Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Paper People

What would we share if we didn't fear?
Which simple pleasures have become necessary luxuries?
The explorations of the paper people...

This is all I would originally write about the papier mache sculptures I have come to call the paper people, but people are always curious to know my intention with particular pieces; they want to know what was I thinking when I created them. I'm always a little reluctant to say... I like to wait and let them try to tell me...nobody is ever wrong.

Never has my work come so directly from my dreams. I wake up with the feeling I have been introduced to a paper person who needs to be formed. As I work (it's slow work) the stories of the the individual become clear to me. At times I've wondered about the image; I've wondered why I felt so strongly about certain details. In the end it's clear and images that seemed harsh or confrontational have a deep, simple truth to them.

Some days the paper people are an army of worry dolls that stand in plain sight, not tucked under a pillow. They ease fear and doubt with honesty - creating beauty. On some days they celebrate the things we forgot to.


The first three pictures are of our favorite place to visit in Virginia, the last two are of our LITTLE city homestead and some of our pink brandywines from last summer.

We're driving out to Agway Farm Supply today; I'm sipping my coffee and getting very excited. I'm feeling under the weather, but the chickens need feed and I love getting out in the country this time of year.

If I was offered a little farm, and our employment didn't tie us to the city right now, I would pack tonight. I guess I can say this after experiencing many wonderful yet sometimes trying city years. I try to keep a read on whether my farm dream is a grass is greener thing, but I can say with certainty now that I've experienced harsh country living; this is not an idealized dream. We'll always love to visit the city, it's where we started our family, but I know I need to wake up in the country - remembering it stokes sparks in my heart.

I wonder how it would influence my work to return to the country full time? Maybe it won't now after all these years.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A couple mural inspiration images - the first is a project by artist, Peter Smuts that I contributed to. The second is a photograph of, Mahatma Gandhi.

This afternoon I will be visiting the group of 60 seventh graders I'm creating a mural with. Their Philadelphia public school has been wanting to add a mural to the third floor for some time and asked if I would take on the project. When I began to develop the theme it was Black History Month and I wanted to highlight common experiences in different cultures' civil rights movements. I chose the quote, "Be the change you want to see in this world." by, Mahatma Gandhi. This quote is the central theme, the students are each creating individual 12x12 panels that illustrate their personal hope for the future. The individual panels seem to be a good solution for dealing with the fact that standardized testing is king and carving out time and space proves somewhat difficult.

As I was looking over my notes and listening to the radio this morning I heard a report that three kids about their age were shot at one of the city's parks last night. As you may know from reading the blog, I've been interested in the movement to address the crisis of creativity in our country. Our government is now concerned because it is effecting the work force, but this deficit is effecting the quality of life in so many other ways as well -- bring the study of art to public schools and allow for more interdisciplinary studies! The connections we make in our brain when we draw and create allow us to deal with problems differently and think outside the box. Let's face it, for many children, life depends on getting out of the box their in.

This brings me back to why I was sitting at my desk in the first place. I need to find a way to engage the creativity. Out of 60 students I have a few ( few is more than two and less than five, right?) who are engaged and feel like they know where they're going with the individual panel. I was working on developing my smart-ass skills in seventh grade as well, that's not our stumbling block, getting past cliches and finding their voice is.

http://http// Is a great place for inspiration. My Friend, Diana Trout wrote an excellent book titled, Journal Spilling - It helps spark the ideas and is a wonderful jump start.

I have been reading, Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing by, Frederick Franck again as well.

I'm OK with being, "that crazy lady who came to do the mural" as long as I get these guys creating!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

the sketchbook

After sharing the chicks with the Kindergartners, one of my daughter's friends drew this picture for me; it's us and a chick. I really think she captures my personality here and I would totally wear the purple dress : )

Above it is a picture of my studio this morning.

As soon as I got in the car I pulled out the folder full of drawings the children had given me after the chick visit; they made my day! I could tell what had been most important to each student by looking at their drawing. There were so many different ways of seeing the little birds! It made me remember something I've come to believe, every school should require students to keep a sketch book all the way through their school years. It would be a declaration of our belief that the aim is to see, not just look. This skill should not be confined to the art room. It's not about becoming a Rembrandt, it's about acquiring a tool for life.

Rudolf Arnheim put is clearly and chillingly when he said," Every child entering grade school in this country embarks on a twelve-to-twenty-year apprenticeship in aesthetic alienation. Eyes they still have, but see they do no more."

I need to enforce the sketchbook rule in this house. My girls, age five and eight don't need reminders, but I can see that as my ten year old son gets older he's loosing his natural connection to drawing. He has become more concerned with executing a successful drawing and deciding whether, "it's his thing" than owning it as a natural and sometimes private part of his life. Sadly, This is the standard course of things.

OK, trip to Blick today! I'm getting one for my husband too...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Some of the biggest lessons I ever learned were taught to me by animals. As a child I had plenty of unstructured time to wander around the farm and into the woods. We always had cats and a dog - it wasn't a family without the dog. When we were lucky enough to have the space, we had goats and a pony. When I was five my father brought home an orphan goat. We put her in a box by the wood stove and I was given an old soda bottle with a nipple to feed her. I can clearly remember her large thickly lashed eyes looking up at me and her soft nose quivering in anticipation of the warm milk.

Over the years I learned about responsibility while caring for a chipmunk, baby possum, or feral kitten. I learned patience waiting at the edge of a paddock for hours waiting to gain the trust of a previously abused horse. I had full knowledge of the birds and the bees and had witnessed birth by second grade.

One afternoon I waved to my mom from the back of an unbroke pony while she was hanging clothes on the line, no bridal, just watching her ears turn back to me questioning while I guided her with my weight and the pressure of my legs.

None of this would be all that special throughout most of history; it's still common in many parts of the world today, but for the average American child it is an alien environment that takes time to adjust to. This experience is simply not feasible for most families, but some observation of animals and nature is essential. Unstructured time alone using your imagination...creating a world to delight's where creativity blooms. Young children have a sense of curiosity, but have not yet developed the ability to internalize the information obtained through reading and direct instruction. They need time to gather it and process it. Children are are miraculously gifted with the ability to ask what they need to know.

Today I brought our new chicks to my daughter's Kindergarten class. We live in Philadelphia and I'm sure many of the children have never been this close to a farm animal. After a few minutes they really settled in and started to make some very interesting observations...what if they had more time? Days before the visit their teacher asked me, "What if they ask if these chicks are the chicken they eat?" What if they do? ... I'll save that for another post.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Creativity is essential - our greatest natural resource. Lately we are hearing about its scarcity and the need for governments to develop "policy on creativity" Is it that dire? Maybe there are some simple answers to this problem in our homes and in our hearts.

Am I talking about support of the arts? Well, in part, but the bigger focus is about developing a life style that honors the creativity that will create universal prosperity and new ways of relating to one-another. This creative spark is nurtured by embracing the idea that there are many paths to fulfillment and endless definitions of success. When we call the explorers, rebels, we devalue their contributions.
So, let's imagine we throw it all away and we're left standing here with our families to forge a new trail. I'm willing to bet the richest days of our lives would be ahead of us and we would be in awe of our strength and creativity.


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