Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mom Said I Could...

Trust me, they're a lot easier to hose off this way.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Fine Art of...

My profile says I'm a mother, a painter, and a teacher. These descriptors overlap in so many ways, and have so much in common, that it is impossible to pry them apart. Instead of feeling fractured ("there's no there there") I more often wonder at how the kind of artist I am is also the kind of mother I am is also the kind of teacher I am, and on and on. And so, when I found myself with the following poem in my head this morning in the shower, I was unsure whether to title it "Mother's Diary" or "Painter's Diary", or even "Teacher's Diary":
Day passes. Night comes.
What's been done's undone
and under the moon
the clematis descends
the trellis, unwinding
leaf and vine and blossom down
to become a seed again
ready to test the strength
of the ground.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails...that's what the old rhyme tells us. Yesterday, after choosing a temporary tattoo of a particularly fierce dinosaur for his left forearm, David made what I consider to be his first statement of personal aesthetic taste: "Trin likes beautiful things, and I like bad things." "Do you think it's possible to like beautiful things AND bad things?" I asked. "Yes," was his answer, "I like bad things AND beautiful things." That's my boy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Art and Nature

Anyone who knows me well knows how fond I am of butterflies, moths, and other flying things (see above). My fondness is all about metaphor, though, as I've found the "lived experience" of winged creatures to be another matter entirely. The way that moths hurl themselves at lights; the creepy delicacy of butterflies; the obliviousness of the dragonfly: while I would call myself "outdoorsy", bugs are bugs. So the situation I now find myself in is one that is fraught with contradictions. In short, I'm raising moths.

It all started when David found one, two, three, four caterpillars in the back yard. The first one got smooshed but the remaining three made it inside and into the gallon jar seen here. I should mention that these caterpillars are a long way from the Eric Carle ideal. This is the Eastern Tent caterpillar, a generally reviled little beast that destroys flowering trees (like the redbuds we found them on). They are destined to become small red-brown moths, or so the literature tells me.
It's a habit of mine (some would surely call it a coping mechanism) to philosophize about ickiness and thereby turn lemons into lemonade. But let me tell you something about Fuzzy, Mrs. Fuzzy, and Cousin Fuzzy: they poop a LOT. I supplied them daily with fresh redbud leaves, lovingly arrayed in an old spice jar. And daily the leaves were devoured, the cotton balls placed at the mouth of the jar to prevent death by drowning covered in caterpillar waste. I really should have gotten a picture. Fortunately that all stopped when they began to spin their wispy little cocoons. They worked slow and steady building a cottony fog around themselves, then turned and turned until they were mummified. I'm full of questions. How long will they stay like this? Do they need anything special? What happens when they emerge? I'm sure the internet has all the answers. Until then I'll just watch, a bit horrified, as nature performs one of its little miracles.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Last week I said goodbye to the most recent crop of graduating seniors in painting. This is the card for their show, featuring Tyrone's chipped tooth. I'm usually fairly dispassionate about the comings and goings of art majors and, truth be told, more often than not I'm glad to see them go. After all, art is a much more personal endeavor than, say, marketing. By the time I've spent upwards of six semesters with them, I know too much about the vagaries of their personal lives and I'm ready for September's clean slate.

For some reason, May 2009 is a different story. This group of students challenged me in a hundred little ways that made me a better teacher, and I want to take a moment to thank them here:

Rachel, thank you for never letting me get away with a damn thing. Every day you managed to remind me of my own disorganization, and you made me answer all of your questions thoroughly. If I was ever tempted to dance around an issue, you brought me up short with the kind of raised eyebrow that is the province of the President's scholar.

AJ, you argued long and well about the differences (or lack thereof) between painting and digital painting and, what's more, you enjoy arguing almost as much as I do. You created a final exhibition that was rich in both form and content and I hope you feel, as I do, that our disagreements played a part in making it what it was.

Jackie, thank you for creating work that left me speechless on numerous occasions; we all know that's not easy to do. You challenged me to think in new ways about style, genre, and technique, and while I don't have any plans on building my collection of fantasy art any time soon, you showed me that my way wasn't the only way. Thank you, finally, for humoring me.

Tyrone, you took so long to get your BFA I considered adopting you. Thank you for letting me be a witness to the transformation of a shy kid into an artist with talent, drive, and conviction. You have a lot to say and a way of saying it that is purely your own. You'll be the one, someday, to endow that new painting studio I keep talking about.

Corey, you are fearless. Thank you for showing me that there are still students willing and able to challenge themselves every day to be better. You are one of those rare people who says "yes" far more than "no" -- in other words, an artist.

I'm going to miss you all. Go out in the world and paint well.