Becoming Your Job

I just had a realization of newly found self-awareness, characterized by recently-middle-aged complacence and an “I guess that’s fine” acceptance.

I realized that I write posts in my recipe book blog in the exact same format as my assignments.

  1. Narrative
  2. Bullet Points
  3. Narrative

In the case of my assignments, it was:  1. Narrative Description, 2. Bullet Points of Requirements, 3. Narrative Explaining how the Assignment will be Graded and Reaffirming Key Concepts that the Assignment Addresses.

For the recipes, it is: 1. Narrative Sentence or Two About the Circumstances, 2. Recipe/Process in bullet points, 3. Narrative Account of Positive and Negative Qualities About the Meal.

When I was teaching, especially in studio foundations classes (that have higher percentages of freshman who are still in recovery from high school as well as “art is a blow-off class” doofuses), I developed the format over a few years of attempting to balance the expectation that my students would be adults some day and would care about doing well whatever they did, and the reality that that was not yet an accurate description of most of them.  It was also intended to leave breathing room for students who were already self-directed and mature.  Initially, it was also a response to assertions on evaluations that students didn’t understand how they had been graded.  Sure, I had thought I was pretty clear when I commented on the work during group critiques and when I gave them written feedback afterward.  But, I did my best to find a way to be clearer and writing in bullet points bracketed by narratives seemed like a way to do it.  Because, you know, you have to at least try to want to reach the kids who won’t read the assignment or listen to you while you explain it…

Eventually, for the most part, I stopped receiving those comments.   To my final semester, however, I continued to see a scattering of “our creativity was limited in this class” comments. (equals this class isn’t good.)  The assignment format – following on the heels of my syllabus, course intro, lectures, admonitions, advice, critiques, descriptions, insights, provocations, heart to hearts, dry assertions, the course catalog description, and years of art education history – of course, was also an ongoing attempt to clarify that, yes, there really are parameters around what you’re supposed to do in a college credit art class.  Furthermore, those “limitations” reflect efforts to focus on specific core competencies in the field.  And, yes, there are specific core competencies in all of the myriad facets of the art field.  It seems that around 10-15% of intro level art students believe it is a class where they are supposed to do whatever they want and then be given an “A” for it.  The art faculty’s task is to explain over and over that there is indeed specific and delineated subject matter, then to outline the divisions of objective and subjective concepts within that subject matter.  And so, I developed a way of writing assignments that could be straightforward in explaining that grades were based on an exhibition of competent use of specific concepts (especially in a foundations class) and not, absolutely not, a judgment or proclamation about a student’s personal character, innate creative ability (a concept I have very little belief in anyway), or their personal “vision”.

Now, here I am writing out my recipes online and how do I go about doing it?

What if, no matter what I do, deep down inside I’ll always be a teacher of art to college underclass(wo)men?

Yeah.  Huh. I can deal with that…

Then again, perhaps my next direction, once it accepts me and reciprocates  some livlihood, will morph me into something different and new-ish.

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Hey, Look at all that stuff outside the window, where’d it all come from?

Much to my surprise, the other day I discovered that there were these clear rectangles of glass all over the walls of my apartment.  And, when I looked at them, I discovered I could see through them; and that there was a whole world of stuff outside.  And none of it was the internet.

I supposed I’ve been sort of busy – a relative term for an unemployed former Asst. Prof. who would have been off for the summer even if he did have a job…

Last week a friend and former colleague roped me into volunteering at the new student orientation, because “his girlfriend bought the plane tickets for his vacation” and he couldn’t reschedule…  So, even though I’m no longer an employee of (un)said college, I went in and talked to students, advised, and double checked the schedules of those who had already figured out that they could register themselves online.  Gotta take that Student Development class early on…

I think one of the natural questions would be to ask why, out of however many full-time faculty at the college, do they need to resort to someone who doesn’t even work there to fill in their orientation manpower.  Sure, 9-month faculty aren’t paid to come in over the summer.  But, I’m not paid at all…  Oh, right… between 75 and 80% of the faculty are adjuncts, they probably can’t afford the gas to drive in for something that won’t pay them.  Maybe there just aren’t enough full-time faculty left.  And, I was on the new student orientation committee…  My role was to design correspondence materials to try and attract more students.  Still, even with “my work” done, I was right there at the top of the list of people to pressure in.  And, they did have free coffee and some absolutely delicious coconut cookies.

Truth be told though, that question, “why doesn’t someone else do it?”, never really got any traction for me this time around.  Well, for one, with all that summer idle time, I was glad to get out.  And, as you may know, the faculty who volunteer for these things are among those who lead by action.  They are the kindest and the most contributory among the faculty.  So, I had a pretty good time hanging out with them.  On top of that, maybe because this was the first day of college, the students were delightful – in a sense of “delightful” that’s relative to the term “student”, that is…  Here, some time prior to “oh shit I forgot to drop before the 60% census date, oh please don’t fail me Mr. Professor” point, orientation focuses us faculty almost solely on students’ goals.  What do you want to do?  Oh, here are the classes you need to take.  This will make a good semester.  Do you really think it’s a good idea to take all of your classes on one day?  Perhaps I should have gone into counseling.

After that, on Saturday I exercised a bit and then read by the pool (a small one shared by the residents of our apartment complex, usually full of lots of kids).  Oh, glory to relaxation.  But, seeing that, one: I’m white, and two: I usually only take my shirt off in public once or twice a year (always for swimming), I got sunburn instantly.  And, here’s the worst part, you can see stripes on my stomach from were my, um, “skin” folds…  Eeek.  And most people consider me to be pretty thin.  Huh.  I don’t know how this happened.  One thing’s for sure though, my disinterest in a career as an underwear model hasn’t involved fighting off any offers.

Most importantly, I had a job interview yesterday.  Of the few I’ve had outside of academia since I decided earlier this summer to go outside of academia, this one was for the most singularly awesome job.  Wish me luck – they should be deliberating about who to call in for round two any time now.  In any case, if I get it, I’ll mention at some half-assed level of anonymity what the job is.  It does raise one question though:  although have the power to change the blog title from “Teaching Artist”, what do you do with a blog domain like “meteechart” if you’re no longer an art teacher?  I don’t know…  I know I’m not planning on changing it though.

In the meantime, I’ve been more regular about posting to my other, very new blog.  Ever wonder what someone named “meteechart” eats for dinner?  Well, every night that I cook, I write out what I made at: selfcongratulatoryblogaboutdinner.wordpress.com.  I enjoy cooking.  It springs from a scarring adolescence from whence cooking really well came to represent triumph through what I’ll just call “early onset self sufficiency”.  I’m no professional though.  I just think I manage to eat pretty well fairly inexpensively – aided by an ever expanding herb garden growing in flower pots on my balcony.  Mostly though, I thought that the blog would be the best way to start trying to remember the recipes I come up with.  And, why not make your recipe book public?  Perhaps the act of writing will help me improve.  To finish out the plug, here are the posts I’ve made so far:

Traffic and Labels

Some of you may have seen (although obviously not too many of you) that for about a week or so I had a slew of little link buttons in my right-hand column.  I was, for what reason I’m not sure, curious just how much traffic blog directories could send this way.  So, I registered/submitted to everything I could find on the first 3 pages of a Google search.  And, if that directory should happen to have code for a link-back button ready to paste into a text widget, I put that little guy right in there.  I felt like a NASCAR driver for a minute there, what with all those logos and everything.

The result – correllation or causation – traffic plummeted…

In any case, all the branding made me feel dirty.  So, I took them all off – except for the one blog search/directory I actually use (albeit rarely), Technorati.

In other news, I’ve been trying to stay off the internet and instead focus on making art.  It goes slowly though.

Trying to not Pass Judgment Without Seeing It

Today, the email edition of the New York Times delivered this:

A 7.500 Square Foot Ad for Chanel, with an Artistic Mission

To quote the kids and Ebeneezer Scrrooge all at once, all I could think was,” OMFG and Bah Humbug”.  I rued yet another, even higher flying, manifestation of art and the uber-complex mythologies of art being used to both represent and make lots of money.

Sometimes it sure is hard to not pass judgment without actually knowing what you’re talking about.

On the one had there was this:

Mobile Art Pavillion, designed by Zaha Hadid

Mobile Art Pavillion, designed by Zaha Hadid

*image excerpted from NYT slide show, photo credit Toshio Kaneko.

It sure looks cool, anyway.  It somehow combines the low-slung curves of the Jetsons with the neon undercarriage of low-rider trucks and still makes me want to walk around it.  I know that might not seem like a very flattering description to some of you, but think “simplified elegance open to the insertion of post-modern pastiche”, then maybe it will sound more dignified.

And then there’s this:

Cristal Custom Commando by Sylvie Fleury

Cristal Custom Commando by Sylvie Fleury

*image excerpted from NYT slide show, photo credit Toshio Kaneko.

The NYT said this about it:

Many of the artists explored the notion of the handbag as a cultural symbol, often with a dash of irreverence. Ms. Fleury created a giant Pop Art-style quilted handbag lined with pink fur; inside is a makeup compact in which you can view a video of women shooting handbags with guns.

So, I haven’t seen the video in the bag.  But, something inside of me couldn’t help but blurt, “!&%@#*, not a giant furry handbag!”  I mean, the image doesn’t make it look all crummy and reinterpreted like an Oldenburg sewing machine or toilet…  So, inside is a TV playing a video with people shooting handbags with guns.  Hmmm…  OH, it must be critical of consumer culture too! It’s just that I doubt anyone will really react in a way that’s critical.  And I want it to be critical damn it!  Even so, I can only imagine this as a sort of rebel chic, with guns; another sublimation of the “anti” by the thing it was against.  Isn’t that how the coolest advertising is done nowadays?  Isn’t “assert status as ‘cultural symbol’, add ‘dash of irreverence’, stir…” essentially the recipe for advertising well-known products?  I don’t want to say Sylvie Fleury meant to make her art work as an advertisement.  But, it’s a Chanel bag in a Chanel pavilion in a world-touring Chanel event and I think the sum total of it, in fact does very little to disguise or counter the purpose of the event.  (Why would it or should it?)

I see a parallel here to all the myriad localized controversies over large corporations (read: “bad guy”) paying grafitti artists (read according to predisposed notions) to do grafitti-style murals and interventions, legal and otherwise, as advertisements for their products.  It’s a sort of hybrid between traditional and viral marketing.  There are two things about it though:  One, it mixes the “pure” with the “impure” and offends our aesthetics concerning cultural paradigms.  Two, not altogether different from the first, it sublimates forms of criticism into stylization – at once blunting the symbols of counter-cultural communities and allowing audiences to financially participate where the advertising “sponsors” want them to while also appearing to be cynically above and beyond such things.  It is the most depressing thing I think of when I hear the phrase “post-irony”.

Everyone is Doing Better Than You Are

Every once in a while I come across a name I recognize – someone I knew – associated with some accomplishment that means they’re doing really well.

Although I’ve done a handful of things that I’m very proud of, that represent efforts I know many other people have stopped short of, it has of course meant sacrificing other goals.  That hasn’t all quite settled for me, and I still want to accomplish everything.  Everything.

Recently, I came across the info for this year’s Whitney Biennial. (No, I didn’t go see it…)  And, I knew one of the artists exhibiting in it!

I did a little digging, and on search page 1, I found this:

I lived down the hall from William Cordova in the dorms during my first year of art school.

Does that make me famous?

Ha ha.

Um, no…

And, furthermore, I don’t “know” him.  I knew him and we never hung out except for maybe a couple of times when all the dorm residents would walk to Dunkin Donuts because some asshole on one floor or another hit a sprinkler head with a frisbee or something and set off the fire alarm.  But those (fairly common) fire alarms were more or less the SAIC dorm social mixers of our day.  They were how you met people, little gatherings that would scare the homeless people away from the Dunkin Donuts store front.  They didn’t exactly mean you have blood brother oath alliances with the people living on your floor.

The thing about finding him in the Whitney and on youTube that keys in to reaffirm my view of the world is this:

    For several years, I’ve used him (without his name) as an example to my students – without ever knowing “what happend to him”.

The example is about work ethic and the breadth of different approaches to creative problem solving and goes something like this:

    Once upon a time I knew an artist…  Who, although he may or may not do anything all week…  when the weekend came, he’d go into the [communal] studio [everyone on our dorm floor shared] on Friday night and not come out until the wee hours of Monday morning.  I’m not even sure if he slept.  Then, when the weekend was all said and done, he’d have finished a hundred paintings! Really. So, 100 paintings in 2½ days?  Couldn’t all be good.  Nope.  But, what if only 5 were?  That’s 5 good paintings a week.  My sorry butt labored Mon.-Fri. all day and maybe finished 2 good art works.  And, then, even if you have as many as 95 paintings you don’t like, just paint over them next weekend. (I mean, they’re already started…)

Sure, I don’t know exactly how much of my account is an impression altered by time and embellishment.  The basis of it is true though.

The moral of it is that even though I have no idea what Mr. Cordova has done in the 12 years or so since I last laid eyes on him, I am absolutely certain that he’s earned every ounce of success he’s made for himself.  I just know it.  And, I’m happy to see all that work has brought something back to him.

Fame, it’s so Cool.

A week or so ago, I put this image up in my post about Axl Rose:

Faith Ringgold - Who's Bad.  1988

Faith Ringgold - Who's Bad. 1988

Then, yesterday, I walked into the Arlington Arts Center, and, there it was!

I wonder if this is sort of like the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, but with real stuff instead of words…

Like tourists obediently bee-lining to all the “right” spots, or like Duchamp and Warhol with their Mona Lisa, there’s something about the first encounter with something you already have a relationship with (or a strongly conditioned knowledge of).

It’s even better when it’s a surprise.

I can still remember the week before I started my undergrad. at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (a.k.a. “the ‘tute”).  I went to wander around the museum, turned a corner, and there was Toulosse-Lautrec’s At the Moulin Rouge.  Like every high school kid who’s art teacher had never heard of the twentieth century, I thought Toulouse-Lautrec was just about the coolest thing to predate sliced bread.  Naturally, at age 18, I didn’t have any idea what was in the museum (you couldn’t look things up on the internet back then).  I went there, wandered around, and there was Lautrec’s coolest painting!

When I had a chance to visit the Prado, the surprise at “finding” Rogier Van Der Weyden’s “Deposition” made seeing it as memorable as the time I spent looking at Bosch’s more supremely famous “Garden of Earthly Delights”.

It’s all way better than a Brangelina sighting.

Oh, the Words!

“Time Horizon”…

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…

(href equals wonkette)

The guy being interviewed on the radio made a point, without being asked, to explain that they had not just switched to “Obama’s plan”.  Why admit you’ve ever been wrong?  Why admit someone who isn’t on your team was right?  Ever, in your entire life…

What a dick.

This, on the same day that I heard the word “staycation” used in a context that wasn’t a joke.  I thought it could only be used as as joke.  I mean sure, I turned on my TV before 9:00 am, there was Good Morning America, I deserved what I got.  What does it all mean though?  Is it a sign that:

  1. The world ended a long time ago and I just didn’t notice?
  2. The world is fine, it’s just TV that makes it look like we’ve entered satan’s reign?
  3. The economy is really so bad that so many people formerly of the vacationing classes can no longer vacation and GMA is just here to help?
  4. Americans who are already notoriously inexperienced travelers as compared to the rest of the G7 have taken one more step in their refusal to mix with “other” people?
  5. Homeschoolers have taken on another industry?
  6. It’s actually a positive encouragement for people who haven’t worked their way up to a vacationing class to stop and spend some leisure time with their families?
  7. It’s just a terrible marketing ploy to get people who can’t afford vacations to buy bocce ball sets and margarita mix?
  8. Even worse, a similar, yet even more terrible ploy by the Hawaiian Shirt Association to find a new market?