Take me to Ibiza! Feeling inspired by the beach, the colors, the bohemian, and the easy way of life on this island. Every summer becomes “Tropical Island Summer” for me. I am fortunate enough to live in San Diego where I can go to the beach any time I want. I must confess that sometimes when I’m on the beach I pretend I'm in Ibiza. At least until I can go there for real. I have this amazing coffee table book called Ibiza Bohemia that I flip through almost daily, fantasizing about island life and tapping into that island state of mind whenever I want. It feels delicious. I love the description of the book, “It is a place to reinvent oneself, to walk the fine line between civilization and wilderness, and to discover bliss.” What doesn’t sound good about that?Finding ways to cultivate the Island Summer State today, feeling IBIZA!
When I was asked to participate in the annual Friducha art show and La Bodega Gallery, I was very excited by the concept of making a piece centered around Frida Kahlo. I’ve had a fascination with Frida Kahlo from a very young age. I remember renting Frida, the biopic starring Salma Hayek, at Hollywood Video when I was around 12-13. I had learned about Frida Kahlo in school, albeit they taught a very sanitized version of her life. Kahlo is credited as being one of the first female Surrealist artists and is definitely one of, if not the most famous, and instantly recognizable Mexican artists. She paints self portraits saying, “I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.” Her work often deals with themes of heritage, pain, suffering, sex, death, femininity and the woman’s role in society, as well as her tumultuous marriage to Diego Rivera. Kahlo was a staunch Communist and much of her work comments on this ideology. Kahlo’s work is rooted in symbolism and she creates a complex system of meanings in her work through her use of repetitive imagery. Even her iconic unibrow becomes a symbol in her work. Kahlo’s work is complex, reflecting her complex life. She was a controversial figure in life and has become overly sanitized in death.
I began my piece for the show by doing research on Frida Kahlo, reading several biographies about her life and art. I tried to find biographies that would discuss her ideology, political activism, artist’s mind, health struggles, and her relationships with both men and women. While Kahlo is today portrayed as a storybook princess who’s paintings contain cute animals and flower crowns, there is such a true depth to her work and to her life that I feel gets left out of the accepted narrative. The art is powerful, disturbing, deep, and haunting. The work seems fresh even after decades. While Kahlo painted her image and her inner world, she tapped into something universal, a dark underbelly of emotions, torments, and anxieties all people face. However, a line becomes muddied when we seek to identify with Frida Kahlo herself rather than her artwork. It is interesting that many refer to her as Frida, like a close friend. Could you imagine referring to Van Gogh as Vincent? I also wanted to explore the ways in which Frida’s image has been commodified to sell products. There are thousands of cheaply made t-shirts and totes that bear her likeness. How would Kahlo react to this? How would the Communist react to the Capitalist coopting of her image? I thought these were good places to start for my piece for the show.
A theme permeating through my work is commodification and consumption. In Frida: Tautology, I wanted to comment on the fact that Kahlo exists now as nothing more than a symbol of herself, a symbol that is a simultaneously a victim of abuse and one who fights back, a signifier of minority, a signifier of women’s liberation. Mind you, it is not her art that is the symbol for these things, but rather her likeness, and at times a sort of photoshopped version of that likeness to boot.
I brainstormed about what I would want to represent in the work. I thought about appropriating symbols from Kahlo’s work to create some sort of mandala or image, but I settled on creating a portrait instead. This would stay in the vein of her work. I created her image using collage, pieces cut from the ads in magazines. All of the color in the piece comes from ads used to sell products aimed at allowing the purchaser to send a certain message. Much the same way those that purchase items with the likeness of Frida Kahlo want to send a message about the way they embody her ideals or spirit.
I was inspired by Kahlo’s painting Diego y Yo for this work. I liked the way that this was a different depiction of her likeness, more wild and emotional than the images of her with flowers in her hair and lipstick on, staring down triumphant. This painting is more raw as her hair seems to enclose on her neck and strangle her and the weight of her omnipotent husband weighing heavily on her brow. Tears are springing from her eyes as she looks directly at the viewer. We can feel her pain and the immense weight she carries in connection to her relationship with Rivera, a fellow artist and intellectual but also an abuser and oppressor. This is the mood I sought to evoke in my piece as I now questioned the burden of Kahlo’s status as a diety-like icon divorced of human suffering or emotion. Also as an icon whose likeness has been stripped down to its’ lowest common denominators.
I grappled with what to represent on the forehead. I thought about putting dollar bills and money there. Maybe an advertisement. Maybe an image of Jeff Bezos. However, I settled on a fragmentation of facial features that represents a fragmenting sense of identity as consumerism under Neo-Liberalism pulls us in ever contradictory directions. The gaping mouth representing simultaneously the greedy unsatiety of the masses seeking to consume and a calling out to a higher ideal and purpose. I like to think of this splintering in the way that our identity is increasingly intertwined with what we consume. The person buying this Frida Kahlo t-shirt most likely wants to send a message of affinity with Kahlo as a feminist icon but fails to see the irony of such a shirt existing at all. In my piece I wanted to call into questions our motives for catapulting an artist like Kahlo into icon status while we lose sight of the complexities of her life, ideology, and artwork. I will continue to explore these themes in my work as I work to educate myself about the balance of expression, consumption, and cognitive dissonance in our Neo-Liberal world.
I chose the title Frida: Tautology to engage the viewer from the onset. A tautology refers to the saying of the same thing twice in different words, generally considered to be a fault of style. As we restate Kahlo’s legacy, we reiterate her importance as an icon while undermining her importance as an artist and thinker. The tautology, in this case, is an infinite restatement of her likeness, on any imaginable consumable, without attribution to her complex inner ideology and network of symbols that are integral to her work.
Thank you for reading some of my thoughts! Let me know if you have questions about what I’ve said here. I do not like to take staunch positions on the facets of these arguments but rather hold a light to the facets themselves. Examination and questioning are always key themes of my work. - Stardust Coyote
After the exciting weekend I had at the Friducha art show at La Bodega Gallery, I wanted to share a few of my favorite pieces by Frida Kahlo.
She has been called a Surrealist and I would agree with that label. There is a dream-like quality to her work and a level of detail that creates an intense fabric of symbolism for the viewer to dissect and engage with. Although her likeness has been highly commodified, I believe we must always return to her work, especially the works that are not so easy to look at. Her life was complex as is her work. She is truly one of the most successful female artists and must be remembered first and foremost for her contribution to art.
What do you think of her work? How would you categorize it? How do you identify with the symbolism she presents? I’d love to know!
As an artist, failure is something you need to learn to be comfortable with. The creative process is full of ebbs and flows and breakthroughs and setbacks. "Failure" is a pretty scary word to most people. It evokes feelings of disappointment, embarrassment, and time wasted. These feelings are valid, and failures can cause huge setbacks, especially if money was invested in the project that failed. We live in times where there seems to be no in-between for the discussion of failures. On one hand, there is the overly curated world of Instagram influencers who never make a wrong stroke in a painting and have sketchbooks full of fully realized, colorful drawings that could be put right into a best-selling comic book. Then there are those out there that see failing at something akin to never being successful. They may attempt to start a new method of creation but give up when the first outcomes are not deemed worthy of praise or publication. These people usually abandon any kind of creative activity because the reality of failure is outside of their comfort zone.
Many people believe that artists have an innate talent to create beautiful work. This is true in some cases, but it is definitely the exception and not the rule. It is easy to compare ourselves to others especially now. But what I try to preach in these times is embodied by the quote, “the master has failed more than the novice has even attempted”. And to add, “we don’t see the thousands of failures and toils behind the stroke of the master’s hand”. People that become the masters are those that can persevere through failures, mistakes, and look at their work with a critical eye. They stay humble in the face of criticism and seek to learn more. The only comparison the master is guilty of is comparison to his last work. David Bayles says in Art and Fear, “You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn't very good, and gradually weeding out the parts that aren't good, the parts that aren't yours. It's called feedback, and it's the most direct route to learning about your own vision. It's also called doing your work. After all, someone has to do your work, and you're the closest person around.”
So how can we help to cultivate this mindset in students? Especially in school settings where they are constantly graded, compared to one another, shoe-horned into tight criteria and rubrics, and encouraged to compete with one another. There isn’t a lot of room for genuine growth. Those that can do the thing right away are the ones rewarded while those that struggle with mistakes are punished. It makes for a self-fulfilling prophecy where students who were initially interested but needed to fail more times than others eventually become disinterested in the task at hand, effectively failing altogether. I have discovered a few ideas that I feel cultivate an environment where failure is a necessary part of the creative process and even celebrated.
Be an example of failure.
This sounds counterintuitive and is something that is difficult to understand at first. I believe every art teacher should be an example of failure. I think that art teachers should make mistakes during direct instruction drawings and narrate how they correct them. At the Art of Education Winter 2019 Conference, Nick Gehl discussed that art teachers should help students to view artmaking not as a linear process but as a series of little mistakes that are corrected in succession. This was like an epiphany to me. What if I show my students a positive example of failure and narrate my own failures during my direct instruction? First of all, this took tremendous pressure off of me to make “perfect” direct instruction drawings and it gave students confidence to make mistakes. Each mistake is correctable. It also took the pressure off students to get their marks right the first time. They say me changing marks several times and this allowed them to do so.
Ask students about their failures.
Cultivate a conversation around failures in the classroom. Students are used to being graded or punished for their mistakes in school. Art teachers have a unique opportunity to reframe students’ beliefs about mistakes. Every mistake should be honored as an attempt to try something new. Teachers can discuss mistakes in their own work that led to new opportunities for their artwork. Teachers can engage students in discussion about their mistakes. This is especially helpful in showing that everyone has made a mistake at some point in their artistic journey, even proficient artists. Students can also write reflections about their mistakes and how they addressed them in their artmaking process. This helps them be metacognitive about their artmaking process, drawing attention to how students overcome obstacles in their work. This positive reinforcement will result in students taking more creative risks in their work.
Give broader opportunities for student success.
Nick Gehl discussed this idea in his Art of Education Winter 2019 Conference presentation. He said creating a lot of criteria for an art assignments gives students a smaller range of ways to succeed. If they have to consider value, composition, lighting, mark making, and scale, they need to get many things correct in order to receive a top grade on an assignment. What if we distilled assignments down to their essence, what do we open up for students? Multiple pathways for success, more creative choice on assignments, and more engagement as they see their success recognized. It is difficult to distill art projects down to the one or two skills that students really should be mastering. Projects often combine multiple skills and educators must recognize that students are at various levels of development within an art classroom. Giving students fewer criteria gives students broader opportunities for success.
Recognize the evolution of an artist.
There is a misconception about artists and their process. Many people believe that artists are all naturally talented and creating work comes easy and they can churn out masterpiece after masterpiece. In reality, artists toil over their work, almost obsessively, and create much, much more work than they show. Picasso created over 100 versions of his painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Hilma af Klint filled hundreds of sketchbooks with compositions that never became fully realized paintings. I myself have grown from a child artist and gained more skill in my artmaking as I practiced. Sharing this evolution with students is a key component of reframing their feelings about failure. I like to show students work that I’ve done years ago and show my evolution to my current work, especially with drawing. Teachers can also highlight this by keeping a log or GoogleDrive of student work to track their improvement over a year in the art room. I love the idea of having end-of-year conferences with students and highlighting the ways their skills have grown. This simple conference has the potential to change their feelings about failure for years to come.
As an artist, I am constantly confronting my own feelings about failure. Social media has made a big impact on the way I view my art and artmaking process. It is easy to compare myself to others and to see their successes with engagement as my failure. But I have learned to step away from that feeling and reframe it in another way. I would never want my fear of not making a perfect piece of art stop me from creating anything at all. There is also a stigma surrounding the idea of monetary value of art. I have sometimes felt like a failure for not selling any work at shows when artists around me are selling like hot cakes. Again, it helps to remind myself that monetary success is a cherry on top of my art and I feel blessed that my art doesn’t need to be my source of income. That really takes the pressure off myself to create things that other people like and create what resonates with me. I still struggle with these feelings of failure at times. It’s an ongoing process in my artistic practice and I have a long way to go. However, I believe having an open discussion about our feelings of failure and shortcomings can make room for a new conversation to be had and to reframe these negative feelings into something that is not only positive but pushes my art to the next level.
How do you deal with failure either in your own art practice or in your art classroom? Is it a topic you discuss or confront? I would love to hear your ideas for accepting this necessary evil in our practices. - Sierra
Enjoy this video of the things I got at this year’s LA Art Book Fair. It is one of my favorite events of the year and I am so glad I was able to go and get some great summer reading!
Ends and Means
A Justification for Art Education
It’s a common scenario as an art educator: you tell someone about your chosen profession and they proclaim enthusiastically to be a supporter of teaching art in primary school. Then it comes… “Art classes are so necessary because student’s need a break from using their brain!” or “they need a class where they can just relax” or even worse, “student’s who take art or music are shown to perform better in math and science!”. While these people always have the best of intentions and truly do support art education (which is more than half the battle), their reasoning is off base.
I would like to justify the importance of art education precisely because it is a rich and rigorous curriculum (or should be) and because there are vast opportunities to develop literacy, critical thinking, social and emotional intelligence, and visual acumen, not to mention various artistic techniques that require bodily coordination, advanced planning, and theory of mind. A good art classroom is not one in which students go to play with formulaic “elements of art and principles of design” or to nebulously “express themselves”. In a good art classroom, students are challenged, deeply challenged, on an intellectual, emotional, and even spiritual level.
First, art has a complex vocabulary all it's’ own. There are technical vocabulary words that apply to mediums and processes of making art. Think: linocut, chiaroscuro, impasto, tenebrism, conte, or encaustic. Then there are the baneful elements of art and principles of design, which aren’t inherently bad on their own, but seem to be the alpha and omega of primary art education. There is some value in them, due to their abstract nature, and can be a good basis for getting students to start noticing things about art. What does “rhythm” look like in the sense of a work of visual art? How is it similar and different to rhythm in music? Extending beyond E&P there are other words to discuss the formal qualities of a work, there are also words to discuss symbolism and metaphor within art. There is the language of art critique, whether formal or informal, that students need to master in order to fully discuss their intentions and potential for art making and art analysis. Any art teacher that is not engaging in academic literacy beyond E&P is not really doing their job to fully immerse students in a subject that requires an advanced command of language. Artspeak, like any other language, makes the non-speaker feel confused, excluded, and disinterested. There is ample opportunity to turn students off to art forever if they are not given the tools with which to decode artspeak. Let’s set the bar high for the capabilities of our students to learn, develop, and employ artistic language. Not to mention, focusing on literacy in the art classroom marries well with English Language Development (ELD) because of the inherent use of visual representation to illustrate vocabulary words and concepts.
However, teachers cannot rely solely on the inherent visual nature of art to teach students how to speak the language of art. Teachers must incorporate deliberate language instruction into their curriculum to ensure that students are understanding the words and putting them to authentic use whether in description, analysis, or critique. Under Common Core State Standards, all teachers must focus on disciplinary literacy during instruction. Also, in California, all teachers are required to integrate English Language Development into their daily instruction. Art teachers are no exception and I call on educators to reframe their ideas about what language can look like in the art classroom.
So what does language development look like in the art classroom? Below is a list of ideas that I have come up with to help integrate language development and literacy into the arts classroom:
Begin by getting to know your students through speaking, listening, and writing. The art classroom needs to foster a sense of community so that students feel comfortable sharing their ideas about art. It is too intimidating to begin with artistic language development, especially for ELL students. Start with low-affective-filter assignments such as creating “get to know me” boards, goal creating assignments, and ice breaker games that allow students to get to know one another and practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing with Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS).
Create a student forum (GoogleClassroom is a great tool for this) where students can share things they are interested about in the art world and comment on each other’s posts. Students are used to using technology to communicate. It is a great tool to help scaffold students in language development as they acquire more precise vocabulary to discuss art. This also helps students move from BICS to Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALPs).
Incorporate reading, writing, speaking, and listening in some way into every lesson. It is important to have some combination of the four modalities of language present in each lesson. For example, have students turn and talk to each other during a direct instruction to discuss next steps, have students write an exit ticket listing the steps of the Feldman Method of critique. The more students have practice with using the vocabulary and academic language, the more they will begin to spontaneously use the language in and out of the classroom.
Give students opportunities to use formal, academic language. I like to give students the opportunity to use formal language at least once throughout a unit. Usually this takes the form of a formal artist’s statement where students incorporate academic language with artistic language to write a statement about their work and process. Students can also participate in Close Reading assignments that ask them to answer a question in formal language while gathering evidence from print and other media to support their answer. It is important to show students that art extends beyond art creation and that there are many different issues that effect the art world. Students can investigate an issue and then write formal arguments and participate in a debate. This is a great way to incorporate all four language modalities and introduce students who are reluctant to make art to the ways art is relevant in everyone’s lives.
Create scaffolds and differentiation for students with special needs. Art classrooms will always accommodate a wide variety of students, language learners, students with IEPs, struggling readers, and students with gaps in their knowledge. It is important to take on the responsibility of developing students’ academic language as well as artistic proficiency. I like to create differentiated worksheets when we are using any type of academic language. The worksheets could include academic sentence frames, vocabulary word banks, or prompting questions to help get the student started. These differentiations are leveled so that ideally, students will progress and need fewer and fewer scaffolds to perform the assignments. With a tool like GoogleClassroom, it is easy to ensure that each student gets the curriculum at the level they are at.
Provide students with a choice in how they use their academic language. All students have different strengths that they can bring to the art classroom. Allowing students choice in how they express themselves with language will help them to feel more confident in using not only art vocabulary but the academic language as well. Students may write an artist statement on the computer instead of on paper. Students may record themselves giving their art analysis instead of giving it to the whole class. There are many ways to ensure students have choice while maintaining the academic rigor of each assignment.
I hope you have found this list of ideas helpful. If you are a teacher, what ways do you create opportunities for academic language development in your art classroom? As a student, what practices helped you learn to use academic language the best? It is up to all of us to ensure students are prepared to use higher-order language once they leave high school. Art teachers can provide students with a rich opportunity for language development with a little advanced planning and flexibility. I believe that academically rigorous art classes will ensure the legitimacy of art education in the future. Let us show people (even the well-intended) that the curriculum in an art classroom uses your whole brain by developing academic language, visual literacy, and artistic technique!
If you would like to know how to use GoogleClassroom as a language integration tool, let me know! xx- Sierra
Andy Warhol and George Segal were two artists producing work in the 1960s and 1970s that had to do with popular culture and celebrity culture as well as the burgeoning materialistic and mass-produced society. Andy Warhol personified the Pop Art movement, blurring the lines between art, advertisement, and popular culture. His highly reproducible art pieces, made using screen prints, related to the way many products in the world had become mass produced. His thought process was that art could be just another product, a commodity. Warhol embraced and celebrated celebrity culture and lived his life as a celebrity artist as well. George Segal used his art to warn his viewers against the perils of overconsumption and materialism. His work consists mostly of lifelike plaster sculptures of people. The people are placed into scenes and the viewer occupies the space with them. The faces of the sculptures are often downcast or troubled, and their raw plaster surface makes them feel ghostlike. His statement is that materialism will not lead to happiness and that the cult of celebrity is a dangerous one. Both artists are making a big statement about how radically life changed during the 1950s and 1960s. Warhol work is about enjoying and idolizing the rise of TV culture, celebrities, and mass produced goods. Segal’s work, on the other hand, takes the viewer to the darker side of the new America that emerged at this time. We will see the artistic contrast of these ideas by looking at Warhol’s Mick Jagger, 1975 and George Segal’s Time Square at Night, 1970.
Andy Warhol began his long and illustrious career as an illustrator for books and magazines in the 1950s. He was one of the first fine artists to adopt the silkscreen technique, which he used to produce many of his later pieces. Silkscreening is a process in which an image is burned into a screen using photosensitive chemicals. Pigment is then pushed through the screen. using a squeegee, onto paper or fabric. The screen can be used hundreds of times to produce the same image. Warhol would become famous for his use of silkscreens in the 1960s and 70s. During the 1960s, Warhol began to paint iconic American objects and celebrities, such as dollar bills, Campbell’s soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley. The exhibit The American Supermarket in 1964, was a pivotal event in Warhol’s career. The American Supermarket was an exhibition that was set up to look just like a regular supermarket, except all of the products were art created by Pop Artists of the time. The event was a smashing success, introducing Pop Art to the general public as well as postulating the question about what art is. Warhol drew inspiration from American culture, celebrity, advertising. and mass production. For example, here are his views on Coca-Cola, “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest… All the Coke’s are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it” (Warhol, 1975).
During the 1970s Warhol’s work became more aggressive, sexually charged, and voyeuristic. His subject matter became grittier depicting drug users, orgies, drag queens, and violence. His studio, the infamous Factory, in downtown Manhattan became a hotbed of clandestine activity. Warhol became a fixture on the nightlife scene, partying at Studio 54 with celebrities and It-Girls of the day. By this time Warhol had a lot of rich and famous fans who became patrons of his art. You weren’t a somebody, celebrity wise, in the 1970s unless you had a Warhol do a portrait of you. “Warhol used photographic silkscreen to create his celebrity portraits. This method of printing creates a very precise and defined image and allows the artist to mass-produce a large number of prints with relative ease. Warhol adopted the methods of mass production to make images of movie stars [and musicians] that were themselves mass-produced. Elvis Presley existed not only as a flesh-and-blood person but also as millions of pictures on album covers and movie screens, in newspapers and magazines. He was infinitely reproducible. Similarly, through use of the silkscreen printing process, Warhol could produce as many Elvis paintings as he pleased” (Warhol Museum). Mick Jagger was one such celebrity to get his portrait screened by Warhol, his portrait exemplifying the decadence of 70s era Warhol.
“Warhol had met Jagger in 1963 when the band the Rolling Stones were not well known in the United States. Warhol had designed the band’s provocative album cover Sticky Fingers with its focus on a man’s crotch and a zipper that opened. The album and the design proved to be a huge success and Warhol, ever keen to make money, lamented that he had not been paid enough given the millions of copies that sold. No doubt with an eye for financial success, Warhol turned to the subject of Mick Jagger, now a celebrity friend and part of the New York club scene” (NGA). Jagger’s portrait measures 43” by 28” and is zoomed in on his face and signature pouty lips. Jagger’s image is rendered in a posterized black and white style, with little detail across his face or hair. Warhol has used different screens to add pink and brown patches of color to Jagger’s face and the background respectively. His lips are outlined with a cherry red shape and his eyes are emphasized by green and purple rectangles. Jagger stands shirtless for his portrait, gazing straight out at the viewer, lips parted, eyes casting a come-hither gaze. Jagger was a huge sex symbol at this time and the portrait is charged with his sexual energy. The red color used to emphasize Jagger’s lips also reminds the viewer of female genitalia and Jagger’s long hair and boyish body also add to the sexual ambiguity of the piece. The green rectangles over the eyes seem like eyeshadow, and along with the red “lipstick” gives Jagger a drag-queen-like appearance, blurring gender lines even further. The flat, photocopied quality that the painting has, seems seedy, like a back-of-the-newspaper call-girl ad. The squiggly back lines that Warhol has used to outline Jagger, further add to the sexual energy emanating out of him. Jagger was almost at a demi-god level of fame at this point of the 1970s and Warhol’s portrait really captures the idolizing mood toward him at the time. Jagger is put before the viewer as an image to worship, to envy, to emulate.
The technique to produce the Jagger series of portraits, silkscreening, is a deliberate choice on the part of Warhol. Jagger was one of the most mass-produced celebrities of the 1970s. The Rolling Stones sold thousands of records, dated beautiful models and were photographed with them at glamorous locales frequently. In the 1970s, when record sales were actually profitable for bands, the Rolling Stones appeared in countless ads, advertising their new albums or tours. These ads, along with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sexual energy, propelled millions of young fans to buy their albums and concert tickets. The line between artist and product was being blurred further and further. Although the Rolling Stones were pulling in gobs of cash from their record sales, they were still in huge amounts of debt to their record company, further pushing them over the edge from artists to commodity. The music written by the band was passed through the record company filter, with record executives (who have no musical background) determining what would sell or not. Warhol brilliantly captures this battle of power in his portrait of Jagger. Jagger is the most unique and powerful frontman on the face of the planet during this time, and yet he is enslaved as a product to a giant corporation, reproduced thousands and thousands of times for profit. Warhol himself was not shy about producing as much work as possible to sell for a profit, inching ever further from fine art to assembly-line product.
George Segal began his artistic career as a painter but discovered his signature sculpting technique during his time teaching in 1961, being inspired by dry plaster bandages a student had brought to class. “Segal took them home and experimented with applying them directly to his body. With the help of his wife, Helen, Segal was able to make parts of a body cast and assemble them into a complete seated figure. Segal provided an environment for his body cast by adding a chair, a window frame and a table. Man Sitting at a Table marked the discovery of a new sculptural technique and a turning point in the artist’s career (Segal).” Although he was associated with Warhol and other artists of the Pop Art movement, “Segal's distinctive style separated his work from ‘Pop Art’ by staying closely related to personal experience and human values. He once said that because he was from the proletariat, he wanted to deal directly with the places around and familiar to himself, rather than with "elegant" topics (Segal)”.
George Segal was also in the same scene as Allen Kaprow, who “organized Happenings — partially improvised non-narrative dramatic performances… Kaprow was one of a number of artists exploring the integration of multi-sensory experience within an environment that often depended on random or improvisational techniques… In encompassing human figures, and on at least one occasion sound, and an environmental milieu, Segal’s sculpture has some affinity to approaches being explored by these artists” ( ). Times Square at Night, and most of Segal’s sculptural work, is left in its’ white, raw plaster form. “The whiteness separates their reality as expressive of the artist's intuition and feelings from that of the colored environment in which Segal places them, while their naturalism provides a bridge between the real world and the artist's personal vision” (Joslyn Art Museum). “Though he was associated with members of the burgeoning Pop art movement in the late 1950s, Segal’s sculptures, which were frequently outfitted with the bland commercial props of the Pop idiom, are distinguished from that characteristically ironic movement by a mute, ghostly anguish. His casting technique, in which the live model is wrapped in strips of plaster-soaked cheesecloth, imparts a rough texture and a minimum of surface detail to the figures, thus heightening the sense of anonymity and isolation”.
Times Square at Night consists of two sculptured of men walking through a night scene of Time Square, the backdrop illuminated with neon signs for pornographic films and food. The two figures are cast from live models using strips of plaster bandages. Although the sculptures are lifelike, their features are ambiguous, giving them an anonymous quality. Their expressions are blank and downcast, although they are walking through one of the most famous places in America. The advertisements for pornographic films do not leave the two men titillated, in fact, they seem lonely and isolated from one another and the scene around them. Times Square as seen as an epicenter of American culture and excess. It is a huge tourist attraction with every kind of diversion to offer. Segal is showing that these diversions and promises of anonymous sexual thrill do not fulfill the two men, it actually deadens them inside. The viewer gets the sense that the men exist apart from the scene they are inhabiting, walking through it but not experiencing it. The bright lights and constant sensory onslaught have made them apathetic.
Comparing Warhol’s Mick Jagger to Segal’s Times Square at Night, two very different attitudes toward sexuality are evident. Warhol shows how Mick Jagger’s sexuality gives him his power, making him rich and famous. Segal’s piece shows how sexual overload has deadened the men, the consumers of the product that celebrities like Jagger sell. Warhol’s piece is dependent on Jagger’s renown as a highly recognizable celebrity figure, the piece wouldn’t have the same impact if it was just a model. Segal’s shows the consumers at the other end of the spectrum, anonymous beings who can’t get no satisfaction. The promises of fun, love, and contentment that the ads and neon signs promise them are always just beyond their grasp. Segal’s men will never have the sexual power that Warhol’s Jagger possesses, which sends them out into Times Square, looking for something to fill the void. The pornographic film they see may make them feel like Jagger for an hour or two, but once the credits roll, they will be left with their void again.
The choice of medium is significant in both works. Warhol represents Jagger in a painting, which can only be gazed at by the viewer. The painting is almost like a religious icon, asking the viewer to worship Jagger as well as Warhol’s artistic prowess. The viewer feels impersonal towards the painting due to the disparity between them and Jagger or Warhol. Painting is always separate from the viewer because it exists in a two dimensional space. Segal’s sculpture work the viewer occupies the same space as the sculptures, effectively making the viewer part of the piece. The work is personal and asks the viewer to essentially walk in the same footsteps as the two men. In Warhol’s piece, the brightly colored paint emphasizing Jagger’s face and lips brings sex to the center as the product being sold. The viewer stands in front of the painting, simultaneously wanting to be Jagger himself and the object of Jagger’s sexual desires. Segal’s blank plaster figures shows that the pseudo sexual power the two men are after doesn’t exist, and is deliberately concocted by corporations and advertisers to sell products. Record companies and artists like Warhol have tapped into the public’s desire to possess power like Jagger and have commodified it. Segal’s ghostlike sculpture is a hand sliding back the curtain to show that the chase of these intangible commodities is ultimately unfulfilling and that those selling them only see human beings as anonymous consumers.
The post sexual revolution America of the 1970s was polarized between embracing the decadence of sex, materialism and mass-consumption and searching for the significance in any of it. Both artists made a dramatic statement about consumer culture and leave an indelible mark on one of the most tumultuous periods of American history. While Warhol embraced the sale of sex and star power, and used his paintings to make huge profits from both, Segal created lifelike anonymous plaster sculptures to warn against the very objects that Warhol deified with his silkscreened icons and superstars.
"Andy Warhol." National Gallery of Australia. National Gallery of Australia, 2016. Web. 18 May 2016.
"Icon Portraits." Warhol:. Andy Warhol Museum, n.d. Web. 18 May 2016.
"George Segal". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 18 May. 2016
"The Life and Art of George Segal | The George and Helen Segal Foundation | About | Biography." The Life and Art of George Segal | The George and Helen Segal Foundation | About | Biography. The George and Helen Segal Foundation, 2013. Web. 16 May 2016.
"Modern and Contemporary." Joslyn Art Museum. Joslyn Art Museum, n.d. Web. 19 May 2016.
Hi everyone! Happy 2019! I just wanted to check in and let you know that I am taking down my shop starting today and will be periodically updating the shop throughout 2019. I have some ideas cooking for some new pieces of art, prints, products, and educational aids. I hope you will be excited by what I have in store for you!
I have a few posts planned to talk about the hits of 2018 and what I have in store for 2019. I hope you are inspired and ready for what 2019 has in store.
A new weekly feature on my YouTube channel. Hope you enjoy this week’s discussion of The Moon card from my Dali deck.
What’s inspiring me right now…
This weekend we had a magical time in Barrio Logan, the fountain of endless good vibes. We went to the Mermaid Art Show at La Bodega Gallery which featured my art for the second year in a row. We saw real-life mermaids who had swam out of the dark depths of the ocean to spend the evening with us. A student from my class came to the art show, seeing my art and the art of countless others, a life and career first! My heart was bursting with good feelings and gratitude. We flitted around the neighborhood, delighted and slightly boozy, stopping into Beat Box Records to size up the wares.
Beat Box Records is expertly curated and it is difficult not to want to walk out with the whole store. They always have something juicy playing on the turntable, setting the mood for copious music consumption. We browsed the shelves. There, in front of me, something caught my eye. A strange record in a plain sleeve the center bearing the likeness of Wilbur, some pig. I was intrigued, I took it out of the sleeve to reveal the lush turquoise vinyl. In tiny writing on the sleeve I read, RARE! Prince Bootleg, Live Show. Could it be? In such an odd package, the Purple One appearing to me, as he had so many times before, in the buzzy light of the record shop. I asked the girl manning the counter, with the excellent eyeliner, if I could give a listen, just to confirm it indeed was what it claimed to be. I only needed 10 seconds of sound to be sure. $40 was quickly produced and off I went with my new record.
Prince has been a creative spirit guide of mine since I was 15. His enchantment, energy, but most of all, his commitment to production over commercial success inspired me. Prince has had so many, many more flops than hits and when you think of all the hits he’s had, that creative output is outright astronomical. I could go on but I am not in the proselytizing business today. My connection to Prince is mine alone.
Prince appears to me in many kinds of ways, on the radio, on a TV screen in a taqueria, in books, and of course, in record shops. The show on this record took place in 1989, the year of my birth, in Frankfurt Germany, the homeland of some of my ancestors, in the year the Berlin Wall was toppled. Could it be a more kismet find? I like to think of the people at this show coming together from East and West Germany to dance and sing to the music of Prince and feel his incredible energy. It must have been quite the show. Sheila E. and Rosie Gaines both took the stage with Prince that night. The setlist spins from one jam to another, Prince keeping the energy high the whole time and letting those gracing the stage with him have their moments to shine. I’ve already listened over and over, getting lost and time traveling to the beat.
On this Monday, November 12th, as Jupiter makes its first steps into Sagittarius, I am inspired by my guide Prince. I am inspired to produce, to give my light and energy, to put on a fucking show. To turn up the volume on the good things in life and to, maybe even above all, listen. Many feelings of gratitude flow forth. Thank you Beat Box Records, thank you friends, thank you stars, thank you Prince. O(+>
What is inspiring you this week?
I am interested to use this space more as a diary on topics that are resonating with me personally. I love that I can get a little deeper than I can on another platforms. It also feels more secretive, more special, like I can really be myself here. I love that it’s not so immediate, but rather something I need to sit down and give myself time to do. This space lends itself well to saying more. Paradoxically, I have been focusing in saying less lately. I’ve spent far less time on social media in the last month or so and it feels really good. I’m not really posting much, on either my art account or personal account, and I’m seeing how that feels. Although I’ve enjoyed interacting with people on social media, I know that I get more out of in-person interactions, especially when it comes to art. Since this is something that I’m craving, this is something I will be cultivating. Making space in my life for art IRL. This means creating and not posting. Creating and sharing with friends. Seeing art in person. Buying art as gifts this holiday season. There are so many ways I can interact with art (and really the world) in person. I don’t always have to be talking about what I’m doing, I can just do it and enjoy the doing. One thing I am noticing is that it’s a little uncomfortable to do things without posting about them. It feels like I am leaving something unfinished. I am exploring that uncomfortability, keeping it light.
Unironically, I pulled the SHIPS card from my Road to Nowhere Oracle Deck today. This card is about sailing to new lands, even if you are unsure of where you are going. Which feels very appropriate during this new moon time and also appropriate for the things I am exploring right now. It is quite radical, in a way, to try something for personal experimentation and significance. Right now, my whole way of being is under examination and up for a little experimentation. Why do I do what I do? What if I tried it another way?
Something so insidious about our social media addictions is that they are habits we formed without being conscious to them. It just all happened this way! With my experimentation, I aim to become aware, conscious, and perhaps to consider alternatives. Alternatives to seemingly constant productivity, consumption, entertainment.
Happy Scorpio New Moon - I embrace the mystery of this time by becoming more mysterious myself. Observant, listening and watching.
How is this Scorpio New Moon affecting you?
I finished my personal 31 day challenge of creating a soul collage card every day for the month of October. I was introduced to the concept of soul collage at a workshop hosted by Little Dame Shop way back in the summer. My instructor-turned-friend, Kara-Leigh, guided us through the process of intuitive collage with the goal of making our own tarot or oracle card deck. It might have been the best $50 I ever spent creatively! I fell in love with the process and felt like it was what I had been looking for for a while. After the class, I went and purchased my own supplies and began making a card every now and then. I knew I wanted to do “Collage-oween” again this year and felt like soul collaging my way through would be the perfect way to keep it light and easy. I really like working within the 5”x8” border, it was easy to compose and generate ideas. I ended up completing this challenge and found it to be very fun, freeing, and motivating. I liked doing something just for myself without feeling the need to post it on social media.
I’m sharing my gallery with you below. I hope you enjoy!
What projects are you working on? How do you feel about posting every day on social media? Is it motivating or demotivating for you? I would love to start a discussion surrounding the idea of social media, output, and art. Thanks for taking a look! - Sierra
Art is about looking.
“Artistic Perception” is the first VAPA standard, but why is so little consideration given to looking when it comes to art?
Where should one begin with teaching art? At the most basic element, line? With the history of art? With the Old Masters? What about with looking?
That’s right, I said looking. I invite you to consider my argument for giving more weight to looking in the art classroom. Perception is the essential quality in art, yet we spend so little time encouraging students to look at art, either their own or of others.
The VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) Standards for 9-12 Proficient in Visual Art mandate the following for Standard 1.0 - Artistic Perception:
Yet none of these covers the basic and essential component of perception, looking. One must first look before any processing, analyzing, or responding can be done. Looking it seems, has been overlooked. Along with creating art, looking at art is a learned skill. Students do not inherently know how to look at art, even though they are born being able to see. The opportunity for in-depth learning from art and creating lifelong art appreciators is being missed.
Seeing and looking are different things. Seeing is passive, looking is active. Seeing involves letting sensory input come through the eyes to the brain indiscriminately. Looking however, involves attention and higher-order cognitive processing. Looking is about engagement. It takes time. Looking means seeking out, we are “looking for the answer” not “seeing for the answer”. Looking implies that there is something to be found.
There is a theory that attention spans have shrunk in our modern times where information is not only instantly accessible from infinite options but packaged for quick consumption. Some scientific research has discovered that the average attention span of people today is eight seconds, which is shorter than that of a goldfish. It is true that students have a harder time focusing on static imagery for more than a few seconds. Think of how quickly you might scroll through an Instagram feed. It would be interesting to time your engagement with each image. It is less than 5 seconds on average. To successfully look at a piece of art, there really is no time limit, however at least ten minutes of mindful engagement is a good minimum to start with. Ten minutes?! you might be thinking. How will we get students to engage with a piece of art for even one minute, let alone ten?! Never fear! I have a few ideas on how to accomplish this.
Emphasize the importance of looking.
First of all, emphasize the importance of perception and its’ integral function in art. Artists have perceived something and manifested it into a piece of art. You as the audience are participating in what I like to call the “reciprocity of perception”. The audience looking at the art is just as important to the piece as its’ creation. In fact, I like to theorize that in looking at art and mindfully engaging with it, the audience is recreating the art anew, over and over again. From the first day in your art classroom, you should emphasize the skill of looking and how the audience’s role is equal to that of the artist’s.
Ten minutes is the goal, but could you imagine starting there on the first day of class with ten minutes of silent looking? Students would be bored out of their skulls! Begin with perhaps one minute of looking. Ask students to pay attention to how this feels. Did they feel fidgety? Was it hard to stay engaged with the piece? Were they uncomfortable? It’s great to discuss these things. Then try two minutes and see how this feels. Ask students to be aware of how they feel and what they are thinking and to share these thoughts in a group discussion. Again, looking is a learned skill so it must be practiced. Emphasize the practice element and the experimental element with your students. Show them that even something as simple as looking is actually quite difficult.
Sitting at a desk looking at a piece of art on the projection screen feels like “school”. It also feels like something you have to do which is not conducive to looking and art appreciation. Are you confined to a desk at a museum? Get students out of their seats to look at a piece. Encourage them to get close, far away, look at only the left side, then the right. Sit down, stand up, stand on a chair. Allowing for physical movement lets the brain become more engaged. The body is free and therefore, attention can be relegated to the piece of art. This will help students stay engaged over longer periods of looking.
Guide them through.
Again, students to not know how to look at art inherently. They will also not know what they are supposed to be looking for in pieces of art. Although you may hammer away at the vocabulary of the elements and principles of art, seeing these abstract qualities in different works can be challenging for the beginning art student. Ask some leading questions to get them started. What color is dominant here? What is the subject? How many trees do you count? Start easy. Then call their attention to areas of interest. “What do you see happening with the brushstrokes here?” “Are there more warm colors or cool colors?”. Show how looking takes thought and effort and support them as they learn this new skill.
Looking is not about judgement.
It might be hard for your students to not jump directly into judging the work of art, since affirmative judgement is almost inherent in our society (think social media “likes”). Ask them to consider only what they see in front of them without judgment. Starting out, ask students to talk about only what they can see in the actual work of art. As they get more practice, they might want to analyze the piece for symbols, themes, and meaning. Judgement is the final step in critique, although looking does not involve critique. Proficiency in looking will however, result in better critiques in the future as students hone their perceptive skills.
I hope you have found this article helpful. I am quite passionate about reframing art education to move away from being product-focused to being process-focused. Looking does not produce a product but gives students valuable experience with art engagement, making them more likely to continue to look at art once they leave the classroom. We call this practice “slowing the looking down”. Please let me know if you try any of these techniques with your students!
I'm working more on my YouTube channel, so I thought I would post the videos here for anyone to watch who also reads my blog.
I love to keep notebooks and have 11 different ones that I keep up with quite regularly. Some are for special life events (like my wedding notebook) and other's (like my journal and planner) are ones that I've had some form of since I was a kid. I write in a couple of these notebooks at least once a day and others I'd like to use more. Some are for tracking habits like my "Daily Wins" notebook, budgeting notebook, and life tracker. Others I use for ideas or to flesh out projects. I enjoy having separate notebooks for different topics. If you watch the video, I hope you find some new ideas of notebooks to keep or lists to make.
Do you like to journal or keep notes on paper or are you more of a digital archivist? What do you like to write about or remember? What kinds of notebooks are your favorite to write in? I would love to hear about your notebook routine and how you keep up with it day to day. Let me know if you try any of the ideas in the video. Also, if you'd like me to go deeper into any of the notebooks, let me know!
Like the collage above? Well, the original collage "I Shudder to Think" is available for purchase in my shop. Click here to check out this new piece!
Don't worry, I'll be adding things periodically to the shop and keeping you updated on all the new art for sale.
Thanks so much for your support!
Buying Art Is An Investment...
Just Not The Way You Might Think.
A letter to potential art patrons -
If you know anything about the art world, you know that buying art is often seen as a "good investment". The image that pops into my head is that of the gavel banging at Sotheby's auctions, "SOLD FOR $44.5 MILLION!". And that's a real price, paid for Georgia O'Keefe's Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1. But the mentality that all purchases need to somehow monetarily benefit the purchaser at some point and the insane price tags on most art intimidates most people out of the art scene altogether. I will be the first to admit that even local art scenes are exclusionary and formidable to most people. The language is esoteric, galleries and museums are sterile and echo-y, and outrageous price tags for art make people feel as though they don't belong.
How can we combat this so that we have a thriving art community? I believe it starts with reframing your thinking about what a "return on investment" really is when it comes to purchasing art.
When you attend art shows for local artists or visit galleries that exhibit small artists you are already making an investment in art, that you will immediately see a return on. Going to these events will make it so they continue to happen. The most important part of an artist's work is sharing their art with an audience. By being an audience, you are already contributing powerfully to an artist's career. The return for you is that you get to see more of this artist's art. Because of you physically showing up to see their work, they can grow. It's also important to spend time looking at the art and engaging with the artists at shows. Ask us questions, tell us your insights about our art, offer a critique if you dare. What does it mean to you? What are your thoughts? Allowing us to share our thoughts with you and sharing yours with us are the reasons why we show our work. Don't be a passive observer, engage!
The next step to take is to support the artists that you love with your money. So many artists are struggling to create art while working full-time jobs, going to school, or taking care of their families. They buy expensive art supplies and stay up late creating art that communicates their unique experience in the world. If you see a piece of art that resonates with you, why not purchase it to help support the artist in a more tangible way? Art IS expensive. The price reflects the time, effort, materials, and perception put into the artist's work. The prices can also be completely arbitrary. Buying art through a gallery is going to be inherently more expensive than buying directly from the artist because galleries take a commission. However, mass-produced wall art can be expensive too as well as wasteful and ultimately environmentally harmful. This boring wall art (which you could easily DIY) is $80. For maybe two to three times more, you could have something that is unique, made by someone's own hand, something that deeply resonates with you, and supports the artist with your investment. I know that spending $200 on a piece of art seems like a lot, and it is, but an original piece of art will age with you and become more important over the years, unlike the mass-produced wall art at Target. I have collected a lot of art over the last couple of years and every time I see it, I'm reminded of something to think about, question, or just something that makes me smile. The act of viewing the art and contemplating it is pleasurable and I gain new insights all the time. My home is also a unique expression of myself and what I like and who I admire, not a cookie-cutter space. Express yourself in which art you purchase, it is the best creative symbiosis there is!
If you can't afford the price of one-of-a-kind art, many artists create prints of their art or smaller objects such as pins, t-shirts, or stickers that you can buy. Zines are also a great way to support local artists for cheap. Artists have found many ways to transform their art into products that people can afford. Many artists also struggle to have extra income to spend on art, so they have found ways to make their work more affordable for everyone. An artist might also be willing to negotiate a price with you. If you have services you can offer, why not see if an artist is willing to trade? There are many ways you can show support for an artist's work. I have countless zines, pins, t-shirts, pins, posters, etc. from artists that I love. Someday, I hope I can walk into an art gallery and buy anything that I want, but for right now, I buy what I can. I'm thankful that I can own original art this way. Every bit helps and every piece is an artist's expression and hard work.
So what is your return on investment with purchasing art? I think this mentality is so unique to the visual art world because of what kinds of conversations have been had surrounding the ownership of art over the last 30-40 years. You wouldn't really ever think about buying a record as an "investment" or going to see a performance of your favorite band or even a play as "diversifying". The experience is an investment in yourself and the artist you like. In the art world, you have to collect the right artists' work and those pieces have to appreciate in value. I think that you can reframe this thinking toward art. Buy art because you are investing in someone else, someone's vision that you see as important and complementary to your own. Find something that is visually, intellectually, or emotionally challenging. Find artists to represent that aren't getting their work shown. Buy art that you like, buy art that you don't understand, buy art that is made by someone completely different from you. Buying this art makes it so that it can continue to exist and grow. Think of how amazing it would be to patronize a small artist over the course of 20 years and see how their career grows and changes and is able to be because of your monetary support. This is the return on investment you should be considering. However, it's also about investing in yourself. Buying art ensures that you can continue to do the things you like to do, like going to art shows, and be surrounded by things you like seeing.
Not only showing up to shows but supporting artists by showing up with money will ensure that these artists and the communities they build can continue to grow. Stop buying art at Ikea. Buy art from people in your community. Buy art from people you can talk to in real life. Buy art when you travel to new places. Invest in the real life experience of art and your place in the art world. All artists need patrons, all artists need audiences, all artists need critics. You are an integral part of making sure art survives. We need you!
My latest series, PORTALS, will be on display at Dark Horse Coffee Roasters in Normal Heights from June 6 - July 6, 2018.
PORTALS is an intuitive collage journey that was inspired by some themes I am exploring in my life lately. I love combining different mediums and processes together. PORTALS is a clash of almost all of my favorite mixed media techniques and mediums. There's even gold and silver mica flakes! Thematically, PORTALS is an expression of decontextualization of imagery and toying with the idea of the void. Here is my artist's statement:
I am really excited to have this extended run at Dark Horse and introduce my work to a whole new audience. If you are interested in checking out the show, click on the map below to see the location and find directions.
Additionally, this is the last time I will be showing a series for a while, so if you are interested in seeing this work, don't hesitate to make it out! I have really enjoyed working with a more abstracted and decontextualized style, but I feel that my inspiration with pure abstraction has sort of come to its conclusion and it's time for me to move on to newer things that are exciting me right now. I am going to go into a period of experimentation and start making more representational things and recontextualizing imagery. I'm still going to be working with collage, but now I will be doing it in a new way. I am so excited to share new things with you! I will be sharing a lot on social media so follow me at @stardustcoyoteart on Instagram to stay up to date and get all the behind the scenes looks. I will also be posting the entire PORTALS series here when the show comes down and adding any unsold work to my shop as well. At the end of summer, I will be participating in La Bodega Gallery's Zodiac show so there will be one more chance to see my work in person before summer's end.
Head to Dark Horse and check out PORTALS by July 6 and keep checking in here for new shop updates and things I'm working on.
Running Up That Hill
Higher Education and Me.
Today I uploaded my last critiques to the Academy of Art University online learning portal, completing the requirements to earn a BFA in Art Education. I attended the graduation ceremony in San Francisco on May 10th and wore my cap and gown and regalia and proudly walked across the stage in front of my parents and boyfriend to receive my "commemorative scroll" (diplomas won't be here for another 3-4 months). It was a joyous occasion and finishing this degree is something I never thought would happen for me. It represents an enormous amount of work in school of course, but to me, it also represents how far I've come in my personal and mental health journey since I started college in 2007. I wanted to share a bit of that journey with you and what I've learned along the way about higher education and myself.
College was something I daydreamed about in high school but I wasn't one of those students that had their heart set on a dream school. I toured one art school, Otis in Los Angeles, during high school. After the dreamy tour through the art facilities, showcasing student work, and talking up the school's impressive staff, they sit you and your family down and show you the price tag. It was a bit too overwhelming for me (not to mention my family), so I sort of put the whole college thing on the back burner. Then came senior year. I loved learning and was a good student in high school. I went to an affluent high school and the major focus was on going to a four-year university. As Spring came and students started talking about what impressive colleges they had gotten into, I felt so removed from it all.
I finally decided to attend Santa Barbara City College in the Fall of 2007. I was excited to start a new life in a new city, however, I quickly became overwhelmed. It wasn't so much the school work that overwhelmed me, but more the circumstances and expectations associated with college life. Santa Barbara is known for having a student culture of excessive drinking and partying, which honestly scared my 18-year-old self. I also had my first (and really only) really negative experience with a professor that left me scared to come to class. I found it difficult to make genuine friends and connections. Also, the financial crisis happened right after I moved away and the crushing weight of feeling future-less was constantly being thrust at me from many different angles. I found my anxiety reaching an all-time high. Within six months I was back in San Diego.
The one positive thing about my time at SBCC was my art history teacher. I loved learning in her class and she made the course really engaging, and I found that I loved it so much that I was tutoring my classmates on the weekends before the big tests. I still had the knack and affinity for art that I had had in high school. I had been thinking about pursuing a degree in psychology, but I always found art nagging at the back of my mind. In Spring of 2008, I enrolled at Southwestern College here in San Diego and began taking more art courses. I remembered considering Academy of Art University in San Francisco in high school and decided to make it my goal to transfer there the following Fall. For the next 18 months, I worked on taking as many art and transfer courses as I could. Sadly, however, I found myself once again in interpersonal relationships that amplified my anxiety through the roof, at times making it difficult to go to class, go to work, or even feel happy. I kept my eye on the goal of attending AAU and won a scholarship for Summer study. In the Fall of 2009, I packed up my bags and my parents drove me to my dorm room in San Francisco. I was ready, once again, to start a new life and get away from my "old self".
The first few months in San Francisco were great. I loved living in the city and going to art school, I felt like I was living my dream. Being in the art classes with the amazing teachers and talented students made me feel excited and humbled. I was also enjoying living in the city. I had a part-time job at Anthropologie and in my free time, explored the town and all the unique things that it had to offer. But the city quickly started to overwhelm me. My inability to establish good boundaries with others was causing my anxiety to increase. Living in the dorms was difficult since people were constantly around and distracted me from school work. I had a hard time saying no and prided myself on being a "Yes Girl", someone who says "yes" to every experience thrown her way. I started skipping class and not performing as well at work due to feeling out of place or ashamed. I also started spending too much time with people who were not good for me or my goals. I stopped going to school at AAU after the Summer of 2010. My anxiety started to spiral out of control when I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment with roommates and I hit bottom in October of 2010. I struggled along in the city for more months, trying to pick the pieces but not being able to. I moved five times in two years, searching for a place to fit in. I didn't want to give up and move back to San Diego and feel like a failure. But I continued to have gripping anxiety problems, life in the city was extremely unstable, and I was the unhealthiest I've ever been. I made the difficult choice to come back home in May of 2011.
Being at home gave me the stability that I desperately needed at that time. I spent the first couple months basically sleeping and getting back on track physically and mentally. In Fall of 2011, I enrolled back in college, this time at San Diego City College. After a student came to a class I was taking and talked about a psychology certificate program, one in which she was involved in peer counseling, I thought this would be a good option for me. Since I felt that art school had been a failure for me, I thought I might return to my original idea of a psychology degree. I talked to a counselor about this and she basically frightened me out of it, saying that the only option for a job I would have with this certificate is restraining severely mentally ill patients in an institutional setting. I never bothered to get a second opinion. I was starting to feel the anxiety creeping back in, but I decided to keep going to school and enrolled in art classes instead. I had some really inspiring teachers and was able to finish my AA in Visual Arts in Spring of 2013. I was proud of finishing this goal but felt it didn't really mean anything since it was only a 2-year degree. I was also discouraged about myself because so many people I knew had finished their four-year degrees no problem and were working jobs in their field, making big salaries, seeming so much more adult than me and so much farther in life.
Later that year I got a great job that allowed me to move out on my own and gain some more autonomy. Living on my own was exciting and my life felt good. I enjoyed my job and I had established some good friendships. I felt ready to go back to school. Luckily AAU offers many of their programs online, so the credits I'd completed during my time in San Francisco didn't have to go to waste. I thought about returning to finish a degree in fine art (which was my original plan at AAU) but decided to pursue art education instead, as I'd found a passion for education through my HR and Training job. I went back to school full time online in Spring of 2016.
I was so nervous in the weeks leading up to the big back to school day. I was nervous if I'd be able to even do school after such a long break. I was retaking Color and Design, which was one of the classes that caused me so much shame and anxiety the first time around in 2010. I was worried I would fail again or that I'd invest more money and see it go nowhere. For the next two and half years, I worked on school almost constantly. I also continued to work my full-time job. I prioritized school over everything else, work was second. I found that the online model at AAU really worked for me. There were fewer distractions in my life and in school and I found my online teachers to be so incredibly supportive. It sounds crazy but I was getting the personalized interactions, critiques, care, and feedback I was so desperately craving in my school experience from my peers and teachers online. I was also connecting with my classmates about art and education, not partying, which was exciting and fulfilling. I was getting straight As and helping my classmates do better on their assignments. I was even a candidate for valedictorian in my final semester.
If there's anything I've learned from this experience is that it isn't going to school or the assignments that are difficult for me. I love school (and if I didn't my career choice of being a teacher wouldn't make much sense). However, I do need to manage my anxiety in order to be able to accomplish goals. I learned a lot about what I can do to manage it through my 11 years in college. I have to set boundaries with other people, I have to say "no", and I have to be okay with missing out on some fun times. Saying "no" when I need to doesn't make me a "no" person. I also need to skip out on any excessive partying, because I've found that this does crazy things to my mental state and while the party may be fun, I get too down afterward. Besides, a lot of the relationships I made through partying with people were fleeting at best and totally devastating at worst. I also have to stop myself from believing I know what others are thinking about me. I have a crippling fear of making mistakes and disappointing people. This is probably my biggest obstacle to work on. Establishing boundaries with others and myself helps me manage because there is no cure for anxiety, I'm stuck with it for life.
Through this second tour at AAU, I found myself finding out who I am as an artist and exploring more artistic expression. I started making more artist friends and seeking out opportunities to show my work. I think this is because I was immersed in art because of school and it imbued what I did outside of school as well. I started adding more to my plate and really seeing the benefits of saying "yes" to things that benefitted my mind and soul, not just entertainment for the night. It wasn't always easy, there were definitely tears and bouts of anxiety, but I feel better equipped to deal with it now than I did at 20. And that's just how life goes right? You don't get the experience until you have the experience.
As I go back to school for my credential, to in-person classes again at SDSU, I hope I can keep these boundaries and help keep my anxiety in check. I hope I can advocate for myself and not be so easily derailed by others. I'm still learning that feeling bad or stressed out shouldn't be my default state, but this is something that's going to take work for me. And I know it always will. I could resent it or I could grow with it. Reaching the goal of my BFA shows me that it can be done, that I can grow with it.
I hope this story helps anyone out there struggling with anxiety to see that they're not alone. I also hope that this story helps anyone who is doing things on their own timeline. Society is a cruel timekeeper, but it's okay to let things come when you are ready not when people say you should be. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to my 18-year-old self and say, "take some time off and just wait. Save yourself a lot of grief." But right now feels like the perfect time for me.
2017 was a pretty big year of growth for my art, especially the last six months. I pushed myself really hard to participate in many art events and create more than ever before. While I'm really happy and proud of the work that I accomplished and the new connections I made, the breakneck pace of the last few months has definitely taken a toll on my health and creativity. For the last two weeks, I've been taking a break from production and enjoying the holidays. I'm ready to get back to work for the new year and have been putting some thought into the goals I want to set for my art production and creativity in 2018. The biggest lesson I learned in 2017 is that I must learn to embrace quality over quantity and that less is definitely more when it comes to my work. While I want to keep creating and allowing myself lots of time in my schedule to create, I'm not going to pressure myself as hard this year to share so much. The pressure of social media and saying "yes" when I probably should have said "no", led to some creative burnout for me by the middle of December. In 2018, I want to allow art to be a big part of and priority in my life while giving myself time to create things I really love and art that makes me personally happy and satisfied.
Here are a list of art related goals I want to try and accomplish this year:
- Start using a sketchbook more.
I haven't really ever been someone that sketches or utilizes sketchbooks to file away and explore ideas. I want to do this in 2018 and see what it does to my creative process. I could totally abandon it if it doesn't work for me, but actively using a sketchbook is something I will try for the next few months. Would you be interested in seeing sketchbook related posts?
- Create 3-D collages and mixed media pieces.
This past semester, I took a paper sculpture class under the instruction of the world renowned paper sculptor, Jeffrey Nishinaka. While his work is quite different than mine and my aesthetic, I fell in love with using paper to create sculptures. I had some success with a few of the projects in class and learned a lot about the technique. In 2018, I'd love to try to incorporate some of these elements in my own art and use them in my own way.
- Incorporate book arts into my art.
In the same semester that I took paper sculpture, I also took a book arts class. I found a lot of success with it and was excited with how it merged well with my aesthetic and collage art. This coming year, I'd love to create more art books and perhaps do a whole series of collage books of various kinds and designs. I'll post my book arts portfolio in the next few weeks so you can see what I'm talking about.
- Make at least four new zines.
I had a lot of fun creating my first eight page zine last year and want to set a goal to create a new one each quarter this year. I have a few ideas for structures, now I need to think about content. I'm excited to brainstorm new ideas and turn them into zines to share.
- Participate in an art show every two months.
In the last four months of 2017, I participated in eight art shows and events. Two a month ended up being a bit too much for me at this point with my other commitments. I definitely want to keep participating in art shows this year, but I want to cut the pace back a little bit. I felt like I wasn't producing my best art while I was putting so much pressure on myself. I want to exhibit things I'm really proud of and create intentionally this year, not just create things to show.
- Use this platform more.
I've had this website for a few years now and haven't utilized it the way I'd like to. In 2018, I want to post more work, share more writing, and even have a shop here on this website. I don't know exactly what that will shape up to be, but I want to make the effort to add a post or item to this website every week.
I'm excited to see where my creative process will go in 2018. In 2017 I learned so much about myself and the reasons why I want to create art. I also learned about the kind of creation that makes me the happiest. Quality is definitely more important than quantity. Although I will probably create "less" art in 2018 than I did in 2017, I know what I create is going to be more satisfying for me and the people who view my art.
What goals are you working on this year? Is there anything about your creative process or work that you're changing? I'd love to hear what you're working on!
It's Monday and summer is over and back to school is in full swing. Time for another busy season of life. I've been getting back into the swing of things, and I have a lot in the works for the rest of 2017.
For today's Muse, I wanted to share illustrator Tomi Ungerer. Something a little fun, a little vulgar, a little tongue-in-cheek. The illustrations remind me of the kind you see in children's books and evoke the surreal feeling of a Shell Silverstein poem. "Ungerer is known for his sharp social satire and witty aphorisms". The works make the viewer laugh while simultaneously giving them something to think about. I love the fact that many of these works are intended to make people uncomfortable. People should be uncomfortable more. Confront what makes you uncomfortable. Learn from it, laugh at it.
Enjoy a few of my favorites by Tomi Ungerer. Hope you have a great week!