Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 ephemera












i started this at the beginning of 2007. it's an ali edwards idea, an easy way to document your year. all you have to do is throw little bits of things in the month's envelope as you go. it's kind of interesting to look back and see the changes. what i hung onto and had laying around. what months were full of happenings and what months were lacking in documentation. i'm planning on doing something of this sort again for 2008... i'll be getting it ready in the coming days.

and, another ali edwards idea, thinking of my next big idea/word to focus on in 2008.

Monday, December 24, 2007

happy holidays

some holiday jams. because christmas is probably the only time when listening to nsync is acceptable... and actually even expected. and no holiday mix would be complete without a little carol of the meows.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


my aunt lil was asked to give an inspirational speech at her graduation from nursing school last week. this is what she wrote...

Inspiration – One day at a time

At five years of age I wanted to be a nurse; at seventy-five I am a nurse. I remember my dad taking me to the hospital when I was five. I was going to have my tonsils removed. I had badgered him to tell me all the gory details regarding a tonsillectomy. He asked, “Do you really want to know?” Well, of course I did. After the doctor examined me and said the operation was a go, I started screaming. I can still see the bewildered look in Dad’s eyes. Our saving grace, his and mine, came from this beautiful angel in white. She knelt down beside me and said, “You do not have to do this if you do not want to.” It was at that moment I knew I wanted to be as wonderful a nurse as my angel in white. We went home and I remained vocal. I knew when I grew up I was going to be a nurse. If the neighborhood kids got poison ivy, they called Lillian to apply the medicine. If a bird got hurt, Lillian was called to help it get better. If a baby was born, Lillian was there to help. Fifteen years and several strep throat infections later, the tonsillectomy operation was every bit as unpleasant as I thought it was going to be when I was five years old.

On my sixteenth birthday, I applied to nursing school. I had chosen to go to the college preparatory high school in my hometown rather than the high school that prepared students for the business world. There had never been a doubt in my mind of the direction I was going to take in life. Three weeks later my dad died. Now my goal, and my family’s wishes, was that I should be the first in my generation to finish high school and “We will talk about your going to nursing school later.”

Life got in the way. What I did do was graduate from high school. Then I married and moved from Connecticut to Michigan. I started a family. Family responsibilities filled my life. I fulfilled my desire of becoming a nurse by nursing my children through the measles, the chicken pox (all four children had them at the same time), and the usual runny noses. What I could not heal was a failing marriage and divorce followed. I went to school to learn shorthand in order to keep a roof over the heads of my children and myself, and put food on the table. I took a job as a secretary. This career lasted a short 48 years.

I enrolled at Wayne State University to further my business career. Thirty credits into the program my youngest son was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma. Here was another opportunity to further my love of nursing. I dropped out of school and home nursed him. I learned so much from my “professor”, things like patience, laughing, what Star Trek was and especially courage. After he died, life kept pulling and tugging at me.
One day a fellow came into my life. Before I knew it, I was married, working and going to college, Madonna University. My goal was to receive my business management degree. Why business management and not nursing? Because I felt I was too old to become a nurse.
Life was good. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in business management. I decided a career in Hospice would be fulfilling. In 1990 I enrolled in the new hospice program Madonna University was offering. This was my opportunity at last to get into the medical field. Three weeks later my husband almost died. For the next ten years he almost died at least one time each year. Of course, I nursed him. Then he died. This bump in the road of my life created its own challenges.

Now I had the monumental task of trying to choose what to do with 86,400 seconds in a 24-hour day. My first year as a widow, I explored the world. I volunteered for my local hospice program and for the hospital auxiliary. But, I was not happy. I visited people who for so long had been my support system, who had brought the outside world to me at a time when there were not enough seconds in my day. Now they were happy that I had time to enjoy life, rest a little, and not overexert myself. I went against the advice of these same people who loved me. I started the groundwork for my second career. At 70 years old I was going to go to college to become a nurse by furthering my education at Madonna University.

I could have given up, but look at what I would have missed. I would never had known how difficult, how exciting, and how fulfilling working towards a nursing degree would be. I would not have met dedicated professors. I would not have had the opportunity to interface with the enthusiastic students I have studied with. Five years before my husband died, my daughter was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. How different my world would have been without the support of my peers and faculty when she passed away this past year. They gave me their wings to hold on to as I struggled to survive this new catastrophe in my life. I am eternally grateful for their compassion, and their encouragement. I am amazed at their optimism for what the future holds.

If ever there was a time I would have liked to drop out of school, I would have to say it was at exam time, any exam, every time. But, I had to hang in there. By now my friends and loved ones were bragging about me, telling me I was an example for them. They were proud of me. How could I possibly disappoint them? They thought I was something special; they almost killed me with their love.

Look at me now. At 5 years old I wanted to be a nurse and 70 years later I am one. What would have happened to me if I had given up my dream of being a nurse? If I had given up my dream I would not have known what came after, the knowledge that I now have both the opportunity and the ability to help others. What I have to offer gives me fulfillment and so every second of life is meaningful. My advice to anyone pursuing a dream is to never give up.

Hospice still feels like a good fit for me. I can’t wait to get started. I intend to incorporate all I have learned during both my life’s experiences and my nursing education to be the best nurse I can be. As I reflect on my life’s experience, my heart tells me I have compassion. By keeping focused on my patients’ needs, my knowledge and skills will benefit each patient I care for. If they will let me, I will be honored to walk beside them on their journey home. At 75 years of age, I have been through the hardest times imaginable. If I can achieve my dream anyone can. Thank you for listening.

thank you, aunt lil, for being an inspiration.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

from detroit to baltimore, and back again

this past semester investigating baltimore, i have often been reminded of detroit. there are so many similarities between the two places, but for some reason i only feel such a sense of urgency when i'm in baltimore. maybe i've just been surrounded by detroit my whole life that i need to step away from it for four years to be able to return and truly see it with new eyes. but when i'm traveling home, (wherever that happens to be for three days, five weeks, or a semester) both places stay at the forefront of my mind and i search to connect and reconcile the two.

i've already stumbled across two thing that are making the connection for me.

an entertainment type newspaper my dad saved for me with john waters on the cover holding a "baltimore city jail" sign. crime and john waters, how much more stereotypical can you get? but there was some truth hidden in the article- john waters on detroit: "john waters says he likes detroit because of its connection to his beloved baltimore, where he still lives and sets all of his films. both cities, he says, have suffered from negative publicity and an inferiority complex. 'we've been tough and funny and praised stuff that other people would try to hide,' he says. 'we've made it a style.'"

and a week-long detroit free press project called "driving detroit: it's worse than you think- but better, too." this was an exciting find for two reasons:

one, i've been wanting to do this thing for a few years now, sort of a photographic documentation/mapping of woodward avenue from start to finish. it's one of those ideas that i know is good because it has stuck in the back of my head for so long. i can see it so vividly. a panoramic type bridging together of photographs covering every inch of the street, covered with a long transparent overlay that would begin to get deeper with details and handwritten street names, and something that would come together and be displayed on the walls around a big gallery space. maybe now that i have all this winter break time on my hands i'll actually start doing it. just seeing the tagline for "driving detroit" on the cover of the free press gave me the comfort of knowing someone else is thinking the same thing. that's when it becomes more of a mentality, maybe eventually even a movement.

two, mapping has been a hot topic in baltimore. it's something that was introduced to me my first day of finding baltimore when we made self-maps. something that we are, at a basic level, asking each kid to do when the create something for "a neighborhood called baltimore." it's also the topic of a major exhibition coming to the walters art museum next year, "maps: finding our place in the world," and the community generated project presented in tandem, "maps on purpose," conceived by baltimore's art on purpose. it's also something that i'm finding more and more that i need to do for myself, lay it all out on the table and start connecting the dots.

fresh snow

Friday, December 14, 2007

a neighborhood called baltimore

mounting a major exhibition the same day i pack and fly home? yeah, that means i start loosing things (like my id, grant receipts... mind.) and that i had to give up a little bit of control. that's a big deal for me. i couldn't make my way down to the enoch pratt free library central branch (where we are having our first a neighborhood called baltimore exhibition!) and still catch the shuttle to the airport. so i really have no idea what this thing looks like. i must really trust these people. (we all go to art school so i don't have to worry about anything too horrible happening with the curation.) and really, all the pieces are in place... so i am sure that it will be absolutely amazing!

i did the a neighborhood called baltimore project with ms. pan's class today, too. it was our last class with them... so we had to give them a little something. we made little mica art sets with a mini sketchbook, 3x5 canvas, and brush. & inside the sketchbook we wrote: "we loved making mica art with you! keep creating! love, miss. madeline and miss becky!" ms. pan invited us to come back next semester whenever we wanted, so i hope i get the chance to work with this group again. they were so great... and we were really able to challenge them! it was a perfect fit for me and good introduction to mt. royal elementary. i feel like i have more of a stake in it now, and it's not just a building that i walk past everyday to get to class. there are now 15 second graders in there that i know and love.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

elements crit

it felt so good to bring this all together into a culmination. the entire left side of the elements room was glowing yellow. (which was really so important. i had documented everything in a yellow sketchbook with pictures & such, but instead i opted for making 4 trips back and forth from the commons to main.) shamelessly sunny. (which helped off set such a dreary day. it was very reflective of my current emotional state... wondering what i'm going to do with myself for five weeks and already missing this place.)

throughout the course of this semester, all this yellow became a lifestyle. i had high points and low points with projects and kept pushing even when i had probably already taken it too far. it was an invaluable way of investigating my creative process and who i am as an artist and individual.

which led me to finding my spine. this has been the basis of everything we've done this semester. starting with an object, making 10 pieces, 5 pieces, 1 piece. moving to an idea, making 10 pieces, 5 pieces, 1 piece. finally just using whatever process worked to do whatever project you wanted. i realized how much i had been beating around the bush. yesterday, it just all seemed so simple. this is what i have been interested in through the medium. it all goes back to that give and take.

one thing i've been honing in on is the idea of plans. i've been thinking so monumentally about them, that i forgot the most basic artistic association with plans... architectural blueprints. my next project (winter break!) will be investigating that. (i mean, there had to be some reason that i collected house plans and kept binders of them when i was 10.) imagine, graphite plans on yellow tracing paper...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

emac crit

our emac final was to go back and revisit and expand a previous assignment. i went back to my gift shop postcard project inspired by walter benjamin's "the mechanical age of reproduction." (the assignment was a material virtual collage. my ah-ha moment was realizing that i could actually print them as postcards, and add that layer into the concept too. so it kind of became this installation of overlapping postcards within postcards spilling out of a gift shop bag.)

i went through a few crazy ideas for this final (i actually considered printing and framing a huge caillebotte "rainy day, paris street" reproduction, cording it off, and hiring a friend to act as a security guard.) and finally mina suggested simply doing a website. great. thank you mina. it meant that i could have a little fun making up stuff and do something graphic designy. it ended up being a spoof on museum gift shop websites, focusing on the art institute of chicago in particular and how one of its most famous pieces is used as a branding tool. check it out here. (and let me just say that the testimonial page is my favorite. that guy was seriously what came up when i googled "art enthusiast." he totally matches my color scheme.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

cap crit

i don't think any of us had any idea at all of what we were getting ourselves into when we selected "finding baltimore" as a foundation elective. i could not have foreseen finding paula and fletcher as mentors. finding other students with the same passions and drive that i have. finding a need within myself to seek the truth in baltimore. and also finding how i can speak my own truth as a member of the community. finding a way to immediately impact the dynamic of the neighborhoods we visited with the "a neighborhood called baltimore" project. finding a whole new leadership lexicon and mentality. finding myself in the middle of what is truly a community arts movement. finding countless reassuring examples of art that is truly making a difference.

it was so neat to see everyone share their growth from this class in a culminating project: johanna's examination of food as a social gathering conduit, maria's "skinny white girls" clothing line, ellen's organic "planting of the seeds" in labeled jars for each neighborhood, lauren's huge neon yellow "aware" on the front of the brown center (right next to the "bullet hole") and her "driving drawings," stephanie's performance paralleling cap and faith, tierny's knitting club project in brooklyn, sarah's broken glass self portrait and map of baltimore, alder's illustrations and poems, anna's banner of journaling and words, meg's "give and recieve" hands installation, emily's honest stream of conciousness, maggie's warm fuzzies, and the other maggie's "holding hands in a circle" pictures.

i can already feel that not having this next semester will leave a big void to fill. i'm going to have to make sure that i am replacing the energy that was coming from the class in other avenues. like the mount royal elementary + mica portrait collaboration i've been working on with katherine. and trying something new for tier two of my cap internship. and, of course, everything "a neighborhood called baltimore." really watching it explode. and the great thing is that now, all of this comes together under my new role as arts and education program manager with student activities. (like today in class i started thinking and talking with fletcher about how baltimore is presented during freshman orientation, which was through a charm city "slide show." i remember that clearly. not only was the powerpoint itself weak, but there was just something off about the whole thing. my mind started going a mile a minute... why does it have to be "charm city?" why can't it be "a neighborhood called baltimore." that's the mentality we need to be presenting to incoming freshman.)

i know i will keep soaking it all in and growing and connecting the dots. that is really what this college thing is all about. i can't compartmentalize and keep these things separate. (even though i am an organizational machine.) it was too hard to come back from a neighborhood tour and switch back to making conceptual art for assignments. and it will be too hard to contain this experience in one class. it is now ingrained into who i am as an individual, and just as importantly, an artist. whether i realize it yet or not, every choice i make in the rest of my classes at mica will be influenced by the revelations that have come from the "finding baltimore" experience.

i am going to miss this class so much! (can you say community arts concentration?)

Monday, December 10, 2007

drawing crit

our final project for drawing was a narrative, using figure drawings from in class as a prompt, & working big (5 ft x 5 ft.) i got a studio for this one, hoping that it would give me a chance to separate drawing from the rest of the assignments i was working on in my room... and to truly focus and spread out. that was a good idea.

i decided the only way i could dive into the term narrative was to pick a song as a basis. i listened to it over and over again. i tried to find marks that would mimic the music. i thought about distance. and solitude. this was a spilling out for me of so many comments/critiques/thoughts: using layering, but having each layer be distinctly different. not worrying so much about starting light... skipping the vine and going straight to compressed charcoal. being decisive with marks. experimenting with acrylic (and realizing it doesn't work so well with charcoal.) my inspiration was an exercise we did in class. our model would pose and we would draw for 30 seconds, and then each rotate to the easel next to us and continue the drawing for that person. by the time 10 people had added to it, things started getting messy. you would look at the drawing and think that there was nothing that could possibly fix it. but then someone would add something, just one mark to make a difference, and it would completely bring the piece back to life. that kind of surrender of control, so not me, was exactly what i needed to embrace when drawing.

it was so cool to pull everything from the semester together and curate it. it doesn't seem like much when you're wrapped up in it all, but when you look back at everything you realize how much you really did. drawing was definitely a class that i struggled with first semester. not so much that it was hard, but that i knew i was lacking passion for it. it seemed like just a requirement that i had to get through to get to the good stuff. but when i see how much i have grown in just a semester, i am so glad that i'll have drawing two next semester. it's shaking things up for me, which is always a good thing. i'm constantly questioning my definition of drawing, and beginning to realize that i don't have to keep it separate from the rest of how i create.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

it's not so bad at all

it's the day before final week starts, and i'm thinking, it's not so bad at all. i guess once you survive something like avondale homecoming, planning a leadership conference in a week, submitting 10 college applications, or taking ap tests/being in the spring musical/chairing spring fest, this finals business tends to not freak you out as much. a little stress is a good thing. especially when coffee is involved. and getting more than four hours of sleep is unproductive anyway.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

bluest light

here i am knee deep in finals, completely lost for 3 out of 5 classes. not sure what the next step should be for elements, or how to get my message across for emac, or even where to begin for drawing. but cap... i got that down. i actually have too many ideas. what's great about this cap final is that it is individual, and it gives you the means to reflect & process it all. so much of cap is community and people based, it's important to not forget about yourself in it all. and not to loose sight of who you are as an artist. and for me that means strong ties to scrapbooking.

it starts with this white canvas monochromatic collage approach. i've had this idea in my head for awhile... something simple and stark, with a blue light in the middle. for my cap final i'm planning on extending it into a series. because it just so happens that the blue light was distinct from my brooklyn experience, and in my cap journal brooklyn is the blue section. (yes. i color code everything. roland park=red. brooklyn=blue. east baltimore=green. reisterstown=yellow. those colors tend to then seep into your subconscious and represent your memory of the experience and then how you would share it visually.) & i've also wanted to make an altered newspaper for awhile. i'm not sure what would go in it yet, but i know that the front page will have "daily intelligence" stamped on it in big, bold, all caps. i think there will be a way to combine the two together.

and another thought on my mind... cap needs a manifesto. and you know how much i love manifestos. i could totally do one. really, what is community arts all about? what are the guidelines and goals and things that connect every manifestation? this might be more of a long term project, something that i keep referencing and adding as i continue with cap and channel my inner bruce mau.