I recently stumbled upon a bunch of artists through online research and via recommendation by other artists. Some of these names I had heard before, but didn’t realize they were contemporary – aka still alive!
Jeff Koons. He is known for working with popular culture subjects and his massive sculptures of everyday objects, most commonly balloon animals, in stainless steel that have mirror-finish surface. I didn’t realize how controversial he is in the art world; as a former Wall Street trader, Koons does not create the artworks himself but has a studio of assistant who works on them. He recently unveiled a sculpture commemorating the victims of the Paris terrorist attack. Read the NY Times article here.
Ai Weiwei. Perhaps one of my favorite artists for his political activism. He is a champion for human’s rights, and openly opposed to the Chinese government. I was actually blessed to go to his Hirshorn exhibit back in 2017 when I was living in Washington, D.C., which focused on portraits of famous political activists in exile and graphic patterns of surveillance.
David Hockney. He is an English painter, printmaker, and an important figure the pop art movement of the 1960s. Today he is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. He is still alive at 82 years old and still working on art! I’m intrigued by this celestial garden and perspectives that invite the viewer into the painting.
Jenny Saville. She is known for her large-scale painted depictions of nude and voluptuous women. In 2018 she became the world’s most expensive woman artist after her painting Propped sold for $12.4 million at a Sotheby’s sale. When Propped was first shown in 1997 in Charles Saatchi’s infamous exhibition, Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Gallery at the Royal Academy of Art, it had a huge mirror hung opposite it so that the viewer could turn away from the picture, read the text in work , and implicate themselves in the artwork. The words are a french quote from acclaimed French feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray that explores the interactions of men and women. It translates to: “If we continue to speak in this sameness–speak as men have spoken for centuries, we will fail each other. Again, words will pass through our bodies, above our heads and make us disappear.” Read this interesting 2016 interview with the artist where she explains her art here.
Hey friends! I had the chance to go to the opening of Baltimorean Derrick Adams’ show entitled “Where I’m From,” on display at Baltimore City Hall. A lot of his work is centered around his Black identity and culture. These large scale oil paintings are photos from his own family albums, and pay homage to close familial ties in Black culture. He abstracts the forms into blocks of color, really drawing the viewer to examine the figure, their body language, and the importance of an archival of Black family life in fine art.
Another artist who I stumbled upon on Instagram is Baltimore’s Stephen Towns. He won the coveted Sondheim Prize in 2018. His most recent work at the Chicago Expo, a series entitled “The Bridge,” is really beautiful – he paints portraits and stories of freed enslaved black people. Appropriating religious iconography and gold backgrounds reminiscent of Byzantine art, he is remaking art and history through his work.
If you know if other Baltimore artists, let me know! I found the next artist through a teacher’s recommendation – Yinka Shonibare DBE. He is a British-Nigerian artist that explores the layered relationships forged by centuries of colonialism, global trade, migration, politics, and cultural exchange. He is particularly interested in the stories West African and Indonesian batik cloth tell to create a story of fusion and freedom.
Finally, we have Inka Essenhigh, an American and New York-based painter. I’m interested in her work because I see similar themes emerging in my art – idealized landscapes. Mythology, landscape and the urban versus pastoral are recurring motifs in her work. She blends abstraction and figuration in an investigation of psychological and metaphysical realities.
In a 2017 interview, Essenhigh states,
“I think about the archetypes and stories that we tell ourselves, and reenact in some way. We change our consciousness through storytelling all the time. If you want to change how people are thinking about something, you can tell a story about it. It does the job really fast. I don’t think I’m necessarily changing consciousness, but I’m painting another place. I would like my paintings to have that feeling — that other worlds are possible.“
So many artists, so little time! I really want to highlight Baltimore-based or Baltimore-born artists, since when I am a high school art teacher, I will be able to use this community asset to inspire my students. Who knows maybe I can even invite them to my art class in the future!
The first artist actually has an exhibition that has an opening reception on Thurs. 9/26 at 4:30 – 7:30pm at the Scott Center at Carroll Community College. Ariston Jacks is a Baltimore based artist with a MA in Painting & Printmaking from University of Arkansas. I like the way his art reflects personal narratives and the spiritual through use of symbols. The work I have been also works with family and spiritual symbolism, so I appreciate looking at other contemporary artists working with similar themes.
“Guided by the spirit realm, research, and the oral tradition of my Father, I construct a modern mythology centered in truth and impending prophecy. The L.O.S.T. Gate (Legacy of Supreme Triumph) series documents my ancestral heritage through veiled images that are filled with secret messages and sacred geometry presented through a contemporary lens. These mythical narratives of family, archetype, and icon illuminate the spirit of man by chronicling discerning perspectives which illustrate the human condition outside of the edited scope of mainstream culture.” – Ariston Jacks
Next, Amy Sherald. She is a contemporary Baltimore-born painter who quickly rose to fame when she painted Michelle Obama’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery in D.C., becoming the first African American woman commissioned to paint a first lady. She is having a solo exhibition entitled, “the heart of the matter” that deals with people, landscapes, and cityscapes as opportunities to paint version of herself and African Americans into the American art narrative. The title of the exhibition comes from bell hook’s book “Salvation” and builds on themes of silence and stillness felt in other great works like Elizabeth Alexander’s poem “Black Interior.” She is really dealing with the idea of blackness and black identity in both the public and private spaces.
The next artist I found as I was looking through Baltimore community-based, independent art publication called Bmore Art. They publish a quarterly magazine that is a great resource to find upcoming gallery openings and events, reviews of work, and artist interviews. Nora Sturges has an opening next week on Thurs. Sept 26 @ 6pm at the C. Grimaldis Gallery on N. Charles Street and I hope I can go! I also found out today that she is a professor at Towson University and teaches painting – Smaltimore strikes again! Inspired by the mystery and humanity of late medieval Italian frescoes, she works in oil paint, gouache, to explore abstracted landscapes of color and form.
Last but not least, we have Whitney Frazier. She is an interdisciplinary artist, teacher and activist living in Baltimore and is currently pursuing her MFA in Community Arts at MICA. Her work centers around the collaborative process of art believing it has the ability to create social justice and strengthen our communities. Check her website out here.
“My mixed media works layer collaged images and gestural paint strokes. My abstractions express broad political and social commentaries about this moment and imagined futures.” – Whitney Frazier
Hi friends! I took a break over the summer from being an over-achiever; hope you did too! lol. Now it’s back to student-soon-to-be-teacher-grind-mode and my schedule is intense but so enjoyable. In addition to taking required Art Education major courses, I wanted to challenge myself as an artist, and signed up for intermediate oil painting class for fun. The class focuses on how we create meaning through imagery, technique, medium, framing , and although it requires 5 projects, they are all very open ended and can explore any theme.
The first two projects deal with processes for creating a meaningful composition using 1) collage and 2) a single photograph. Also assigned is what the professor calls, a “visual research journal” where I explore contemporary artists that interest me. It’s a great way to stay current with what other artists are doing.
I figured this would be a good stepping stone to figure out what I wanted to do with my projects. In doing a little bit of research, I found Jessie Craig, a portrait photographer who has work in the permanent collection of the UK’s National Portrait Gallery and has shot the photos of Oprah and Leonardo DiCaprio. The tie-in here is that Craig also creates inventive photo-based collages.
I like her work because she plays with value, repetition, color, negative space, and humor. The first image I like the way she tiles the models, making me question the role of the model and how they are often seen as replaceable or replicas of each other, maybe alluding to that lack of identity with the cut out of the face. I also feel like she challenges that narrative, and maybe addressing how the models may see themselves: the grayscale palette and then the burst of bright green hair draws your eye to the foreground. The Elijah Wood collage is just so funny, I had to include it and the last collage is actually a weaving of the printout. In the third piece, I like how the artist breaks the photo’s fourth wall, simultaneously deconstructing the photo and commenting on photography’s ability to weave a reality that we readily believe as truth.
Another collage-inspired artist that I stumbled upon is a local Baltimorean: Jackie Milad! She actually has a show right now at the C. Grimaldis Gallery on Charles St., entitled, Chaos Comes and Goes, and run from 9/26 – 11/2. This exhibition showcases pieces from previous works that have been reborn through collage. Milad aims to question preciousness and practice experimentation, while also highlighting themes of history and culture. She breaks down symbols that references her experience in the world as an Egyptian-Honduran-American artist, playing with themes like time, movement, and resistance to permanence.
Artist Matthew Grimes, who is currently based in Virginia, also does mixed media collage. At first glance, I’ll be honest, I was not wowed by his collage paintings. But then I read his artist statement, and his concept really resonants with me in terms of how to use collage to investigate meaning:
“The act of paying attention serves as the genesis of my currently expanding line of deconstructed collage paintings. The streets, in particular of Santiago, Chile, are laden with posters screaming intentions via graphics, imagery, and words. Yet it isn’t the designed communication that pulls me in, but the allure of the endless decaying layers of juxtaposed color and texture producing in concert an almost silent chance of passive composition… My intention is to bring to light the electric beauty of which falls silent to most passersby, ciphering the positive qualities out of the banal of everyday to act catalyst towards increasing observation of this world we live in.” – Matthew Grimes
Finally, here is some work by Baltimore-born and raised Beth Hoeckel. As an artist, play is an important part of her process, working with images she’s often been saving for years. “I almost always start with no specific idea in mind. The work grows organically and intuitively and I enjoy building something out of nothing.” She often juxtaposes foreground and background objects and inquisitive figures, who are often standing on the edges of cliffs, or looking out to lakes or even into deep space. She has literally hundreds of collages on her website, all categorized into theme – here are just a few.
From even just this beginning research, I am definitely excited to have fun with these projects! All of these artists used the technique of collaging in different ways to convey different meanings. My next step for the collage work will be to gather more imagery that the helps convey my meaning, my “why” – and then cut and play! ❤
This summer I took two art classes, one of which was ARED 464: Author/Illustration in Art Education where I learned about the intersection of illustration and literacy. Reading is an active, cognitive, and affective process to create meaning. Readers actively engage with the text and build their understanding, which is why picture books are so awesome – they help young readers engage and build their comprehension.
Reading is also a sociocultural process: it occurs within a situation whose participants, time, place, and expectation affect the reader and the meaning they construct with the text. Ergo the meaning is constructed from what the students already know – culturally, socially, topically, etc. This is called cultural funds of knowledge – teachers can take advantage of the fact that diverse students have different background knowledge, and leverage that to improve and encourage reading. In fact, English Language Learners (ELLS) need more intense and intentional scaffolding to bridge their experience to the content of the text, develop schema, and internalize academic language. Ergo not simplify but rather amplify!
After investigating author/illustrators, our final project was to write / create our own picture book! As many of you know, I teach Meditation for Kids class on Sundays in Baltimore (click this link for kids meditation class information). For these classes, I regularly read children’s books that exemplify the topic for the class, whether it is compassion, recognizing our feelings, listening, loving kindness, etc. For this reason, I really wanted to write a children’s book about how to do a basic breathing meditation. I used this website, <mystorybook.com>. Check out my final picture book here!
Also more good news: next week I start a summer internship with Reading Partners! I wrote about them in my March post, and now I get to work for them! My job will be mostly community outreach, introducing folks and encouraging them to volunteer with Reading Partners. What I love is this organization is that it is evidence-based and community-driven, working one-on-one with students for 45 minutes twice a week, following a structured, research-based curriculum. Last semester I volunteered at Robert Coleman Elementary school and witnessed first hand the progress my students made in reading. They just needed some extra scaffolding and support to build up their skills and comprehension. Consider volunteering by visiting this link! It was a ton of fun and really powerful honor to help a student so directly, without needing to be a teacher or parateacher.
This week wrapped up my 1st of 3 semesters at Towson University studying Art Education. I learned so much; it’s kinda hard to put it into words… Instead, watch this dope stop-motion animation my classmates and I made!
But for real, this semester has been one of the most life-affirming periods of my life.
When this semester began, I had a very strong motivation and intention for entering the program, which served as the foundation for my philosophy of education. However, this philosophy has changed, largely in part because I have learned so much this semester: classroom management, classroom design, curriculum planning, lesson structure, growth mindset, etc. Understanding and practicing these methods gave me the nuts and bolts of teaching to develop real confidence. Teaching is an art, meaning that it has to be practice and perfected over time, but only if you first fully understand the techniques at the start. I feel that this class gave me that foundation. With that confidence, my original motivation has been strengthened.
At the start of this semester, I knew that teaching was my vocational calling – serving the community and contributing to society through art education – but again this motivation was strengthened by how much fun and joy arose through learning and practicing secondary education techniques. What has changed is that every single day I came to class, I discovered a deep passion and love for education and art. Dave Burgess says in How to Teach Like A Pirate, “When you interact with someone who is fully engaged and filled with passion, it can be an overwhelming and unforgettable experience. There is no faking it…” and I feel that my passion and love of the teaching profession and for art curriculum is now a core element of my teaching philosophy.
My philosophy has also been challenged: teaching requires incredible discipline, organization, and planning. It is not sufficient enough to have a strong motivation and passion. I will need a back-up plan for my back-up plan. Scaffolding curriculum and back-mapping unit plans to create engaging and effective lessons, requires attention to detail and many hours of planning, reflecting, and revising lessons. This is what I will need to work on because organization and logic are not my strengths. However, I am hopeful that since now I understand and appreciate the importance of these elements for the learning and success of my students, I will approach it with the same joy as other aspects of teaching.
Special thanks to my amazing teachers this semester – Kay Broadwater, Diane Kuthy, Dave Ninos, David Vocke, and Venetia Zacahary!! ❤
In this 18 x 24″ mixed media collage and acrylic painting, you see my mother as a child, being held by my grandmother, Irene. They float as a reflection in a swirling bubble, dancing between flowers in a field of irises. This work reflects on mother/child relationships, memory, and time, so that the viewer feels both pulled into the past and present simultaneously.
This painting has been in my heart for a long time. The fact that I am in school for art education right now is in large part due to the support and kindness that my mom and dad have shown me over the years: art supplies, books, classes… My mom is my biggest patron. At this point, I’ve painted so many paintings for her that the imagery of iris flowers has become a reoccurring symbol in my art.
Irises are my mother’s favorite flower, in part, because it was her mother’s favorite flower. My grandmother Irene reflects the symbolism of the flower color: purple irises symbolize royalty and wisdom; blue irises symbolize faith and hope. All four of these words symbolize my mother and grandmother. After WWII when the Soviet’s were unrolling the Iron Curtain, my grandmother fled from Poland with her mother and sibling. She stayed in England for a number of years, until she met her husband at age 23. My mother was born in England, and then emigrated when she was 5 years old with my grandmother and grandfather. There are some very sad parts of this story: my grandmother’s brother taken forever to concentration camps before they escaped; my mother’s father dying of cancer when she was 10 years old; and ultimately my grandmother dying of Alzheimer’s disease. This painting is an ode to my matriarchal lineage of resiliency. They will be remembered by their faith in God, their hope for a better future for their children, and their wisdom that they passed onto their families.
Additionally, irises are an ancient symbol; in Greek, the word iris means “rainbow” and the goddess Iris was the personification of the rainbow. The interesting thing with rainbows, bubbles, and moments of time, are that they all arise and pass away so quickly. Their beauty is in part because you realize how special it is that you are present to witness their truth bloom. Also, when you capture a photo of a bubble, by default, the background becomes blurry. I played with this idea in the foreground with the irises, and feel like it relates to human focus and memory.
When my mom was visiting her only sister in Seattle, she dug up a bunch of archival photos. I used the photos as a reference as I drew their portraits with pencil. I love drawing! It was so nice to “spend time” with my grandmother and mom by drawing their faces. I then scanned that drawing, edited it with Photoshop, and printed it out. I also used reference pictures of flowers and bubbles to get closer to a realistic rendering. The process to this painting is important: I messed up multiple times and it was because of those errors that I was able to figure out what I wanted. I spray painted the sky blue with the bubble being black. Then I realized I wanted the scene to be at night – representing the trials my mother and grandmother experienced. Wanting to experiment, I painted the bubble white and attempted my first “acrylic transfer” by soaking it with water and medium. I waited an hour for it to dry, but it seriously looked bad. The image severely tore when I rubbed the paper away and although the original image had supersaturated colors, the transfer was too washed out. Instead I just collaged another water-soaked copy of the image directly onto the canvas with medium, placing it directly on top of the acrylic transfer residue. It worked and had the saturation, warmth, and brightness of a summer day.
Feel free to let me know what you think, and/or if you ever want a commissioned portrait, leave me a message in the contact form on my website.
This past week, I had the opportunity to visit Fort Garrison Elementary School to see 2nd grade and Kindergarten art classes!
When the 2nd graders came into the classroom, they were directed to sit in the middle of a colorful 6×4 rug in the middle of the room. There, the teacher, Ms. Hulse, reviewed with the students the activities for the day: glazing their ceramic sculptures! She did an informal pre-assessment reviewing material about ceramics: no glaze on the bottom, the fired pieces will break if dropped, etc. Her voice was naturally soothing and soft; the children really listened! She called the names on the bottom of the ceramic pieces and they stood up to collect it and go back to their seats. She asked 2 students to help set up glazing pots. They worked for most of the class. At one point when she wanted to clam the class, she turned off the lights briefly. The clean up procedure was interesting: the painted pots were put on a cafeteria tray at the table, and then all the students received a wet wipe. After cleaning their hands they wiped off their tables.
For the kindergarteners, they also came in and immediately sat on the rug, but their instruction was slightly different since they were starting a new project: they were drawing and painting daffodils! Earlier that morning, Ms. Hulse had picked daffodils and now a few bloomed in a vase at each of the tables. With a daffodil in her hand, she asked the students to identify the shapes and parts of the flower: stem, ruffles, bowl, leaf, etc. She then had the students move aside so she could demonstrate in the middle of the rug how to look and draw a daffodil with chalk, and then fill in the flowers with tempera paint. I appreciated how she used the rug as a “fishbowl” instructional area, bringing the content down to the children’s physical level. Also, bringing in a natural element into the classroom (a blooming seasonal flower) was a great way to bring introduce observational drawing. In total, the introduction and demonstration only took 15 minutes. The students then got up, got a sheet of paper and a piece of chalk and the art began. For their signal to stop working, Ms. Hulse chimed a bell. After they finished painting, they put their art on the drying rack and did the same wet wipe cleanup as the earlier class.
Note: I don’t know how I feel about this, but when she was having the students move, she did it a very disciplined way, explicitly naming the students and directing where and when they could move their bodies. I understand it was to help the flow of the class and optimize time, but it seemed rigid and controlling to me. Also, I noticed that the kids got supplies from a variety of different places. Perhaps if the supplies were pre-arranged in the middle of the room and accessible for students, it would help the flow of traffic in the room.
This semester has been crazy busy, and this has not been my first classroom observation (sorry I haven’t been able to write about them more!) However, it’s important to reflect on these visits and experiences because I always learn so much by watching expert teachers in actions! Stay tuned for another post soon about another school visit!
Did you know there is a literacy crisis in Baltimore City? According to the 2016 PARCC Assessment, 21.6% of 3rd graders are reading below grade level, a figure that is double the State average. One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time. This is not okay.
That’s why I signed up for Reading Partners, an organization that collaborates with schools to bring in volunteers to address the reading crisis. It’s not a simple “read a book program”- it is a highly structured and personalized set of goals that address the student’s reading needs – phonological pronunciation of sounds, reading comprehension, fluency, and more. I will be volunteering with Robert Coleman Elementary School every week, and I could not be more excited!
For children to have equal access to opportunities and education, they need to be able to read well, and this learning happens at a very young age. Most of the kids I will be working with are in Kindergarten to 2nd grade. As an activist, there is a lot of work done around about trying to reduce crime, poverty, addiction, homelessness, police brutality, all of which are important, but helping a child learn to read so they can make better decisions for themselves and their community is an absolutely essential key to these problems, the student’s freedom, and to our collective liberation.
Did you know that Malcolm X taught himself how to read while he was in prison? Did you know that Frederick Douglass revealed that reading speeches by English politicians produced in him a deep love of liberty and hatred of oppression? Learning to read is a tangible and concrete act of activism because it instills in us the ability to navigate, reflect, and respond critically to the world around us. It is a basic skill that many of us take for granted, but remember, you weren’t born being able to read! Someone, or many people, taught you and showed you how.
Book review time!!! Yes, 100% you need to read this book, especially if you’re a teacher, student, activist, feminist, woman, &/or critical thinker. In this collection of 14 short essays, bell hooks speaks to the spirit and realities of education as a practice of liberation, as a “way of teaching that anyone can learn.” She is profoundly influenced by Paulo Freire’s life and work as an activist educator, so if you haven’t read his work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I would encourage you to read that before reading hooks, as it will give you better insight into her perspective and conversations. (For reference, the term pedagogy is defined as the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept). Some of my biggest take-aways from this book:
Being an engaged teacher means caring so deeply that you invest your mind/body and entire self into being fully present in the classroom, not only teaching your content, but really living it. This means goods teaching is hard, demanding, and incredibly fulfilling, for both the students and teachers: “Engaged pedagogy does not seek simply to empower students. Any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered by the process.”
If we truly want to engage in a liberatory education, we must confront the evils of racism, xenophobia, sexism, white supremacy, and capitalism perpetuated not only in our content, but also in our pedagogical practices personally and institutionally. To do this we must, “embrace struggle and sacrifice. We cannot be easily discouraged. We cannot despair when there is conflict. Our solidarity must be affirmed by shared belief in a spirit of intellectual openness that celebrates diversity, welcomes dissent, and rejoices in collective dedication to truth.”
Creating a sense of community, rooted in multiculturalism, where everyone feels a responsibility to contribute and take ownership of their own education, is a central goal of transformative pedagogy. As a white teacher, I need to continually study and assess “whiteness” and my biases of any kind so that my classroom’s affirmation of this multiculturalism and unbiased inclusive perspective is present whether or not their are people of color in my classroom.
With the ability to put words to your experience, to be able to explain and understand your struggle – theorizing – can be a space of profound healing.
The ability for students to speak from a personal experience, from the “authority of experience,” is important element of critical thinking. It should be encouraged in student discussion and discourse to increase engagement, not to silence others. The encouragement is especially important for voices that have been traditionally oppressed and silenced. “There is a particular knowledge that comes from suffering. It is a way of knowing that is often expressed through the body, what it knows, what it has been deeply inscribed on it through experience. This complexity of experience can rarely be voiced and named from a distance. It is a privileged location, even as it is not the only or even always the most important location from which one can know.”
Chapter 7 really resonated with me. Rather than deny, white women must seek to understand the many historical and recent ways we have passively and aggressively undermined the freedom of black women, in order for us to be able to work successfully together on a united feminist front. We must seek to confront our mistakes that has resulted in the generational mistrust, suspicion, and competition that linger today. “… the degree to which a white woman can accept the truth of racist oppression – of white female complicity, of the privileges white women receive in a racist structure – determines the extent to which they can be empathic with women of color .” It will take focused work, not only on an anti-racist front, but also on a feminist front, to critically analyze and cease the ways we exercise our biases and power trips over women of color. That is what is demanded of us white women to build sisterhood and overthrow the patriarchy…
Black women, those who deal with sexism and racism, develop important strategies for survival and resistance, and discover herself “holds the key to liberation.” This wisdom is so important for the entire black community and their voices need to be heard, especially since until recently, there has been a serious omission of black women thinkers and writers in the published world.
It’s important and possible to build allyships with people within your profession.
As a teacher, I must be unafraid and willing to give up control of the classroom to empower my students, again to create an engaged learning environment for everyone.
The engaged classroom is one that is full of passion and feeling. We must be careful not to disembody ourselves and our students, but recognize that our bodies are an important vehicle of knowing and traveling through this world.
bell hooks’ “commitment to engaged pedagogy is an expression of political activism.” I aspire to this level of engagement to liberate myself and my students.