I, along with the majority of the country, feel devastated and helpless about the recent slew of mass shootings. Sadness and fear swirl through my mind every day and my recent visual response is, ironically, to make a lot of guns. I want to turn something heavy and made of metal into something delicate and made of paper. But even when trying to disguise and transcend the object, its cause for discomfort and uncertainty shines through.
This show is a collaboration of artists who I respect and admire. We were all inspired by the same excerpt from Christophe Andre's Looking at Mindfulness:
"It’s now, right now. In a little while it will be something else-- the magpie will have flown away, the sun will be higher in the sky, the shadow of the hedge will have retreated. It won’t be better, or not as good, it will just be different. So now is the time to stop walking, feel the cold air fill our nostrils, listen to all the muffled sounds and admire the extraordinary light of the sun and snow. We must stay here as long as we can, not waiting for anything in particular-- quite the opposite! Just stay here, doing our best to perceive the countless riches of this moment: the clumps of snow that fall from the trees with a tiny, soft thud; the blue-white shadow of the hedge; the small movements of a magpie seeking a little warmth in the sun. Everything is perfect. Nothing more is needed for this moment to feel complete."
It's so incredible to see how 8 entirely different artists interpret one concept. I am so thankful to everyone who participated and thrilled with the success of the show, excellent feedback, and 5 works sold!! Thank you to all of the participating artists. I am humbled by your talent and grateful for your participation and support:
The New Jersey Artists in Education Grant, funded by The New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Young Audiences, provided the art students of Parsippany Hills High School the opportunity to be a part of a permanent installation in the media center. Working with master printer, Eileen Foti, students explored their culture and heritage to create iconic prints celebrating the diversity of PHHS.
Students reflected on their personal heritage and discussed their backgrounds with one another. Some are immigrants; some are first generation Americans; and some families have been here for multiple generations. Some identify with a different country of origin, and some consider themselves as mainly American. Based on these conversations, students developed prints relating to specific themes: home, food, the arts, religion, family, and sports/games.
You can view the short grant documentary here
This installation is a visual celebration of the individual identities that come together as the amazing student population at Parsippany Hills High School.
When I walk into the Smoke Shop with my children, the smell of tobacco brings me back to another time. I am eight years old walking into the same space with my father. He is picking up the Sunday paper and I am picking up a Tootsie Roll and a pack of New Kids On The Block cards. These tactile memories parallel the ones I now build with my own children in this lovely little town. Denville feeds my soul with pizza and local produce, fuels my day with assorted caffeine options, and cools my bones with a dip in Indian Lake.
This mixed media series explores the beauty and timelessness of the town I call home. Memories and moments are literally sprinkled into the ice cream, coffee, and pizza. Bits of tobacco and money can be found within the handmade paper and there may be a few NKOTB cards to look for (Joey was my favorite).
I hope you are able to engage with this work and maybe smell the tobacco, taste the tootsie rolls, and feel the ice cream dripping down your hand. Let the sunshine kiss your skin as it bounces off the lake and watch the lily pads gently float by.
First Solo Show!
And my proud kiddos.
This morning I packed up my room, loaded up my car, and headed over to the studio to prepare for our final presentations. The last afternoon of aTi is dedicated to every artist presenting work to the whole group. Photographers, printmakers, sculptors, painters, naturalists (because drawers sounds funny), and poets will come together to share our experiences.
This experience has been transformative. Having the opportunity to spend and entire week eating, sleeping, and making art confirms my suspicion that I am meant to share art with the world. I feel so blessed to have found the aTi community and look forward to presenting my work this afternoon and to you right now! Drumroll please...
This print is a continuation of my Home Series. I enjoy exploring my photography through other media. The clubhouse is a very simple chipboard printing technique. The horizon of trees and life guard chairs are collage and the buoys are copper leaf. I look forward to gifting this to the Indian Lake Clubhouse and continuing this series through documentation of other local destinations.
Above is the culmination of my digital photo journey this week. The assignment was water and I enjoyed investigating the relationship between it and manmade elements. The photographs next to each other are meant to read as one. You can see this more clearly in the first blog photo or via my website (click on Jersey Series).
While writing this blog this morning, I've had classmates ask me for help with editing, exporting, and printing. I am always happy to lend a hand and realized something while I was doing it. I am ready to teach Digital Photo this year!!
Thank you so much to the aTi community for making this possible. Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey this week and showed support of my blog. Being able to reflect on my experiences every day through photos and text made me reach deep inside every day and appreciate my family, my friends, and this artistic gift I have been given (I'm getting a bit weepy over here!).
Last night my husband told me that my 4 1/2 year old son told him, "Maybe it's OK that I miss Mommy so much because she'll get to make really beautiful photos." I am really proud of what I accomplished this week and can't wait to bring my work home to show him what it means to be an artist.
I was invited by Cathy LeCleire, the aTi drawing teacher who I respect and admire, to go for a run through the woods this morning. I made the conscious decision to NOT bring my camera or phone. Although I knew the light would be great at 6:30 in the morning and there would definitely be some great opportunities for photographs, sometimes it's more important to just be present. My husband and I enjoy seeing live music and it drives me crazy when I see so many people taking video of the entire show through their phones. By focusing on your screen, you are missing out on truly absorbing the experience all around you! Besides, I'm sure you can find a much better video of a band playing your favorite song live on youtube.
Cathy is an avid runner and knows her way around the trails here as she teaches at aTi South every year. I am pleased to report that we made our way through the trails all the way around the lake! The journey brought me to the destination today. Running is usually a solo affair for me, a chance to listen to some good music, sweat, and be alone. Running while having a conversation may take some getting used to, but it certainly makes three miles fly!
I missed breakfast on campus this morning and was heartbroken to discover that the campus Dunkin Donuts is closed on Friday. I felt a bit out of sorts in the lab sans caffeine. Nevertheless, I chugged away at editing and printing. Right before lunch, I started to assemble my printmaking work. While in the studio, I shared with my classmates that I told my husband last night I am born to be a student. Being able to spend every day learning and working in an art building is my zen. If only someone could pay me and provide benefits for such a profession.
On my walk back from lunch, I realized that I hadn't taken any photos yet. I was feeling a little lost about the direction this post would take today. I took a breath and accepted the fact that the first photo of the day would find me, and it sure did. While I was rounding the corner towards the Arts and Sciences building, I stumbled upon this small dead bird. Another opportunity to better understand my undergrad drawing professor (see Wednesday's post). I really wish I remembered her name to contact her. When I hear from former students about how something I did has impacted them, it lights up my soul.
My classmate, Denise, is an extraordinary painter and is using our digital photo workshop as an opportunity to compile more inspiration and imagery for her work. She asked me to model for her because she likes to document strong and powerful women. Well, OK!
I really appreciate the bit of humor in her staging. Her concepts border on Surreal. This is such a great example of how creative people feed off of one another. We inspire one another and make each other want to be the best version of our artist selves. I feel like I have made friends for life this week. Every artist needs other artists as friends. That way, when you want to take a photo of someone blowdrying her hair outside, she is 100% committed to the cause.
My digital photography crew for this past week. I am so grateful to all of them for making this experience so fulfilling and special. Wendel is a wonderful teacher and a saint for driving around a van full of nine women during a heat wave!
And here is my running partner, the powerful woman on the other side of the group photo.
Whenever something is not going my way, I try to remind myself that my problems are minimal and I am very lucky to have the life that I do. Nothing could further solidify this than learning about the girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Between 2008 and 2010, the Taliban brutally took over the region and destroyed hundreds of girls schools. This tragic event was followed by a major refugee crisis, and finally a devastating flood.
My mentor and friend, Eileen Foti, teaches the printmaking workshop at aTi and brought The Swat Relief Initiative to our attention. SRI makes education for girls a high priority in addition to developing programs for women's health, teacher training, economic growth and building a sustainable environment. Through this initiative, women learn to sew and use traditional methods to make crafts. We had the opportunity to empower these women and children by purchasing their beautifully handmade jewelry, embroidery, and bags. All proceeds will go directly towards efforts to help this disadvantaged population. I hope to be able to bring these crafts to The Denville Farmer's Market to raise more more money for this incredible cause.
Today we continued our work in the lab to edit our photos and prepare for printing. Whenever I am in a lab and there is mention of a printer and a queue, I automatically get a pit in my stomach. It brings me back to many anxious moments in my undergraduate graphics lab praying that printing would go smoothly (it hardly ever did). My designer friends will sympathize with the stress over losing printer "points" and having to find someone to hopefully give them back to you.
I am happy to report that printing was a smooth process all day! I really enjoyed watching the large format Epson printer slowly output my photos. The anticipation felt like a continued part of the journey. I am very pleased with the outcome so far and look forward to exploring more ways to alter my photos.
Before lunch I asked my classmates, Laura and Denise, to take photos of me holding yoga postures in front of the art building. I've always been very self conscious about having my photo taken (I grew up pre-selfie era). While shooting this week, we have all been naturally inclined to take photos of one another. The experience makes me feel more comfortable with the concept. The time I feel most comfortable in my skin is when I practice yoga so why not practice some outside on a bench and have some excellent photographers document it?
At lunch I had the opportunity to chat with a newish art teacher. It's so interesting to have a conversation with someone who is at the start of an incredibly rewarding and frustrating career. With only a few years under her belt, she has a lot of different perspectives and a lot of questions. I tried to instill something in her that I've realized during our journey this week. Teachers who attend workshops like aTi are teachers who are ARTISTS. We yearn to create and to learn and to bring back our knowledge to our students. I promised her that the first year of teaching any course is always a little bit of a hot mess but that's OK because every year is an opportunity to make it better. When you are a teacher who cares about your craft, you are always willing to improve and strive to be the best mentor possible.
To continue my printmaking piece today, I applied copper leaf onto boueys and cut out teeny tiny turquoise (say that three times fast) lifeguard chairs and umbrellas. I am super pleased with the direction this work is taking and hope to complete it tomorrow afternoon.
After dinner, I am off to get my namaste on at a local studio this evening. Like in art, I enjoy taking classes with different yoga instructors. Every individual has something unique to offer and I always leave my mat learning something new.
Oh... and I saw two more ants today!! Namaste.
This morning we headed to the local boat basin at 5:30 AM to capture the morning light. Something I learned today is that the only people who are out and about on the water at 5:30 AM are photographers and fishermen. We carefully navigated around each other as they launched their boats into the water from the backs of their trucks and I tried not to fall in the water while trying to get strong shots. Everyday I am learning more about the capabilities of my camera and how exposure and shutter speed will affect the image. I have also grown a great appreciation for the tripod which allows me to keep the camera still in order to capture more light and achieve a sharper photo.
While moving from one end of the basin to another, I noticed a bunch of peanut shells on the ground. When I got closer, I noticed hundreds of ants (again!) working very hard on the shells. I also noticed that they were climbing all over a weed. I'm not sure why they were doing this but it was a much better photo opportunity. It was also a sign that I should be incorporating ants into future work! As I was taking the photo, one of my classmates announced that she saw a dead seagull in the woods. Obviously, I had to go investigate.
Whenever I see a dead bird, I fondly recall the first time I saw a dead bird. I was a freshman in college and had a really young and cool (if not flighty) adjunct drawing professor. She rocked all of our naive worlds when she showed us her illustrations of vibrators with the words "You Rule" painted across the top. One day she took us outside and we all got into position to draw typical campus fare when she stumbled upon a dead bird. I was so confused and a little disgusted by her enthusiasm for drawing it. Since then, every time I see a dead bird, I understand her interest a little bit more.
On the hour long ride to Cape May around 9 AM, I got a chance to get to know my classmates a little better. Most of us are art teachers with a guidance counselor and kindergarten teacher (bless that woman) thrown into the mix. Hearing everyone else talk about their teaching experiences reminds me that there are many things to be grateful for at my job. I am very fortunate to be working long enough in one district to feel fairly secure in my position as an art teacher. More importantly, I am in one building, I have a classroom, I DON'T teach art on a cart, and I have ample funding for supplies and equipment.
This was my first visit to Cape May and I was amazed to discover that in addition to the adorable downtown of beautiful victorian houses and cute boutiques, there is a National Wildlife refuge. We were fortunate to have a Stockton graduate give us a guided tour of the site. Did you know that Swans are not native to the US? They are European birds that were brought over here as ornamental birds and mated to the point of pooping all over the docks at the lake along with the geese. I suggested to the guide that his fact might be why Swans are so snooty. It took him a minute, but I think he got the joke.
How cute is downtown Cape May!? I particularly enjoyed exploring Congress Hall, a seaside resort built in 1816. I realized I could handle the scorching heat in my summer apparel compared to the wardrobe of a gal my age in 1816.
Two full days of shooting and I have over 700 photographs. Tomorrow, we go back into the lab to continue editing and polishing our Lightroom and Photoshop skills. Until then, I shall continue my printmaking side project. I love the smell of ink and the feel of it under my fingernails. Does anyone recognize the work in progress?
I started my morning today with a run through the Pine Barrens on campus. I discovered lots of beautiful paths through the woods in an attempt to run around the lake. Some areas were impassable so I turned around and found another path. Although I never found my way all the way around the lake, I got sweaty and dirty and had the opportunity to capture some amazing shots. It's not about the destination, but the journey, right?
After my run, day 3 of my art journey started with getting into the lab to learn how to edit our photos through Adobe Lightroom. The first few hours consisted of absorbing a lot of information, taking frantic notes, and asking many questions. I am teaching digital photo this upcoming school year and have a lot of anxiety about working with students and computers. While I am confident in my teaching abilities and can handle any art room, technology can shake that positivity. Something about teaching students on a machine they are probably more capable on than I am has always made me a little insecure and nervous... Sitting in a lab with eight other adults politely asking questions at the same time felt a little stressful. What about when it's twenty teenagers?
It is the calm, patience, and knowledge in Wendel White that has showed me that I can't allow the computer to throw me. I've never been afraid of a room full of teenagers before. Why would I start now!? Today I realized that I can treat the needs of my students in the lab the way I do in any room by asking for patience and promising everyone individual time to answer questions.
Something amazing about a place like aTi is that you have the opportunity to learn from the instructors in two ways. First, you learn valuable knowledge about techniques and skills that you can bring back to your classroom and incorporate in your own work. Second, you get to BE the student again and pay close attention to effective teaching strategies. Both are extremely inspiring and valuable.
While riding on my new high horse of confidence today, I became fairly proficient in Lightroom and edited some amazing photos! I am excited about the direction my water themed work is taking and look forward to continuing my journey this week. While it is about the journey, it's pretty excellent when the destination is exciting as well.
After seven hours in the lab, I headed to the printmaking studio to continue another piece. While cutting out tiny intricate details of a tree line I thought for a second I might be crazy. In my "free" hour between class and dinner, I am voluntarily doing more work. Tedious tiny cutting started to feel a little narcissistic. But when will I have another opportunity for my entire day to be completely devoted to art?
This morning I awoke to seriously rumbling thunder and pouring rain. My week long wardrobe does not include rain boots and a poncho which is odd because I prefer to be annoyingly prepared for all kinds of weather. Instead of allowing this to bring me down, I decided to embrace the rain and go for a walk. Our photo theme this week is water so it was the perfect time to start a photo shoot! I shot a really great slow mo video of rain drops falling into a puddle. You can see it via FB and Instagram. If you look closely at the still, you can see my umbrella and reflection.
This morning we corralled in a van to visit a wildlife refuge. It is truly amazing to me that places like this exist. Aside from the terrible flies (which I can outrun, by the way), this place is a small slice of heaven on earth. Tiny creatures and handsome birds are going about their business in their natural habitat while we are lucky enough to watch. While I enjoy witnessing this, it is not something I prefer to document with a camera. My imagery is more inspired by textures and patterns. The photo of the leaf droplets is a good example of this.
While the refuge is virtually untouched, there have been minor changes made to the landscape in order for humans to explore it. In addition to an 8 mile long dirt road, there are minimal bridges, towers, and signs. Today I enjoyed exploring the juxtaposition of the natural and unnatural. After a long morning of work, we returned for a hearty lunch and spent the afternoon in the hot sun shooting some more at a marina and then a river. The combination of the humidity, sunshine, fly dodging, and immense use of creativity energy made me in dire need of a shower and nap (the kind where you drool on your pillow and don't hear your dinner alarm go off).
After a beautiful walk past the lake to dinner, I went into the printmaking studio to continue my chipboard house prints. I am so grateful to Eileen for teaching me such a simple and effective printmaking process. While I am thrilled to be here expanding my knowledge of digital photography with Wendel, my heart currently belongs to printmaking. I hope to explore more ways of combining the two this week. I look forward to getting into the lab tomorrow to see all of our hard work from today!
Now it's time for another great rest (with hopefully a little less drool).
After a leisurely two hour car ride of good music and coffee, I arrived and got settled into my dorm room at Stockton. The suite I will reside in for the next week is nicer than my first two apartments! I don't think these college kids are roughing it quite enough. That being said, I am very grateful for my own room.
Unlike the dorm rooms of my college years, the room is empty and the walls are bare. There is something very cleansing about it's emptiness and I am ready for amazing things to happen this week. Tomorrow morning we are off for our first photography field trip!
In preparation for the documentation of my week away making art (yay!), I created a web portfolio of my recent work. Thank you to anyone and everyone who has ever supported me as an artist... and to my husband, family, and aTi for making a week away possible! I look forward to sharing this experience with the world. Here we go!