This past Spring I was busily working on my sculptures and have recently had them photographed by Leigh Webber. I have learned the hard way that paying for excellent photos will always help you down the road. I have been taking these photographs and talking with local gallery owners as well as applying for exhibitions out of state. I am really thrilled with how they developed.
“Keepers of the Oldest Memories”, 2011
I have been very attentive to honing my craft of assemblage, image transfers, and wood working. I began this series thinking it was about my visceral response while in nature. Being in nature, or should I say feeling a part of nature, has always inspired and directed new work for me. It actually was not until I was almost finished with the ten new sculptures that I realized, in fact, that these have always been about my inquiry into learning in our contemporary society.
It was just that being in nature put all of my thoughts into perspective. In nature I can more easily see the bigger picture of life. I can distinguish what is important and what is not when I stick my toes on the edge of the vast ocean, dip my paddle into the endless rivers here in South Carolina, or walk among the ancient live oak trees. I came to realize that nature is my muse for speaking about what really matters. This understanding led me back to my thoughts on education. Education has always been an integral part of my practice as an artist (another important aspect that Laura and I share). I have been a teacher for over twenty years in a variety of settings for ages 0-85.
How could all these experiences with other people NOT affect my art practice. It was in graduate school where I realized how much more rich my work could become if I delved deeper into this. My own trial and error at developing the craft of teaching, explaining (which often changes depending on who I am talking with- even with the same lesson), interpersonal skills, and creating engaging lessons has the end reward of witnessing another person understanding and learning. It is an incredible process and one I enjoy greatly. Now that I am teaching adults at the local university I am gaining experiences that are deepening my art practice in a number of ways. I believe that is why this series of new work has proven to come back to my original question I had three years ago “What do you know?”.
I have witnessed a wrong turn in education. It has been a slow turn so I think many people have not noticed we are headed toward a dead end. It relates to standardized testing. Standardized tests not only minimize a person and what she/he knows, they have major problems such as gender bias and racial injustice (to only name a few).
“Changing the Notion of Aging”, 2010
So, what do I do as a teacher? Most of us feel powerless and just ride along. I, for one, can’t keep riding. I see a loss of creativity and critical thinking for the students and the instructors. I see a future workplace that is in demand for creative thinkers (think of all the information we have gathered through science….now we need some creative people to start connecting the dots) and an education system that is squashing it. Standardized tests are ruling who goes to college, funding, policies, broad labeling of schools, and teacher quality. It is a fact we need improvement in our education system, we are educating more people than ever before in history, but gathering data through a one-size-fits-all method just won’t cut it.
These sculptures certainly voice my opinion on this subject where otherwise I feel pretty insignificant voicing my opinion to the politicians. Perhaps seeing these ideas played out in artwork will do double duty: 1- give voice to an important issue in education 2- demonstrate to the community that art is more than a pretty picture, art is about ideas and conversation.
Please take a moment and read this website: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing
If you don’t think this issue affects you, think about the people who will be working for you in the next ten to twenty years. Will they have the skills to critically and creatively work through your business problems, work effectively with other people, and contribute to the community as a whole?
“Tranquil Wise Counsel”, 2011
I still feel that I have more work to do on this topic and clearly it is something that will be ongoing in my visual art and teaching practice. If you want to see more check out my website. The link is on the right side bar —>
I will be heading out of town to see some family and will be in touch here and there as we head north. Otherwise Laura and I will be back with our regular posts when I get back. Hope you are all enjoying these warm days! I appreciate you reading about my work and stopping in here at our blog.