Sunday, March 26, 2023

plaster woooooo!

If it's spring semester, it must be time for the annual plaster pour!  The most wonderful time of the year...

It's sort of a tradition to build excitement by digging up a bunch of photos from previous years.  Anne, just left of the yellow bucket of plaster, provided some from the years my computer has lost.

When you've done this for a lot of years, you remember the students individually, but sometimes you forget that Jamea, Dublin and Buttercup all overlapped in the same freshman level class.

But you never forget the chaos of the day.  I love plaster pouring day.

This year the first class to pour was Emily's Wednesday evening class.  This was Emily's first class as a professor and she was a student in this class just a few years ago.  It always starts out looking so organized and prepared.

The students all look so clean and innocent.

Two minutes later, they've had their first real experience with me.  It's great.

The "after" photo usually shows an older, wiser student.  And one who is relieved to be finished.

The next morning, we were all set to begin again with a new, clean group of Haley's students.

Two minutes later...

An there they are, older and wiser and only slightly less clean.

We usually inherit some interesting trash during plaster day.  This gorgeous still life was found in the top of a trash can.

After a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it was time for the last group.

One of my favorite things is the audience that appears to watch the show.

This is the last group in their "after" photo.  You can feel this one.

And you can definitely feel this one.

Another successful experience and another group of students bonded by fun trauma.  


Saturday, March 11, 2023

the inside scoop

 Part of my job is to prepare students for life after graduation and one of the big topics is how to deal with rejection from juried shows.  Luckily, it's a topic I know a little about.  I've had a little over 20 years worth of rejections and I know how to curse a juror efficiently when I get rejected.

Of course I'm kidding.  A little.  I'm not gonna lie, it's always a bummer.  You can tell from the first line of the email when the gallery person who has the job of informing you starts buttering you up.  "We had so many strong entries this year...", yeah, yeah, just get on with it.  Tell me I suck so I can go sulk for a while.  

And of course I don't suck.  Neither do you.  The juried show just needs to be understood for what it is.  A flawed, subjective selection of personal favorites.  

If you're a good student or a smart person, you know that you should always consider the source.  Asking an artist about a juried show may not always give you an objective view.  However, this particular artist (me) has also served as a juror for these types of shows.  In fact, I had the honor of doing so earlier this week and while it's fresh on my mind, let me pull the curtain back for you a bit.

My specific job this time was to choose awards for the different categories of the SCAEA Western Region Youth Art Month Exhibit at the SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities.  The K-12 art teachers from the western part of our state selected three of their best student works to represent the elementary, middle and high school levels.  All I had to do was view the work and choose 1st and 2nd place in each category.  Easy peasy.

I walked into the gallery and took a moment to just sort of take it all in.  I walked through just glancing at the work, paying attention to things that caught my eye right away.  I didn't look at the age level or medium, I just noticed when something made an impression.  This is the first part of the subjective process.  Obviously the things that caught my eye were either exceptionally done or they appealed to my personal taste.  Since this is a behind the scenes thing, I'll share one with you.  There was a mixed media drawing that looked like it was elementary level.  There were two creatures in black silhouette with stark white skeletons drawn inside.  I love a skeleton.  This had my attention.  I wanted it in my house.  

On my first serious walk around the room, I looked at each work of art and read the title card to get the information about media and age level.  On this pass, I didn't write anything down, I just paid attention to what stood out.  After this first serious look, I did another round and started writing down descriptors of potential selections.  The skeleton animals was high on my list.  I noted it was done by a 2nd grader.  This meant it was the elementary level which went up to 5th grade.  I started to worry that some of the 5th grade work would edge my skeletons out.  

It's important to note that I was on my first real day of spring break.  The sun was shining and it was a beautiful spring day.  I had plans to meet a friend for lunch directly after judging the show.  I had a good run when I woke up and an excellent coffee.  It was a good day.  This matters.  I would bet that artwork that was darker in mood wouldn't fair so well on a day like this.  I was in a mood to see bright, happy work and there was plenty in this exhibit.  Skeletons are happy to me.

I had some lists now.  Way more works of art listed than I had awards to give.  This is when it got tough.  Now, if you're a visual art person, this next part will seem familiar and if you're not, it will probably bore you to tears.  This is when stuff got real.  I started to look at each work on my list as if we were in a critique.  I considered the elements and principles of design.  I considered craftsmanship.  I considered the difficulty of each media represented.  Each judgement was placed in my imaginary scale and work by work, my list started getting smaller.  This one used line more confidently than the other one.  Look at the character of that line.  That's really difficult to do.  That one is unbalanced.  This one doesn't quite look finished.  They rushed that part.  The list shortened. This was the most objective part of my judging.  

My little skeletons were still on my list.  It was a list of three at the elementary level.  I could only give two awards.  Those three went back under the microscope.  The good and bad part of having trained as a K-12 teacher and still being familiar with so many of the projects and lessons is that I could look at these and tell what the lesson probably was.  My little skeletons looked like a Basquiat lesson.  They had a next door neighbor from the same teacher and same school and this one had a big Basquiat crown on its head.  Definitely the Basquiat lesson and now I loved it more.  Who teaches Basquiat to elementary kids?  That's awesome.  

But there was this alligator.  And it was done by a 1st grader and it was amazing and surprising and beautifully done.  Ugh.  And I couldn't not give some kind of award to the really strong 5th grader's self portrait.  This sucks.  My skeleton guys were going to be bumped.  And getting 3rd place when there's no 3rd place award is the same as nothing.  1st and 2nd will get an award and their names will be said out loud and their schools will be honored and my little skeleton dude will just get his artwork handed back to him.  

And that's what it's like being a juror.  

I was able to set my personal preferences aside, mostly, and reserve the awards for the strongest, most effective compositions that demonstrated a mastery of materials.  In doing so, I knew that the artists who were on my list for a short time but didn't make the top two would get nothing.  But what kind of juror would I be if I couldn't maintain my artistic integrity?  So I did the hard thing.  Skeleton dude didn't get an award.  (This same story repeats at each grade level with some really strong works of art not getting an award.)

However, skeleton dude's teacher got an email.  I spent a little time on the computer one morning this week and sent out several emails to teachers who had students that fell just behind 2nd place.  I wanted to at least tell the teachers I thought the work was strong and hopefully they'll pass along some kind words to the students.  I am fully aware that this is the equivalent of "We had so many strong entries this year..." but standing on this side of that statement, it feels a little more necessary. 


With experiences like these on the other side of the fence, am I able to show any extra grace to jurors when I get that rejection email?  Not. A. Chance.  Still hurts to get rejected.  I'll still probably say something mean under my breath before I completely forget about it in a few days.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

wash, rinse, repeat

Charleston again?  Apparently.  A couple of weeks after Violet and I had a quick Charleston adventure, it was time for a whole family adventure.  Many years ago, G and I accidentally found Marion Square overflowing with people and tents.  We learned it was a thing called SEWE (South Eastern Wildlife Expo or something like that) and it was not just people, there were animals too.  Specifically of interest to me, there were birds.  

(A side note of interest, that weekend we stayed in a hotel nearby and kept hearing very loud banging noises coming from the room next door.  It was very annoying and it was all night.  The next morning when we left the room, we saw a guy wheeling out two full sized tigers in metal cages from the room next door.  Mystery solved.)

Since that first accidental meeting with SEWE, we've more intentionally tried to be near Charleston for the event.  We took the kids a few times and they still remember watching a rattlesnake have diarrhea.  So on SEWE weekend, we got up on Saturday morning and drove down.

Blue and Violet are into vintage clothes and Blue found out there was a vintage market happening in North Charleston.  We decided it would be fun, so we killed a little time at the outlets grabbing a few things for school and then drove to the vintage market.  It was a very cool thing with tons of vendors and clothes.  Violet was checking out the Carhartt jackets but y'all, vintage stuff is so expensive.  Eventually she found one without a price and asked the guy.  He hesitated and said $50.  G jumped on it and paid him before he could realize he was wrong.  Blue got a shirt.  Everyone was happy.  Oh, that guy up there was selling vintage shoes and balancing them on his head for photos.

I think this is an original Bronco.  It may be a Scout.  I didn't check.  Ugly color but very cool.  We were hungry for a late lunch by the time we arrived at Marion Square.  Blue and G stopped for pizza.

You already know where Violet and I ate.  It was time for second coffee and these cuban coffees are soooo good.  We also got a couple of empanadas.

Violet pointed out that I take a photo of this church every time I walk past it.  It's true.  When I move to Charleston, I'm going to convert to Lutheran just so I can go here every Sunday.  They also have jazz festivals and beer festivals.  So much cooler than Baptists.

Do we fit in at SEWE?  Heck no.  I'm not going to judge any books by their covers, but most of these covers were puffy vests and plaid button up shirts.  So yeah, not my crowd.  But lots of very expensive dogs to pet.

And I mentioned the birds.  Raptors mostly.  We made sure to arrive in time for the raptor demonstration.  A couple of raptors sail down from adjacent hotel roofs and then they chase a little kid pulling a fake rabbit.  It makes more sense if you see it, but trust me, it's very cool.  

There's a raptor tent with some taxidermied items...

and some living, breathing raptors up close.

I would go just for the hawks.  

That's a bottlenose dolphin skull.  So cool.

We walked by again.

We originally planned to see the dog demonstration but we missed it because we were walking around.  As the sun set, we headed back to the car and saw this from the roof of the parking deck.

The next morning I had a loopy run around a big parking lot, which means we didn't get to stay in any of my preferred hotels.  But we got a really good breakfast and decided to go to the beach.  Someone clever adjusted the don't walk sign at McKelvin's Surf Shop.

It was beautiful but it was also cold.  The air was ok but the wind was howling.  

There was a really high tide overnight so all the sand was wet and we had no blanket this time.  All we could do was walk.  G and Blue were not dressed for the wind so after a short walk, they headed back to the car.  Violet and I kept walking and found a few shark's teeth.  Don't you love our glasses?  Mine may or may not have come from a women's underwear store.  Still cool.  Violet was warm in her new, used jacket.  Did I ask her if she brought a coat?  Yes.  Did she bring a coat?  No.  Worked out, I guess.

We took a few photos and headed back to the car.  It was Sunday and no one wanted to get home too late.  And Blue still had another stop he wanted us to make.  We checked out the vinyl record store the day before but somehow Blue missed the vintage store that was just a couple of doors down.  We drove back to Charleston but SEWE had the whole parking situation worse than normal.  I didn't want to pay to park in a garage again so I just dropped everyone off at the vintage place and kept driving.

I looped around a few blocks looking for a space.  I parked illegally long enough to get a good photo of the Bill Murray mural and then drove around a little more.  Soon they were all back out and I picked them up.  

Blue can't go to Charleston without getting Cane's.  I know, I'd never heard of it either but he's crazy about it.  I'm not a fan so we grabbed him some Cane's to go and the rest of us got Paige's from the food truck in Summerville before continuing on home.  


Sunday, March 5, 2023

an excellent adventure

I remain thoroughly committed to the hermit lifestyle.  I know that sometimes people get the idea that I'm social and that I have a lot of friends but I assure you that's all Instagram sleight-of-hand.  Many of the cool and wonderful people I know, I have never really met in person.  Or at least, not yet.  But for all it's evils, I do have to admit that I adore the way Instagram has allowed me to become friends with the most amazing people from the comfort of my own home.  I guess this is a story about that and about the adventure it provided.

One of my Insta-friends scheduled their very first ever solo art exhibit in Charleston in January.  I have followed along as they've made a lot of work over the last couple of years and I adore their sense of humor and their less serious approach to fine art.  If you can make great art and not take yourself very seriously, we can probably hang out.  My friend Creighton fits the description and so we've traded some likes and funny comments while supporting each other for a while now on Instagram.  The first solo show is a big deal and I decided a 3 hour drive was definitely worth it to support a friend.

Violet admires Creighton too and she really wanted to go to the show.  Blue had plans at home and G became the designated dogsitter as we planned a quick trip to Charleston.  I had a morning appointment on a Friday and then I may or may not have sprung Violet from school early for our personal field trip.  We ate lunch in the car and arrived on the waterfront just before sunset.

If you've never visited Charleston, it should be your next trip.

All winter I've asked Violet if she had a coat.  She always says yes but what she really means is that she brought her flannel shirt.  Not a jacket.  Not a coat.  That smile hides her instant regret.  It was decently cold, especially on the waterfront.

Always looking for beauty.  Even when it's on the butt of a minivan parked in front of me.

We arrived classically on time to Creighton's show.  It was titled "Low Country For Old Men" and it was held at Hed Hi studios on King St.  This was the entrance to the exhibit.  I hesitate to call this an exhibit because I've never had an exhibit this fun.  This was more like a party vibe.  It was great.

The artwork was better.  Creighton makes color paper cut outs when he travels and then when he returns home, he remakes those compositions larger and out of wood.  He cuts out each shape and attaches it to a larger board and paints everything.  The compositions are wild, free and fun and so are the colors.  The layers create a shallow actual space for the compositions and most feature some sort of creative use of doors with hidden imagery.

Maybe the first thing that drew me to Creighton's work was his use of skulls (duh) but I also fell in love with his use of humor with dark narratives.  In the work above there's a truck nose dived into the water.  "Born To Loose" is written on the tailgate.  That tailgate opens to reveal a body inside.  Dark and hilarious.  Perfect.

There are also snakes and butts.  What's not to love here?

So, Creighton is extremely cool.  He's also sorta famous.  He's a drummer in a band you've probably heard of and the travel he does is also called touring.  When Band of Horses released their latest album just after the world didn't die from the plague, they embarked on a world tour that provided the hotel room paper cut out compositions for this exhibit.  

I knew that this would be a popular exhibit and that everyone and their mother would want to go and talk to Creighton.  I wanted to support him and I really wanted to see the exhibit but I had no expectations that I would even get to talk to him.  

Violet and I walked into the crowded gallery and we immediately smiled at the work.  We were only on our second work of art when Creighton yelled my name and hugged me.  I was floored that he even recognized me but that's what a great guy he is.  A moment later the rest of the band was toasting Creighton and everyone cheered at his latest visual art success.  

For years now, Creighton has made funny designs for tshirts and for kicks.  He assembled some favorites into stickers and had packs for sale at the exhibit.  

As an OG Space Ghost Coast To Coast fan, I wanted one of these Brak shirts as soon as I saw it.  The shirts usually are limited runs and I had missed them in the past.  I was thrilled to see them for sale and I snagged one.

Of course Violet and I both wanted to buy an actual work of art off the walls, but these were not in our budget.  There were some very cool skate deck clocks and shelves that were in our budget range, but they were already sold out.  We were glad for him.  In fact, a lot of the work sold that night.  A very successful show.  

At this point Violet and I were about 15 minutes into the exhibit.  This is normally where we would slide right on out and disappear into the night in search of quieter, less crowded spaces to be.  Tonight, though, our friends Jana and Dan were also planning to come to the exhibit and we were hoping to see them and maybe even hang out afterwards.  When we couldn't handle being in the crowd anymore, we took a break and walked outside.  We found Jana and Dan and also talked with a few other people around the entrance.  When we felt more relaxed, we ventured back inside.

Creighton was standing in the middle of the room and we started talking about the show.  We got to chat for a little while and it was genuinely great.  He's such a kind and thoughtful soul.  I was so happy for him and grateful for his kindness.

Soon we had plans to eat dinner with Jana and Dan on Folly Island and we ducked out of the crowd and drove to the coast.  It was so nice to sit and talk with them and to catch up on things.  They are so cool.  We love them.  Oh, and I fell victim to Dan's "I'm going to find the bathroom" trick where he secretly pays for your dinner.  Well played Daniel.  I'll pay more attention next time.  They invited us to walk on the beach and it was very tempting but it was also getting late and we had been up and moving all day so we opted to drive to our hotel instead.

My favorite trips to Charleston include a downtown run to the water or a run across the bridge.  Yes, I choose my hotels accordingly, don't judge me.  What a beautiful morning and a beautiful run.  

After my run, Violet had chosen a breakfast spot and we drove there.  I think it was called Big Bad Breakfast.  There was a wait and we needed coffee so we walked a few blocks to Blum and drank our coffee while we waited on a table.

The nice lady at the coffee shop told us there was a farmer's market in Marion Square.  We had planned to walk around downtown so we thought a farmer's market would be cool.  She lied.  No market.  I assume she was just mistaken and with a beautiful Charleston sky like this, who even cares?  

We did a little unsupervised shopping and found a few sales.  We kind of wanted to get home around dinner time so we didn't spend too much time downtown.  We discovered Cafe Cito a while back and we decided this would be our lunch and second coffee spot before another adventure.

The beach is one of our favorite places and even though it was cold, we knew we could stand it for an hour or so.

It's convenient to have art-transporting blankets in your car all the time.  

When the coffee and empanadas were gone, it was time to go home.

Except...we didn't remember to get any photos with Jana and Dan the night before.  It was only because of Jana's thoughtfulness that I had that photo with Creighton.  And, Jana and Dan are just so nice and awesome, so we decided to go on another adventure in search of vegan cookies to deliver on our way home. 

They were good sports about the sudden announcement that we were showing up on their doorstep with a delivery.  We got our happy photo and now we could go home.

Violet has an addiction to Crumbl cookies.  We were all full of Cuban food when we passed through Summerville so I was able to avoid Crumbl without protest.  But as we neared Columbia, Violet's radar went off and she started tracking down the "nearest" Crumbl location.  Nearest is in quotation marks there because that was what I was told but to a 13 year old with a digital map, everything looks close.  We ended up trekking 30 minutes across Columbia to grab our overpriced cookies and then actually head home.  

But we did get to see the Columbia skyline illuminated by the setting sun so I couldn't be too mad.  

We were late, but we did make it home in time for dinner after all.  An excellent little adventure.