I've been trying to utilize as much time as I can in my last weeks of summer break to continue to experiment with my personal artwork. It feels great to be making things in my art studio and setting aside time to create. This summer has marked a pivotal point in my work and I am finally starting to feel things click and to enjoy the consistency in what techniques I am using. Below, I have decided to expand on the content behind my recent work.
A New Direction
I woke up one morning and took a walk. The rain from the night before was so intense it woke me up at 3am. After a rainfall like that, the sidewalk looks a little different. Colors are a little more intense. Cracks in the pavement are a little more noticeable. The dirt strewn across the ground makes waves and gradients where the water that flowed through it receded. Little particles are left over. Pieces of mulch create patterns over concrete. The moss on the tree bark looks a little more green. In this moment, the environment around me calls to me, to notice its beauty, to appreciate it. All of a sudden, I understood how things have survived for so long, and how the ground underneath me has held us up for billions of years. We are all survivors. We are all trying to make sense of ourselves. We are all in state of living and decaying; finding our balance. We are the rust and we are the stardust. We are constantly interpreting the messages we are receiving, by collecting and organizing them. These messages are the thoughts that come through our heads and keep us awake at night, the notes we jot down during the day when we’re day dreaming, the concert tickets we keep for their sentimental value, the things we notice on a walk. They’re all part of our quest to continue to learn about ourselves, where we come from and where we are going. Through my recent mixed media works, I am able to organize my world and thoughts into a physical thing of beauty and intrigue.
An Important Message
One artwork that I completed this summer is entitled "22 is Enough". It began after the 22nd school shooting of 2018, I started working on it in May. Everything about this piece is symbolic and important to me. As a teacher, learning of a school shooting becomes more traumatic and heartbreaking every time. On May 18th, a gunman opened fire at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. This shooting began in the art room of the school. This left me shaken, even though I live 1,700 miles away. This one hit close to my heart. That day, I took home some of the craft paper table covers I reuse throughout the year with my students. This paper becomes the space where all the left over stuff goes. It captures their doodles, their stray marks, the paint that didn't make it on to their projects, their finger prints.
I hung one piece up on my wall and began my usual process. This time it felt different, I felt a different intention behind what I was doing. I felt reflective. I felt like I needed to get something off of my chest. Over 4 months, the work evolved. It started with some pieces of my personal sketchbook collaged into it. At one point I scratched in 22, number 22's with oil pastel to represent the number of school shootings. Then I started the process of covering up. I dug through more of my accumulated papers; my memories. I found a letter that I wrote to myself when I was 17 and in high school. Our english teacher asked us to create a list of 100 things we wanted to do in our lifetime. She later mailed this back to us upon our 10 year reunion. While my list had some really basic, mostly achievable goals on there (own "The Goonies" on DVD, eat sushi, drive my car to the mall...) it reminded me of what these children who lost their lives in school shootings for the past several decades had been robbed of. They won't make their own lists. They won't have the opportunity to try something new. Their parents won't get to experience these things with them either. By incorporating these collaged pieces, along with book pages from one of my mothers textbooks from the 1970's (silly names with hearts around them), I hoped to bring light to the things these students lost. They won't get to write their crushes name in a heart in the back of a book, and that makes me sad. These shared experiences of being in school, something most Americans experience from kindergarten through senior year and beyond, are no longer an option for victims in a school shooting.
When the work began my colors were dark, my marks angry. Over time, the final piece reflects some brighter and lighter color choices, and some more delicate application of textures. It is my hope that in the future we find a way to control gun violence in our schools, and not by arming teachers with guns. I hope we can get schools the funding they need to make schools safer. If we need metal detectors at doors, more security staffing, clear backpacks for students to use, ID badges that swipe, better locks and video surveillance...whatever it takes. I know guns are not the answer.
Some teachers have already started back, and in NY we start in about two weeks. I hope that everyone has a safe school year and that we as art educators, find a way to use our artwork to voice our opinions on important topics.