Friday, January 20, 2012

All Dolled Up Artist Talk Part 3

This is a continuation of my upcoming artist talk.....  The first part can be read here.  The second part is here.

It's worth it for me to do some sort of time frame for this.....  I already feel my prep spiraling out of control.  I certainly don't want to go on and on about myself, like I am reading from my personal journal, when the students really just want to know how I sew up some dollies.  I just feel like all these events are related to art and how I began sewing dolls, but surely I should be further along by now in my biography which is meant to take up only 10 minutes of talking time.  So just to have it printed out and professional, here is my time frame:

10 minutes---  Undergraduate experience
5 minutes---  Time in Prague taking Puppetry Class
5 minutes---  Mom's passing/  Moving/  Frustration/  Elsita (all closely related)
5 minutes---  My blog challenge
10 minutes---  Dolls, dolls, dolls
10 minutes---  Other Artists in show
10 minutes---  Q and A
Done----  Face un-reddens

So I guess the point of all that is that I need to put some pep in my step.  If you know me, you know I don't tend to jabber on, so I am surprising myself a bit in having so much to say.  I imagined the opposite problem occurring.  I am going to carry on now.

I took the commuter train from my home town to all my classes at the Art Institute.  Joliet is really the farthest official suburb from Chicago and the first stop on a very long train ride.  I am telling you all this because I think this is part of the reason why I hated my time at the Art Institute.  The commute was awful.  I took up two seats with all my art supplies, and an hour and a half into the journey, the train would be full of baggy-eyed business people who I always assumed despised me for being artsy and having too much stuff.  The school itself was big, cold and impersonal.  The teachers were all established artists, which is part of a good theory about good art education, but you really have to shout and make a scene to get their attention, which isn't fair, or my style.

In my painting elective class, I began painting large scale black and white versions of photographs of my father and my family before I was born.  My brothers are all much older than me, so my family had this substantial separate familial experience before I was around.  The photos from that time seem like a secret, magical window into a world without me, but at the same time still a part of me.  I loved looking at those photos and thinking of my father.  It was really comforting for me to spend so much time analyzing them and letting them transfer through me and onto the canvas.  I xeroxed the photos, and gridded both them and the canvas, so that I could get things right.  It's a cold process, but it felt comforting to me to paint them in that way, because it added some distance to emotions that were still a bit raw.  I enjoyed it immensely.  It was, however, not well received at the Art Institute.  It is not a cool thing to be painting your family photographs at The Art Institute.  I didn't care though, and my professor at the time didn't make me do something else, which I am grateful for.  My fellow students gave me a horrible time during critiques, but I needed to do those paintings, and all of their paintings were ugly.  Just kidding!  Wouldn't it be funny if I said that though?  

One good thing that did come from the Art Institute was the art I was being exposed to.  There is so much to look at in Chicago.  So much!  The museum is right next door to the school, and students got in for free, so I spent all of my "waiting for my train" time there.  To get to the paintings and sculptures I wanted to look at, I always had to walk through the medieval armor hall---past pretend knights.  It felt like I was on some sort of royal, urgent artistic observation mission!  Some of my favorite artists I discovered while I was there were:

Joseph Cornell
H.C. Westerman, a Chicago Imagist sculptor

Roger Brown, who donated his house and extensive and quirky art collection to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (we toured it during my painting class and it was incredible)
Karl Wirsum, my all time favorite
Outsider Artist, Henry Darger

After a year and a half at home, it really started to seem like my mom was cured.  I let myself believe it.  All her doctors were dumbfounded.  She was doing well.  I only had a semester's worth of credits left before I could get my degree, and I wanted to get it from Memphis College of Art, not the Art Institute.  I needed some time, space, and southern hospitality in a nurturing environment with professors that took your work into consideration and talked to you about it.  I missed it so much.  So, I spent one more year in Memphis.

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