The students produced some really strong work for the final critique. I think I should assign this earlier in the semester next year. If I get to teach any studios at all. Here’s the pictures!
My 3D design class has been grappling all semester with materials, I have tried to change how I mark this class to encourage more play and experimentation, and I have to say that it seems to have worked. I see my students in the studio outside of class, and they are happily making a mess and learning. Of course this gets pretty expensive, so I have inserted a unit on using everyday materials. The inspirational lecture featured some of my favourite artists, using nothing but cups, string, paper, thread, office supplies, and I am excited to see how their fully developed projects pan out next week. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at some of their ideas so far
I was asked to put together a short lecture on Women Artists through history. I thought some of you who couldn’t make it might enjoy being able to at least see the slides. I will try to put together a version with audio at a later date perhaps. Anyway – click the link below.
I think I have mentioned before that 2D design is NOT my favorite course to teach, but I think I am finally beginning to find ways to make the material match my style and to introduce new media and materials along with the principles which keeps the students engaged with the class. These printmaking additions were the unanimous favorite of my students this term. For a couple of years I have been sneaking in some printmaking – our school has a press, but no printmaking classes – first using the line unit – and making simple Plexiglas plate etchings. The students really love learning a new process and it makes the idea of making an image with only lines come alive for them. Here’s a few examples from this term’s group…
But the absolute hands down winner was suicide lino printing (reduction prints). Once they had wrapped their heads around the process, they dived in and experimented on different papers and substrates, and with all kinds of colour palettes (which was actually the point of the whole exercise – to experiment with colour). They produced some pretty amazing prints for students who had never even tried the process before. I was really thrilled at the critique to see how much risk they were willing to take! It is hard to take a risk when there’s a grade involved! So here’s a sample of that work too…
Here’s a kind of recap of the presentation today!
“Meditating on the Filled Page”
As I started to put together this workshop it occurred to me that this title was indicative of the lives of most creative practioners, and teachers. I imagine that like me, all of you struggled to make a space in your calendar for this opportunity to replenish your own spirit – to refill the well.
It seems on paper as if my life is quite empty, I have an empty nest – the last of my children just left for college – I only work outside the studio 4 days a week, so that leaves all this “empty” time for my own art practice and studio work. The reality of course is that one of my “real jobs” – teaching, encroaches into that free time. I am always reading, marking exams and projects, devising new strategies to approach familiar material, working to be a better teacher so my students get the best possible experience from me. I still have family and community commitments. I have my own work, given only to me by the universe; “my secret jealous lover (my work) is always there waiting for me… he whispers in my ear that there is not much time left for what I am meant to do” Niki de Saint Phalle. My pages are FULL.
Not only do I battle time, I also battle procrastination – What Steven Pressfield in his book “The War of Art” calls “capital R” Resistance. The exercise I am going to share with you today was inspired by the work of an artist called Will Ashford who “rescues, salvages and transforms” other people’s words. For me the page mediations have become a tool to trick my inner censor – I am not really doing any work, not being creative, just hanging out with this old page from a book. For me this works. I can switch gears and as I am “colouring” my pages the work of the day begins to unfold and I know where to turn next in the studio. This is work as play. You can’t do it “wrong” as there is no predetermined result. Any age level can do it – any person (self-defined creative or not) can do it – although I’d recommend experimenting with different sized/spaced text depending on the manual dexterity of the artist.
As time passes I often see preoccupations surface in this visual landscapes – words that some straight from “the soup” and into the studio. As an artist I am drawn to making highly detailed, labor intensive, large scale work that uses repetitive process, so this form of meditation fits my way of working well. And I find by the time I have finished the work fro the day is restless and ready to be manifested in the world – I know what I will be working on in the studio!
I want to thank all of you for diving in and playing with me today – I really left feeling energized and refreshed – kudos to all!!
If you’d like we to teach this workshop for you contact me at debraeck at debraeck dot com.
Yes! Finally the closing weeks of Spring term and it is Andy Goldsworthy time! Today was a balmy 80 and the sun was shining, so my sculpture class headed out into the wild for the morning. After some initial sketching and pondering here’s what they came up with so far
I am so excited! One of my art history students submitted her research on craft activism for Scholar’s Day at our college. ( I wrote more about hyperbolic crochet here) Tomorrow she will be presenting her research to the entire academic community. In addition to her required work she also created this amazing hyperbolic crochet reef. It will be cool to see everyone’s reaction to this intersection of maths and art! All of my visual survey students have worked hard on their research projects this semester which makes me SO happy. Maybe this semester I managed to create a few scholars, I feel as if I made a little bit of difference. My heartfelt thanks to the Institute for Figuring for inspiring her!
I have been thinking about an essay I just read by Ute Meta Bauer.(quote here) I just came from giving a lecture on contemporary art to freshmen, and honestly they don’t get it. Here in rural America they have almost no exposure to contemporary art, and they are so far outside of the “art world” it seems meaningless to them. They just want to be makers. They don’t read theory, they don’t go to museums. I kind of like that in them. The outside-ness. I wonder if they will be able to hang on to that through the rest of their academic “training”. Can they bring a fresh perspective, hang on to their naivete?
I started out the week thinking about what art school seems to promise students and what it actually delivers. Yesterday was a great day in studio. It really felt like an art department. My students were scattered all over making room for themselves to work, and because it didn’t seem like there was really a class going on, many students from other classes snuck in to work too. The place was just humming with energy! My students spent the day quite happily learning how to make molds and pour plaster, they worked really hard, were not anxious to run out of the door at the end of class (or before). Then last night I went with a student to hear about this work – the hyperbolic crochet reef – and the intersection of maths and art. That made me want to come home and make hyperbolic paper models that would function as books. Combined the two things had me thinking about craft and the sticky debate around Art vs craft.A thought I will have to shelve for a bit – no time to think about that today!
Then this morning I am reading Jafabrit’s blog post and wondering if it is easier to insert one’s self into this debate and be taken seriously if you are a man like Grayson Perry? (Grayson grew up in my neck of the woods – Chelmsford, he even did a stint at Braintree college). I think I really have some serious thinking to do over the summer about the shape of my classes as I move forward from this point. All of these things have me thinking about new ways to bring skills into my classroom, new unit ideas. Oh for a few more hours in the day!! Not to mention filling my already overstuffed head with ideas for new books, and a possible direction my work could take for the Tangled show with Molly. I am going to need a clone or a patron this summer!!
It was in retrospect perhaps not the best of times to have embarked on this fascinating journey into new modes of learning with my first MOOC. I am knee deep in the studio with work for a show in the fall, teaching, looking for a new job, and juggling the Women Create events including this weekend’s big finale of SWAN Day events.
Every lecture I watch, every blog post I read, just sets my little head whirling! I really don’t have any background in educational theory, being primarily an artist who teaches, not a teacher who makes art, so some of the materials are really a bit of a slog for me. I am not saying much online as I read because I am a little embarrassed by the huge yawning gulf of ignorance, I guess I am afraid of saying something permanent in print that I might not be afraid to say out loud in a room. (A valuable lesson here when working with online students – who probably share these fears – how can I move them past this? Should I change my grading for discussion, would it make it more open or so irrelevant in terms of scoring that they would just not bother with the activity at all?)
Thinking about connecting and learning has made me curious about the history of my discipline in academia and about the possibilities for new models of learning. (For the sake of clarification I have a BFA and a master’s in Visual Culture). For me it is too difficult to posit possible futures without at least understanding how we arrived here in this mess. And art education is messy. So I have been reading furiously, trying to learn something about this history. Art doesn’t fit neatly into the colleges where it resides, my first experience with this was quite literal – my art studio classes didn’t fit the standard time schedules of other departments, they were long, I had a hard time fitting my gen. eds. around my studios because a class I wanted to take would start 20 minutes before my studio ended. (curiously the worst offender from my point of view was the art history department – I am sure there’s some hidden agenda in that!). The department I teach in has done a lot of tinkering to try and make our schedule mesh with the “rest” of the school and it seems to me that this has been facilitated by long labs in the sciences which have made the entire schedule more flexible to begin with.
But time is not Art’s biggest problem. As art has transformed into an academic discipline it has moved further and further away from its audience (both the students who “consume” the education and the public). I want to be clear here that I am certain that art is an academic pursuit. As an artist my work originates in research and is informed by my entanglement with “real” life, the end result of my thinking however is not a neatly packaged set of thoughts delivered in a paper but instead a complex visual statement that allows room for the “reader” to bring their own experience to merge with mine (so kind of MOOC-ish, maybe that’s why I feel at home in this learning environment!). My students come to school looking for one thing (skills) and find another (theory). Many of the students that I teach – like me – come to the arena of art because they are makers. I have to be creating with my hands or my personality gets WAY out of control. They enroll in art classes because they have some talent at making – they can draw a representational image, they can paint, or construct. Most of my students are from rural areas, many of them have never been in a gallery, let alone a major contemporary art museum with a modern collection. They are part of the public that is alienated from the “art world”. They don’t get it. They feel they are obsolete before they have even started.
I don’t have a cure for any of this, only frustration. Part of my interest in the MOOC is a desire to expand my thoughts about what teaching/learning can look like so that I can find a way to think about the problem more usefully. I wish right now I had a clone! There is so much to be learned, so much to read, so much to assimilate and unravel, and yet, all my work still to be done. When people tell me they are bored I wonder what on earth they do with their time, how can they have too much when all I ever experience is not enough!!! And so back to work, just wanted to let you know I am still thinking and I can feel all these new connections opening up, its like my brain is breathing again. So thank you to all the diligent learners, all you blog post writers, and the course coordinators for all the wonderful thoughts now swimming in my brain! I wish I had kept a better record of what I am reading where so that I could give you more credit for the novel and glorious things in my head. (Again reminds me to be much more sympathetic to my research students when they loose track of where they found an idea, or how they arrived at a location online!). Alas my “real” life calls – laundry and papers and the siren song of my studio. Enjoy your day!