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Posts Tagged ‘UTPA MFA’

Palms in the wind! Palms with icicles!

Here is the corner of my studio dedicated to the idea of palms … great colors and very sharp spines up and down the stem.

Gingerly is the way to handle the fronds. In the wind they spiral down to clonk you on the head … when they are covered with ice they fall from 30 feet up and impale flowers, dogs, and people. Wear a hat!

In the last four years that I have been in the Rio Grande Valley two years had a couple days of icy weather. We cover all the flowers and shrubs with plastic and cross our fingers. As dawn rises the palms are coated in ice and shine and sparkle. As the sun comes up the ice coating begins to slide off the palms as they are 40 feet in the air and then watch out!! A sliver of ice could be six inches long and sharp as a knife … it simulates the edges of the palm frond. How exhilarating to watch them descend as you hop around to avoid a hit!

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The professor, Rey Santiago, introduces himself and announces (with a twinkle in his eye) “Two subjects for your prints are not allowed: ‘No FLOWERS AND No FAIRIES’.” About 30 students glance at each other with unasked questions in their eyes; no Flowers? He continues with explanations of lithography and woodcuts and kinds of paper then sends us off to buy supplies.  Returning to my studio I sit and idly begin to draw on the floor … the old paint covering the floor has left a lovely pattern … so I paint the forbidden flowers on the floor.

No Flowers Per Rey Santiago

No Flowers Per Rey Santiago

Not having painted flowers for years it becomes challenging. When I quit to let the oil paint dry I dedicate the whole exercise to Rey and take a photo of it.  Another semester begins !!

The goal for the Litho students is to produce a series of eight prints with 5 clean (CLEAN !!) prints of each image in the series.  The clean bit is the hard part … everything I touch has fresh ink on it … it is on my clothes, it is on my hands, elbows, the Rives paper I am trying to print on … not being a tidy person is definitely a handicap here.  Here are the results of three weeks of  ‘grit-your-teeth-labour’.  The title is My Feet – Your Feet .  It represents drawings of
the feet of my husband and my feet – intermingled – it is informed by our relationship of twenty years where we often sit near each other to watch TV and prop our bare feet together. Our feet have a tender relationship!

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Lowbrow art … we drove 60 miles up to Rio Grande City to see the current show by M.C. Farris.  A spring-like morning with billowing clouds and lots of green grass along the road verge … shrubs and mesquite trees were tinged with green also.  It was not a brown Texas … refreshing, tender green it was.

Having been told of the lowbrow concept and given a list of men and women artists by Chad himself in the 2-D class at UTPA is seemed necessary to go and see this show. Here are his paintings.

His artist statement emphasized his attempt to pry the viewer out of their ordinary mode of thinking … into consideration of a world not usually viewed as art.

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The MFA

December, 2011

Having been out of the academic loop for over 25 years an assessment is in order. Has the role of “artist” changed? If it has changed, how has it changed? I was thrilled to come back to painting … I was challenged … and what do I find?  The emphasis is no longer on the act of producing a painting, a sculpture, a film, or a performance! No indeed … the new buzz words are RESEARCH, INNOVATION, and INFORMED … it is not about product (actually painting a picture?) .. .no, it is about rationalizing and explaining your “concept”. Should the viewer be allowed to form their own opinion of the painting? Should the painter attempt to communicate non-verbally (visually) with the viewer?

In 1983 I graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute. It is instructive to think about where the European Art Academies are headed. As a returning student to the MFA program at University of Texas, Edinburg, I have a different overview of art education. One of the unusual events at UTPA was our introduction to Mark Cloet, a visiting artist/scholar from Belgium. The question: Why is he here in Texas? Having attended two of his lectures and reading  “Art and Research – A Journal of Ideas, Contexts, and Methods 2” by Dieter Lesage a glimmer of where the art world is headed pointed me in the following direction.

On the Internet you can go to Wikipedia and type “Research” and you will be given a definition of the word.

Research is “defined as the search for knowledge, or as any systemic investigation, with an open mind, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories.”

On the Wikipedia page we are given a brief rundown of the three sub-categories.  Number 1 is Scientific Research. Number 2 is Research in the Humanities.  We all have ideas about what these categories are about. Then Number 3, which is Artistic Research, and what a mind-boggling category that turns out to be !

“Artistic Research, also seen as practice-based research, can take form when CREATIVE works are considered both the RESEARCH and the OBJECT of research itself.  It is the debatable body of thought which offers an alternative to purely scientific methods in research in its search for knowledge and truth.” The key word here is “debatable.”

So … what does this mean for the working artist? Are we to strive to match the scientific community with their repeatable experiments? Where does Creativity enter this equation? Or does it enter the equation?

To proceed, we see under the heading  CONTENTS  a list of subjects including #10, Artistic Research. Click on that and LO! up comes a description as follows :

“The controversial trend of artistic teaching becoming more academic-oriented is leading to artistic research being accepted as the PRIMARY MODE OF ENQUIRY IN ART as in the case of other disciplines.”

Read this explanation if you wish and then go down to item 17.  “Who’s Afraid of Artistic Research? On measuring artistic research output.” by Dieter Lesage in ART and RESEARCH – A Journal of Ideas, Contexts, and Methods 2 retrieved August 14-2011. At last! The crux of all this verbiage … Who controls the money? The funding, the grants, the scholarships?

Again Dieter Lesage enlightens us with “A Portrait of the Artist as a Researcher”  in which his fictitious artist explains the way universities and public authorities are trying to “get a grip” (his words, not mine) on the emerging field of artistic research.”  He gives us the ideology involved.   One item is “Our society is not only a ‘society of control’ as Foucault wrote, it is a ‘quality control society’.  so … we must have some criteria for quality control agencies.

The participants of The Bologna Process are willing to set up the controls. Without boring you … what has happened is that the European Union participants have formed The Bologna Process.  This process “is supposed to lead to the establishment of a European Higher Education Area in 2010 … which should … contribute to establishing  the EU as the world’s biggest knowledge economy from that same year on.”

There are cogent arguments for and against this emerging field of artistic research.

My response: Dear God!! What would have happened to Vincent Van Gogh under this system?? Or Dali? Or O’Keeffe?

The political implications are vast! Any person interested in attending college in the Arts or attaining a Masters degree, or a PhD would be advised to study these papers.

All quotes are from the Wikipedia definition of “research”.
As for me … I will give it a whirl. I will try to do “research” and see if that leads me to unusual and exciting places within myself. It might!

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In the last few days an assignment from Dr. Pace to go to the South Texas Museum of History in Edinburg and select an object to base a 3D sculpture on.  In front of the Museum is an old windmill of the type used so long in Texas.  So I drew it … I photographed it … I tried to see how it was constructed to resist the strong winds in the Texas landscape.  It was sturdy.

Mary P Williams "Windmill"

Mary P Williams "Windmill"

Here it is!  Made with dried palm fronds and the acorns from an oak tree … it was a struggle but worth the effort.

"Windmill" closeup

"Windmill" closeup

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Olga Escobedo

Olga Escobedo

Down the hall from me is Olga Escobedo. Olga is concentrating her art around the healing properties of local plants and folk remedies used in her community.  She gathers information from her aunts and other members of her family.  Apparently they have quite a store of “how it used to be done” stories to share with her.

Olga Escobedo "Tree of Life"

Olga Escobedo "Tree of Life"

Her ‘Tree of Life’ painting shares a color palette with her sunflower painting.

Olga Escobedo painting with Mother's Milk

Olga Escobedo painting with Mother's Milk

She has started a series of paintings showing the use of various items. This one shows a woman depositing her breast milk in an egg (which has been blown and is empty).  The egg is then put on a stove and warmed before being given to a baby who is suffering from locked intestine, or “Empacho”. Olga says:

“Mothers lactate into an egg that has been drained of its content.  The egg is then placed directly onto a flame to heat, so that the membrane (lining that forms within the egg) melts and mixes with the mother’s breast milk.  It is then poured into a bottle which is given to the infant.”

If you are an adult with the same ailment a tea is prepared from a crushed avocado  seed, herbs, garlic, and water.

Olga Escobedo painting of Curandera at stove

Olga Escobedo painting of Curandera at stove

The second painting shows a woman boiling the tea. Olga:

“Teas are commonly prescribes by Curanderos to their patients.  These teas can be a mixture of herbal plants with other substances like honey, avocado, bone, lemon juice, etc.”

Please note that these ancient remedies are being made in a modern kitchen.  Olga consults books but, more importantly, consults her mother, aunts, and other elders in her community to gather the information.  A fascinating subject … I’m looking forward to more explanatory paintings!

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Travis Trapp has an intricate drawing style.  He begins on a small panel and adds and then adds again.

Travis Trapp

Travis Trapp

 

This drawing is 4 feet by 5 feet and growing.

Travis Trapp drawing close-up

Travis Trapp drawing close-up

Here is a detail of the big picture showing how the forms grow and expand.  He explains “it is a free drawing informed by looking at photographs taken using an electron microscope and then extrapolating from there.  It grows from my subconscious mind.”

Travis Trapp painting

Travis Trapp painting

Here is a delightful painting of a boy sitting on an island …unaware of what is behind him. The color is cheerful and in opposition to the content of the painting which is a bit ominous.

Drawing on the inside of Travis' door

Drawing on the inside of Travis' door

Here is a shot of the inside of Travis Trapp’s door… It is 3′ x 5′ … done with a Sharpie.

Travis Trapp "Portrait of Philip K. Dick"

Travis Trapp "Portrait of Philip K. Dick"

As an admirer Of Philip K. Dick, who wrote many science fiction books, Travis did a portrait of him using his own words.

Travis Trapp "Portrait of Philip K. Dick" detail

Travis Trapp "Portrait of Philip K. Dick" detail

The detail shows the words “a pharmacist on Mars”. Not only is the portrait arresting to look at, it is also thought provoking.  By carefully printing the words, (some of which are unreadable, others which are clearly readable) to create the contours of the face, Travis directs our attention to the content of these ground-breaking works.  Bravo!

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