That was the title of a class I took in undergrad: Why Make Art Now. It was that one class I almost always left feeling a little angry. It is where I came to hate the term Art World, feeling rather that Art Universe would be a more appropriate term. The Art World is usually referring to high art, and in title claims a superiority, as though it is what we all should be aiming for. It was always a lot of arguments along the same lines of the age-old Art VS. Crafts dispute. You can only go so far in comparing your visit to the eye doctor to one to the dentist before you are having two completely different conversations. Art, perhaps, is anything that has been made by a human with the intent to receive a reaction—whether it communicates an idea, prompts a conversation, evokes a feeling, or is meant to be appreciated. I always wanted art and its purpose to be broad and open to interpretation. What makes a work of art valid? Oh, boy. Perhaps that is why I have gone the MAT route and not the MFA one.
Since starting grad school I haven’t had much down time. I’ve been especially busy lately with four classes, observation hours at both of the schools where I’ll be student teaching, and working twenty hours a week at CCAP. Yesterday, as I spent twelve hours writing a seventeen-page Teacher Generated Report for Assessment class, I had a number of moments wherein I fantasized about what it would be like to be getting a Poetry or Interdisciplinary Arts MFA. I’m a teacher, but I’m an artist too. If only there were more hours in a day to lead that double life.
I’ve never gotten over the way young people always ask me how long I’ve been an artist. It’s a weird question when you think about it. It’s like being asked how long my hair has been naturally curly. Like most other developing children I probably started off with crayons by time I was two, and have continued to level up. My BFA or jobs where I’ve gotten paid to make art were not my official sorting hat placement into the house of artists. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who never make a piece of art in their adult lives, and consequently, as a society we start to forget that making art was a natural part of our development. Children start to confuse making art as being either just a career path or hobby rather than a habit—one they will likely grow out of.
I would never go back on my MAT decision. My schedule will calm down eventually, and I get to make art for the rest of my life because I never stopped. I’m going to be having a broader Why Make Art Now conversation with thousands of students for the next forty years of my life and I’m looking forward to every point we arrive at.
And, in short bursts or super late nights, I have been making some art. Having to come up with work to contribute to our recent Gala & Silent Auction pushed me into the kind of frantic art making where I was unhappy with everything I was doing until it got late and I was tired and loosened up a little until I wasn’t thinking too hard about it. Two small paintings resulted but also wired me back to normal habit. Then came another painting, as seen at the top of this post.
As mentioned in my previous post, our annual art show went up in the 4th floor grad lounge of 33 E. Congress. I found some time to make art again, because I had to. Who Do You Think You Are? curated by the first year Art Ed grads opened on November 13th. The theme was interpreted across multiple mediums and looked at the artists’ relationships to people, places, objects, practices, self-image, and other associations they found in defining identity.
I included two pieces in the show—my first two illustrations in a series called Songs About Jenny. It is a project I’ve been thinking about for over a year, but needed an excuse to sit down and get to work on it. When I was little I had a Sesame Street VHS called Sing Yourself Silly. It featured a segment of James Taylor singing a song with the name Jenny in it and my mom would tell me that it was my song. As a four-year-old I didn’t want anything to do with that song. In fact, I started fast-forwarding past it. As one of the most popular girls’ names of the 1970s and 1980s, an abundance of Jennifers in the world has made for a long list of songs populated by Jennifer, Jenny, Jen, and all variations on the name. My first two illustrations, Wake Up Your Saints, Jenny, I Need Them and Jenny Calls From Montana look at the songs Wake Up Your Saints by The National and Nightlight by the Mountain Goats. The project is an archiving of the Jenny character and whatever findings may emerge as I illustrate her.
You can view more from Who Do You Think You Are? in my Flickr feed.