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Monday, August 31, 2015

A hurricane or a head cold

Its a beautiful day. Hurricane, Tropical Storm, Depression Erika never materialized, even though we were prepared with the best laid plans.

 Instead, and weaker in the planning department, I am fighting  against a school plague of congestion, sore throats, wracking coughs. The beginning of the year has never been so frustrating. Last year, at the start of the season, we lost valuable real estate which bummed the department out, and the year before we had to teach without air conditioning, which totally broke me down. This is different. There is no sense of camaraderie or purpose. I just feel sick. I feel weak. I feel like a loser. I'm stressed about my curricula, about my students behaviors, about the sense of class loyalty that could be lost, about the ground that must be regained, about taking too many of my allotted sick days within the first weeks of school. I'm wondering if I will feel better tomorrow.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hanging on for the ride

This hitchhiker added a bit of stress to our morning drive down the Dixie Highway. After a few blocks he turned a deep shade of brown. The poor thing! I was praying for him to hang on and not try anything stupid. That tail of his looked like a liability. Did he understand that one wrong move, a shift in the wrong direction, and the wind could lift him up and out?
We were able to pull over after 50 blocks! He has now been transferred to a nice bush besides Publix. I hope he is feeling calmer this evening. I felt like I had a full cardio workout in the process. Isn't stress cardio-therapy? Even a little?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Opening lines of communication

My painting class has been working with an easy opener: turning angled lines into positive and negative geometric shapes. Each kids work turned out different and yet also successful. Searching for a more fluid expression of movement, and hoping they'd get a little uncomfortable (which is necessary to taking a risk), I had them make their own brushes and use India ink to fill pages with marks. Then they had to slice the papers into strips and introduce themselves to at least three classmates in order to trade strips. (My painting classes include students from all different grade levels- 10-12th grade, and they do not really know each other).

Glued together the strips made visual poetry, which the kids had to write on the back- a line for a line.

Today is spirit day!

There is a fine line between being and "artist and art teacher" and being an "art teacher".  I take that back- there is a banner line between the two!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Stunning the young draftsmen and women

I love freaking out the 9th grade students with assignments they can't quiet grasp. Initially. Like this week when I praised them for their right brain capabilities and threw wadded balls of paper on their desk tops. "Now do your best, and draw," I said. "What?" they asked. "That!"
wads from the still life

Turning the clumps about in their hands they seemed to go into trances. "Wake up!," I roared. "Look at the edges! Notice the relationships. Go slow and don't let your mind freak you out. It's all just shapes in space!"
They did it, and they are proud too.

After this, drawing paper airplanes will be easy.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Time to plow right in

School has started.
Just hope I don't bury myself this way!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Perks of living in Miami

Getting to the beach, no matter how close we live, is like going on an exodus. Michael and Sophie (my niece) and I pack bags and boxes of stuff, sling blankets and chairs and umbrellas over our shoulders and we withdraw from the chores, the calendar, the phone, the lists, and the daily flow of nagging details. At the beach the breeze and the roar of the surf renders us into an auditory envelope, the the water suspends us womb-like, harking us back to our earliest memories... a place of no language, perhaps really the memories of our cells.
I think the name of this nail color is "Spoiled". It goes well, if I do say so, with the skies, the water, the clouds, and many umbrellas. Nothing could spoil my day.
Michael and Sophie- in the roar

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Seeing and looking

There is a difference, you know?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not all Mannequins are Created Equal

At the Museum of Art and Design (MAD), there is a show up through October that celebrates a NY based mannequin designer, Ralph Pucci. If you see the show you will be intrigued by the variations and styles that evolved with the window prop over the last century. In his twenties, Pucci inherited his family's mannequin repair business. He capitalized on the emergence of the super model in our culture and Pucci collaborated with great innovators like Diane von Furstenberg and Kenny Scharf... He captured something of our changing attitudes to our bodies and abbreviated the stylish statement of our times. It is something I took for granted and hardly noticed. Like the best of art shows, this one will change the way you view window shopping from now on. As part of the generous philosophy of the MAD exhibitions, they have included his actual studio, where you can get an idea (especially with the videos) of how the mannequin prototypes are actually made. They are sculptural artworks.

Ralph Pucci designs have gone international with showrooms and furniture designs opening in Los Angeles and Miami. I have not made it to the new showroom in Miami's design district yet.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Jacob Lawrence and the great race migration

One of the highlights of my summer was attending the exhibition at MoMA NY of Jacob Lawrence's great migration paintings of 1941, called ONE WAY TICKET. It was well attended, and even the first lady, Michele Obama, showed up at closing time!

Lawrence and his wife
A series of small 60 tempera on panel works, each came with a caption described by the artist himself. Lawrence aged 23 and working in Harlem, spent a lot of time doing research in the local library on his series. He documents the great "multi-decade movement of African Americans from the rural south to the urban north". His previous work had been a series on Toussaint L'Ouverture, the liberator of Haiti. In both this and the previous series Lawrence included text to be hung like captions in the news for each of the paintings, and he ordered each to be seen in a sequence. In this way his work is both filmic and media driven.

Along with the exhibition  of the paintings that have not been seen together in 20 years, the museum has included other artistic accounts of the great migration with inclusion of novels, poems, music, photography, and sociographic reports of the time. The exhibition is rich and multi layered and I left it with a new awareness of the trials and tribulations of co-existence in this land called the United States!
This rare gem of a show is up through September 7th.

the exhibition entry graph showing increasing populations in northern cities over time
so much to see

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Night

By Eugene Thomason, art student at work, c.1959
Trying to beat the blood beating heart, to calm the frantic whispers, and stave off the wave of fear that creeps in with Sunday's setting sun. The trials of the week await, and a rest of time won't be long enough. I am putting finishing touches on paintings, slogging through plaster experiments and checking the washer and dryer for the sheets. Tomorrow will be another story.
The truth is that I love my own time. I love my own company. There is not enough time to do all that I want to do on my own. I have so much painting to try. So many ideas to work out. I am never bored. So it feels like an infringement to have to answer the alarm bells of another calling, to rush to employment and tie my time into service of commerce, the paying the bills. That is the warning of the Sunday setting sun... getting in place my clothes and lesson plans, packing my bags and slipping into hard shoes. I must pay bills. For that I must work full time every week.
At least I get paid for doing what I love. It is a pretty goog gig being an art teacher. Who am I to complain?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I am in love with the Blue Ridge Parkway

 Drove past a sign that warned of curves, for the next 140 miles! (Ain't that true).
And then another for "descending radius curves"...apparently those are curves where you need to keep adjusting the steering. I felt as though some of the curves were so tight and so long I must have been making a loop back around! Though I only stayed on the Parkway for 48 miles and 9 tunnels, the whole stretch of 469 miles includes 26 tunnels, 168 bridges, and 6 viaducts! The speed allowed is never higher than 45 mph, and no commercial vehicles allowed ... it is perfect for a summer drive with the windows down. The average elevation is around 3000 feet. I almost went up to Mt Mitchell which is around 6ooo feet above sea level. My ears popped.
But, really, the only way to truly commune with nature is to get out of the car and plant your feet in the forest.
Which I did. I hiked to Craggy Garden, a grassy bald, and then also along a trail below the Mt. Pisgah Inn, on property that once belonged to Vanderbilt's Biltmore estate.
This is Cherokee Indian territory. During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt put people to work by building this parkway. Afterwards, the work was finished using the labor of WWII conscientious objectors. The Eastern Band of Cherokee protested, as their land was taken (again) and the mountains and streams and gaps all renamed.

Windy up on Craggy Gardens Bald

Before lunch

  I saw a bunch of different butterflies hovering on the stringy milkweed. I ate blue berries. Hugged an old lightening struck oak tree. The ground was covered with wild rhododendron and mountain laurel- in fact Craggy Garden has the largest continuous growth of rhododendron on the continent! It must be spectacular when it blooms. I saw Carolina chickadee, picked up some hickory nuts, and identified Solomon Seal berries, bee balm, cone flowers, and Pokeberry. And I painted. It has been a bliss full time.

Bed dazzled

The bed painting is a failure. Don't know what I was thinking. Yes, I do. I have to re-work the idea. My goal was to capture a sort of inventory and also play with it... use some of the reams of wrapping paper mother gave to me. As I was working, I heard the critic, and ignored it... having learned this summer to "do it anyway", try new things, and risk failure.
My wall of failures at VSC
What is wrong with the bed picture? It is cluttered, lacks elegance. I want my work to be playful and have elegance and a universality working as well.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sleeping Around

Being the last official summer evening, I spent the weekend painting and using collage with wrapping paper, assorted office supplies, and acrylic paint on a large piece of paper. The theme was my summer sleeping arrangements... I slept around. I know you should not count, but I can't help myself! From a month in my own room at the painting residency, to a magic carpet night in Holyoke, a week at the farm, a couch at the glass-makers, a festive NYC nights of lights, a guest room in Mt Ranier's foothills, a beach house retreat, and home.
It's been a very full summer. I'm so thankful to every host/hostess! Keep Miami on your radar, and you will always have a crash pad here.