Wednesday, November 16, 2011
It's tried and true, this classic collaborative grid. It essentially works every time. I took a copy of Audrey Flack's "Queen" (Flack and piece pictured), cut it into small squares, and gave one of the squares to each student. Their job was to recreate the small square's contents onto a larger white square. Once all squares were completed, it the class as group had to piece it together. It's always fascinating to see who becomes the leaders in this part of the process. As it comes together, there is an aha moment when the student discovers their seemingly "lame" square is vital to the whole, and that the imperfections actually enhance the whole and make it much more interesting to view. The second grid is simply a second section of the same class. It's fun to compare and contrast the two.
I have been following the accomplished artist, Faith Ringgold, my entire artistic career. She was an art teacher in Harlem, created story quilts that are in museum collections around the world and commissioned by people such as Oprah and the Cosbys, won the Caldecott award for her book Tar Beach based on the same story quilt. She's taught, traveled, lectured, written an autobiography, and is currently making work to fund Obama's re-election campaign.
I was honored to participate in an art educator workshop with Faith at the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, Missouri. For three hours, we created our section of a quilt. The pattern consisted of triangles that read "Teach Today Touch Tomorrow". As we worked feverishly, we took turns getting our photos taken and books signed by Faith. I also had a few minutes to speak with her privately, asking her questions about balance and longevity in the life of an artist. She was fiery and passionate in her encouragement and advice to me. I had been thirsting for this, from anyone and anywhere. Unbelievable that it came from my art heroine!
At the end of the workshop, we got to watch Faith lay out our pieces. Magical watching her; you could see her wheels turning and the creative juices bubbling out of every pore. Then most of us left while six or seven who had sewing skills stayed and constructed the quilt. So by the time I returned for the evening lecture, the quilt was on the wall. Brilliant. The lecture itself was informative, inspirational, humorous, touching, and full of stories, just like Faith's life and art.
Seeing is believing or so the saying goes, but it may be the other way around. In order to see you must believe, because your horizon fits around your view of who you are. So don’t be afraid to believe you can do great things— or at least more than you think you can— and mountains will push back, lakes deepen with reflections of trees aflame with gold, and snow drifting against brilliant blue skies till you can’t tell which is simple reflection, because everything you see sharpens into brilliant hues of light and shadow. Don’t let fears frame your world too small; the widest horizon can be revealed, in even the smallest detail, if you only have the courage to see with your own eyes. anonymous
The Joplin Community Mural, headed by lead artist David Loewenstein. This was a deep and wide community-based art project, uncannily timed with the healing and rebuilding of our community. My roles included grant-writing, coordinating participation of kids through Spiva, YMCA, and Boys and Girls Club, member of the design team, and suggesting the apprentice for the project.