrell Fletcher. 81-90
  • Majozo: To Search for the Good
  • Goldbard: “Calling All Citizen Artists.”

Searching for Art’s New Publics: Interview with Harrell Fletcher. 81-90

Harrell Fletcher’s experience in the world of studio and fine arts felt very familiar to me. As an artist feeling isolated in the confines of his studio, he began to wonder about the creation of art in public spaces and the need to engage communities through art. My transition to the world of community arts came from similar origins. My undergraduate degree in studio art led me to my career as an art educator. I found Fletcher’s variety of approaches in creating community-based art were intriguing and enlightening.

Freire, Literacy: Reading the Word and the World: Chapter 1, The Importance of the Act of Reading.  20-24

Since discovering Freire’s work, I feel overwhelmingly drawn to the lens he uses when approaching education. In the case of this reading, Freire justifies the ability to read as a means for the individual to perceive and understand their environments or “reading the world.” I believe this is key to understanding our realities, connecting with one another, and having a vision of progress.

Freire also dismantles the approach of reading alone as an exercise to get better at reading, stating this approach leads more to be devoured than understood. He argues this is a false comparison, like stating the quality of work is correlated to the quantity of pages written. Furthermore, Freire finds dismantleing texts and providing assigned sections to be a practice of “‘reading lessons’ in the old-fashioned sense.” Ironically, Freire writes, “I even read references to specific pages in this or that chapter from such and such a book, which had to be read: ‘pages 15-37.””

Majozo: To Search for the Good

Much of Májozo’s directly addresses my struggles as an artist and art educator. Dismantling the elitist views of what art should or should not have value is a constant in the arts. For centuries, various artistic expressions were viewed as inadequate, lacking technique, grotesque, and even degenerate. As Májozo discusses fearing losing aesthetics when working on a collaborative art project, she then addresses this as an elitist bias and highlights the societal function of collaborative public art.

I am specifically compelled by this section of her writing because this artist bias becomes implicit. Our perceptions of “successful art” hold the individual and the collective back from honest self-expression and communal, artistic action.

Goldbard: “Calling All Citizen Artists.”

I am fairly surprised how recent this document is, as it announces the launch of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. This 2013 document highlights the role of artistic and cultural activity as through the eyes of the United States government. Although I agree with their five pillars, I understand art, like education, to be inherently political. Considering what artistic and cultural expressions are truly valued and supported by the government means taking in consideration what the messages of those expressions are. Likely, the United States government will not support art rejecting “traditional American values” established by the historically elite, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, cis, straight men.

I believe this document to be an important step in protecting artistic and cultural expression, however it is legitimately as important to understand the history of the government from which this document came.

“staying in the questions”

What are some of the questions you ask yourself as you work?

At some point during my formative education, I remember a teacher telling me to put my writing through what they called the “who cares” test. This ultimately pushed me to elaborate my written work and explain my content beyond a reasonable doubt.

In relation to my art, I still ask a similar question. Often, the result is rethinking concepts and pushing an idea further. Admittedly, there were periods in my past where I saw consumption of my art as success or a failure. At these times, the “who cares” in my brain was self-deprecating.

Over the past year, the condescending tone of that concept was traded for a more self-aware approach.

“Who cares?”

Maybe I care to keep working on a piece because I am learning something new, creating something for a loved one, or- just maybe- I am making something simply for the sake of having fun. Life doesn’t need to be so serious and goal oriented. Nonsense still requires time to pass and some effort to be made. What a wonderfully wacky way to approach existing and creating.

Digital art created by artist and author Cat Beaudoin (2019).