Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Spark

One of my favorite musicians has a radio show! Check it out: The Spark with Tift Merritt!

"How do you light a spark?
How do you make something true?
How does art happen?

It is a funny thing to fall in love with a work of art and wonder about the person behind it.

Isn't it funny how many interesting people we all cross paths with, and wouldn't it be great, rather than just making small talk, if you could simply cut to the chase and ask for the good stuff. Well, that's what The Spark is to me. It's my chance to meet the real people behind great works of art and ask them how they've lived and worked, how they've stayed true to themselves and how they've become great artists." -Tift

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Finding Voice

In a yahoo group that I am involved in an excerpt from an interview was shared with Rice Freeman-Zachary In which she was asked to give advice to artists starting out. Her comments were great and were about the whole ball of wax of work and practice to become and artist. I really enjoyed her statements and thought I'd add my own.
The young people I teach at CFCC often say to me things like: "I don't think art should be graded. Or why are you making us do it THAT/YOUR way? Or why should it be better or perfect? there shouldn't be any 'perfect' in art, it should just be fun right?" Wrong.... Personally, most of them are just trying to get out of work or get away with sloppy, lazy projects. I constantly have to explain to them that they are in SCHOOL, and there have to be criteria of judging whether or not they did the work and "got" the concepts to earn the credit. And I have to constantly stress "craftsmanship". I have to over and over again explain that you don't learn a process jut watching me do it, or just doing it once. Musicians don't play a scale once and go, "Great, that's done. I'm all ready for Carnegie Hall now!" Why should we? A singer finds their voice through work so should an artist. But it is so hard to get across the concepts of artistic "work" to a button pushing,
vending machine society. There are reasons we use the word "art" and "body of work" in the same sentence (and have for hundreds of years). We are elevating a craft to another level when we use the word "art" or "aesthetic". We are working to perfect, or better yet achieve something. As Rice says you have to decide what that is. Working at your love can, and usually is, fun. When we work we discover. Accidents happen just as in a lab and the scientist discovers an new formula through trial and error. Our studios or dining room tables should be viewed as the crucibles and labs where we "work" out our visual play and hopefully arrive at "Art" however we define it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Messages from the Gods

I have a seed of an idea.....
It began a few weeks ago. My father was involved with a group of fishermen who took some veterans fishing through the Wounded Warrior Program. Then my student Jim had his accident. I discussed with his family the possibilities for metalworking, being his new passion, giving him goals through the physical therapy and regaining the use of his hands. It started my thinking about how many people in the last year have not only caught the bug of metalsmithing through my classes, but have also been transformed by its power both mentally and spiritually.
Art has long been seen to be therapeutic. But in our area there is a lack of organization around this field. There are very few schools where you can receive training over here on the east coast. There is only one organization here in Wilmington that even comes close to using art therapy (forgive me if I am ignorant of others) and I know one individual who's come to use it in her counseling of the grieving.

As I drove home from visiting Jim in the hospital I was visited by the gods.
I had an epiphany. The sad thing about it is I am only one person with limited recources in order to make my cockamamy idea happen. But I figure if I invest time and energy in it, little by little, it may grow. Step one is to give it life.
Here it is...this is a little scary....
The Hephaestus Foundation "Forging new lives through craftsmanship."
There I said it.
Some things just want to be born. But birth is never an easy process.

Who is Hephaestus?
He is the Greek god of the forge and the patron of artists and craftsmen. He was born deformed and was thrown out of heaven by his mother Hera and fell to earth for nine days. He was rescued by two sea nymphs one of them a Nereid, Thetis... (you may already now my fascination with these ladies). Some tales tell they nursed and healed him in a cave for nine years (Nine being a significant number in ancient tales and numerology- its 2009 BTW). Hephaestus transmutes his pain and suffered and plight into creation. He becomes the one they all go to for beautiful, magical creations, Hermes helmet and winged shoes, Achilles armor, Pandora's box. In fact he is asked by Zeus to make Pandora herself out of clay.
Hephaestus forges beauty out of adversity, creation out of smoke, fire and sadness. In the words of Martha Graham, "Fire is the making of gold, adversity the making of men."

What will this someday foundation do?
Offer outreach programs for victims of war, violence and poverty that involve metalsmithing, blacksmithing, jewelry making workshops as well as other fine crafts like bookmaking, art journalling, mixed media, sculpture and clay.
We will spearhead the building of community metals studios, forges, and art workshops.
We'll orchestrate workshops for Wounded Warriors, victims of domestic violence, the grieving, the clinically depressed, caregivers of the elderly and special needs children(for they need rejuvenation!) and anyone else in need of the transmutative properties of creation. We'll offer scholarships for those people and their children to get training as metalsmiths, blacksmiths, potters, sculptors, or art therapists.

This is from Hephaestus-The Lame Creative Hero an article by Yael Haft

"It transpires that when we accept ourselves both outwardly and inwardly as we are, because this is our personal universe, and are ready to encounter whatever befalls us with an inner courage and an authentic relationship towards ourselves and others, as well as learn to better our lives by utilizing whatever lies within us with inner respect - there is a possibility for development and transformation. Hephaestus, as an archetypal figure, can serve us as a model and a guide to relate differently to the inferior, different, injured, lame and rejected side that so many of us carry within us to a varying degree. Hephaestus knew to contain the emptiness, the lack and turn it into fullness. He was not a victim of the fire, not even of the fire burning within as anger, hate and blame, but knew how to transform and use this energy of fire as the melting and welding pot of his character and personality, as well as using it to build, create and utilize sustaining forces....Homer was right in saying that Hephaestus taught man to work. To work on himself and for his life."

Now I have to figure out how to make it so...
Especially when I have so many other irons in the fire!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Second Chances

Saturday night on the 2nd was when it happened. Jim Carr got a second chance.
When you teach, and when you teach young people at a small community college, it can be draining. If you're lucky you get a student like Jim Carr. I have a few every semester that stand out. They are the students who are there early. They stay late, they love what they do and it shows. These are the students I teach for. These people are worth the low pay, the extra time, the silly paperwork and paralyzing bureaucratic spider web. Jim made Metals class interesting for me too. As the instructor you perform the same demos over and over. Things can become rote, but not when you walk in and there's a three foot long plank of koa one day and Jim's carving a piece of it to make his belt buckle project mixed media. Or you walk in and Jim's splitting a 50mm shell casing and transforming it into a bracelet. Oh, there were others this semester who've helped make teaching meaningful for me, but I mention Jim because the Universe intervened.
I have pestered Jim to pursue a career that involves his talent in some way. It appears others have as well. It's that evident. Jim shrugs, grins his distinctive grin and mutters some non challant response. May 2nd may have changed all that. It's too soon to tell. Jim was hit by a car on a busy road late at night as a pedestrian. Jim would not have seen May 3rd if not for miracles. I went yesterday to the ICU to visit him. He's off a ventilator, patched together and awake. It was such a pleasure to meet his family and see their joy over his small box of metals projects. I barely know Jim. He's a quiet reserved young man in my class, yet no matter how he keeps to himself, his personality and his mind seep out of small cracks in the veneer and shine through his artwork. They are a special breed of folk his family. I should have known.
As I drive home, I muse at how we humans touch each other in so many subtle ways. Like trees in a forest, the tips of our branches lightly touch. Our leaves mingle sometimes only for an instant, only when the breeze blows. Then other times winds howl and the branches become entangled or even more still, we affect one another so that our lives become entangled and our trunks intertwine. Those are the trees that speak out as the breeze sways them. So my students subtly change me in ways I can't readily see. Jim especially this semester. I pray for his full recovery. It will be rewarding to see a hammer in his hand again soon. And I thank God for my own hands and health. I will never forget Jim's father's hand on his son's arm, his fingers seeking between the tubes and tape his son's skin. It is fleeting this journey through the veil. Thank heaven Jim gets his second chance.

Jim and a lighter he made out of a shell casing in my class. He took apart a zippo to replicate the parts in brass.