Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Works In Progress - Mosaic and Painting

This mosaic is what I have been working on lately, taking up space on my kitchen table. The inspiration and focal point is this lovely quartz stone that we found at a little rock shop in Glen Rose after we hiked around the bed of the Paluxy River in Dinosaur State Park.

Unfortunately, I realized that the unglazed ceramic tiles I had planned to use on most of the background just would not work. The tone was all wrong...yuck. Then, I found out that my local big tile supply store had closed, so I went searching on the internet, and now I am waiting for some more tiles, that may or may not work in this piece. I won't know 'til I see them.

So, this will continue to sit on the table a while longer. Happily, with the cooler weather we can eat outside on the deck, which I love best anyway. Hurray for approaching Fall.

I've been dreaming up paintings lately when I'm lying awake at night and my brain won't turn off.
So, yesterday I scrawled some lines in Caran d'Arche on 2 canvases and then coved them with acrylic medium and crumpled or folded tissue paper for texture and another layer of medium.

This is a real experiment for me, but I like how the textures came out.

In fact, I like how the larger panel looks right now with the texture lines running vertically, but I doubt any of the drawn/painted lines will be visible later as I have this envisioned (yes, from in bed at 4am) as an almost all deep red.

It's kind of fun to be thinking about painting again, I haven't done it in a long time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"I Can Do Things..."

In my last blog post, I wrote about valuing people's differences and the idea that all people have talents and abilities, that might be at odds with what our society and our educational system says everyone must do and achieve.

Although I have been thinking about this topic for a number of years, I was actually inspired to write about it two weeks ago after reading a blog article by mosaic artist Kim Wozniak about Fred Smith, who at 65 began creating an amazing environment of wood and concrete figures, often encrusted with glass, pebbles, bottles, etc. His homestead in Wisconsin with over 200 figures is now a public art park.

From Kim's blog:

Self taught Fred had no formal schooling, he was asked later in life if he had been hindered by his inability to read or write, and he replied, “Hell no, I can do things other people can’t do.”

I love that.

Everyone has something they can do, just as all children have a wonderful outlook toward the future and potential in them, if they can only find the encouragement they need, instead of being shamed for what they cannot do. All people do not have to achieve the same to be successful in their lives, and all people should not be the same.

As a child I was academically inclined, at least as far as ability; in truth, even though I loved reading and finding out things, I often hated school. I always tested very well, went to college, got my degree. So, according to what society says, I was on the right road to success. Am I using that degree? Not at all. Now, I did love some of my college courses, the ones with the great teachers, full of enthusiasm for their subjects, but right now I garden and cook, make mosaics, collages and jewelry. All things that I taught myself to do, and that anyone with that kind of interest could do, whether or not they finished high school or could even pass the state reading test for 5th grade. I am a great champion of literacy and worked in that field for years. I believe that every child should be given all the help they need to achieve what they can, but there should be alternatives for the kids that will never get into college, and those alternatives should be valued just as highly. Once young people went to apprentice with the local blacksmith or cheesemaker or stained glass window maker. They learned to do skilled work and did important jobs. I think that system has a lot of merit.

This beautiful museum in Baltimore was started by a former nurse. It is the American Visionary Art Museum and it is devoted to self taught artists and totally ignores the well-established art world. The museum's educational goals are:

Expand the definition of a worthwhile life.
Increase awareness of the wide variety of choices available in life- particularly students.
Engender respect for and delight in the gift of others.
Encourage each individual to build upon his or her own special knowledge and inner strengths.
Promote the use of innate intelligence, intuition, self-exploration and creative self-reliance.
Confirm the great hunger for finding out just what each of us can do best, in our own voice, at any age.
Empower the individual
to choose to do
that something really,
really well.

It has 55,000 square feet of exhibit space full of visionary art created by self-taught individuals, and enough supporters who believed in this vision to privately fund it, to make it a reality.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Individual Differences, Value of Individuals

I am often amazed and awed by what people can imagine and create and accomplish.

For 10 years, I taught reading individually and in small groups to children who were behind, the poor readers. These kids start out in kindergarten and first grade as normal, sweet and eager students. But in first grade they begin to change; they get behind; they cannot keep up with the class; they become behavior problems; they start to feel inadequate, less than. Some of these children just need an extra boost, and a few months of a teacher working closely with them and tailoring instruction to fit their needs really gives them that hand up, and they are able to take their place in the middle of the classroom hierarchy. They can keep up and achieve.

Some children don't. Some of these kids will never meet the school district expectations, will never make that test grade that their school wants to get the accolades. Some will never learn to read proficiently.

That does not mean that these children do not have worth and cannot contribute to their society. Early on, I had a little girl that I had worked with one-on-one since the beginning of the school year. She made some progress at first, then hit her ceiling. One day, after I picked her up from her classroom, she looked at me like she had never seen me before and asked, "Are you my new teacher?" I had been teaching this child every day for several months. And I was struck by her limitations. I thought, What future does this girl have in our society? How is this, very sweet and affectionate, child going to survive?

I was moved by this question. In the past this child might have been valued as the best breadmaker in the village, might have been revered as a wonderful nanny, as the best at calming the baby, found her niche as a great seamstress, lace-maker, grower of herbs. She wouldn't have been made to feel inadequate because she could not read past a second grade level, because she could not pass the state mandated test at each grade, because she was a failure in the classroom, would not suffer because she could never puzzle out her checkbook, the AT&T bill and do her income taxes.

She, and all the children like her...and, indeed, all people, should be valued for who they are, not made to feel inadequate. They are, or can be, the artists, the nurturers, the carpenters, gardeners, woodcarvers, chefs. They do not need to feel that they are less than, worthless, unappreciated, have to turn to gangs and crime for any acceptance or way to survive.

Over the past several months I have come across a few websites and a lecture that I would love to bring to people's attention, that I think validate this view and showcase people to illustrate this idea, people who may not test well, who may not garner academic accolades, but who create and achieve according to their own vision and own abilities and contribute to our society and the world in their own way.

I'll talk about these websites and people in my next post.