...play space. ❤️
I've listened to two already! Thanks Mrs. Allen for this gift!
Dividing foyer from main studio space.
Main studio space now separate from the kitchen...
Sewing curtains near the sink. Making my home.....
As I prepare to move to Chicago, I've yet again been tidying up and looking at objects. I look at them, and ask Kondo's guiding question: Does it spark joy? Above are my computer cart and chair, where I spent many agonizing and a few elated hours writing: comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal, dissertation, countless grants, presentations, conference abstracts...
I decided to cover its dull gray with a bright orange! Regardless, it's time for her and I to part. However, I appreciate her for her companionship in helping me give voice and representation to silenced women.
You may think, "what does Kondo's concept of tidying up have to do with feminist theory?" (A theme I discussed in my last post). Shopping, although done by everyone, is usually associated with women. Before the Revolution, many Yankee women boycotted British textiles, and either wove or bought domestically woven cloth from families of weavers. Wearing "plaincloth" marked your allegiance to independence; shopping became politicized. As industrialization overtook Europe and the US, mass production replaced home industry. Along with this phenomena, many Anglo-Europeans social and economic status improved; shopping as a practice evolved as well...
When Kondo identifies her 21st century customers as middle class, middle aged women, it's not surprising; women in Anglo-European countries-or those heavily influenced by Anglo-European culture-have been socialized to buy...buy...and buy....as if their lives depended upon it.
I got a chance to talk to reporter and blogger for PBS Newshour, Corinne Segal, about such ideas. Her essay pieced together a host of scholars and activists using stitching activities as a way to change peoples minds about sexism and racism. Our collective enthusiasm for the importance of sewing circles reminded me of my research waiting to be published. Our conversation reinforced the relevance of the mostly invisible efforts of these contemporary and historical stitch groups, and all the scholars doing related research... And, how venues outside of academia are as important as academic journals to restore these lost female contributors to mass movements in American history. Thank you Corinne Segal and thank you desk and chair!
The last reading assignment for my intro to women’s studies course is from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. Students value its premise— that by surrounding yourself with ONLY the things that spark joy —your life improves.
But in practice, they find it impossible.
“I keep my high school notebooks because what if I need that information?”
“No way can I part with my Harry Potter books, I will want to re-read them.”
And on and on they go, full of “what if,” “should,” and “will.”
Since I’m moving, Kondo’s ideas and my students’ opinions resonate. It’s taken me decades to recognize how we invest objects with so much emotion. Selling my car has proven an experience of me feeling the same way I felt when I bought it in 1999: somewhat traumatic!
But, as I pack only those things that bring me joy, I also feel liberated and empowered...
I’m keeping my Troll doll wearing her “shift” dress, a gift from my sister in the summer of 1975…she sparks JOY!
Last week, I spent four days reviewing files from my old PC, as well as going through papers, books, and paraphernalia collected roughly from 2004, when I finished my MFA, to the Summer of 2015, on the eve of writing my dissertation. Although I deleted or donated most, I found the process enriching: I was surprised, humbled, annoyed, and baffled at the sheer amount of work I produced as I doggedly pursued careers in studio art and art education. Throughout, I worked part time, had studios in Lowell and Boston, and met some amazing people with whom I learned to much from by being in their presence.
As I ready for my move to Chicago, I wil cherish these personal and professional histories, always at the ready for when the transition proves unsettling. Thanks Mr. Fontina, for one of my favorite memories in the middle school art room!!!
Paramahansa Yogananda and Rabindranath Tagore ran schools in India. At the dawn of the 20th century, their ideas included outdoor instruction, yoga and meditation, music, poetry, and the self-expression of students - all within pastoral settings. Theirs was a beautiful pedagogy.
Imagine the classroom above, with round tables covered with (Amy Bloom's) antique tablecloths. Imagine the smell of fresh baked goods, coffee and tea, as you entered. Imagine that each student had enough physical, and intellectual space to b r e a t h e, reflect, and have time to think about the effects of social and political violence and inequities being produced and reproduced throughout US history...Imagine the social and political changes both students and teachers could make within such a domestic, everyday aesthetic space...
My pile of books on the bureau reflects my inspiration and only security during the unstable social and political climate. Writing, teaching, learning as pure and applied theory, grounding in an aesthetics of social practice. Agosin, Allen, Anzaldua, hooks, Cranton, Smith, and Kondo, along with Booth et al, keep me grounded as I and my students confront the harsh realities of racial oppression.
Devoted to fleshing out my ideas around aesthetics as social practice in all areas of my life, I thank Anya Wallace for telling me about Light in the Dark, by Gloria Anzaldua and edited by Analouise Keating (2015)....She too strained to converge her poetry, imagery, and prose into a philosophy of multilayered intersectionality not only of gender, race, and the rest, but also within the confines of the poet/aesthetician/visionary/ healer/ and artist in academia. Although no longer physically here, I send Ms. Anzaldua a wholehearted thank you.
This is a slightly edited version of a blog post I wrote for the Textile Society of America's symposium, held in October of 2016.
I wish to thank Professor Anne Swartz and Professor Deborah First of Savannah College of Art and Design for the opportunity to publicly engage with the Textile Society of America's membership and symposium attendees through the association’s blog. I hope that TSA will expand such opportunities for more public dialogues regarding its activities.
Jane Arthur Bond and Rebecca Bond Routt made quilts together. Their quilting bee met in the family’s mansion, located on the Routt’s plantation in Kentucky.
But theirs was no ordinary sewing circle: Jane was Rebecca’s house slave.
Although the Bond family chronicles depict a congenial relationship between them, Jane Arthur Bond’s true feelings regarding her situation remain invisible (Williams, 1971). Unsurprisingly, quality of the house slaves’ life largely depended upon their relationship to their mistress; any perceived or suspected rebelliousness could result in being punished or sold (Fry, 1990). Clearly, Jane understood the perils of living life as a piece of property vulnerable to the sexual coercion of her Master and anger from her mistress.
Historian Gladys Marie Fry (1990) described Jane’s life. Born into the Arthur family’s Kentucky cotton plantation in 1848, she originally was given to a daughter, Belinda, as a wedding gift. Shortly thereafter, Arthur's husband Preston Bond began raping Jane. Relations between house slave and mistress grew tense, as White Southern women refused to blame sexual transgressions on their husbands; they believed that black women seduced them (Yee, 1992).
After the birth of her and Bond’s second son, Jane was gifted in yet another wedding, this time as a house slave for Preston’s sister, Rebecca. Fortunately, Master Routt appeared to leave Jane alone. Within this more congenial household, Jane and Rebecca’s quilts materialized, combining asymmetrical designs redolent of West African textiles with symmetrical Anglo-American blocks. Within the dizzying sociopolitical paradoxes surrounding their slave-mistress sewing circle, a rare form of aesthetic equity emerged between black and white, slave and mistress-owner. Collectivity manifested in their quilts.
TSA symposium speakers Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (2001) and Madeline Shaw (2012) reveal similar attributes in textiles produced in Colonial New England and in a 19th textile factory in Rhode Island. Both join Fry in exploring narratives surrounding specific objects produced by marginalized people.
Ulrich unpacked a pocketbook made by Native American Molly Ockett. Twined within the abstract design native to her Abenaki tradition is her story of living with an unknown colonial family in Massachusetts for a few years during her childhood. Due to this experience, Ockett was able to establish friendly relations and trade with other Anglo American colonists when she was returned to her family living in the area around what is now Bethel, Maine. While various Puritan-related groups reproduced among themselves similar persecutions they had suffered under the Crown, most were united against native peoples. Yet Ockett’s unique position situated her at the intersections of gender, race, and class within both Anglo American society and the gendered system practiced within the Abenaki nation.
Hence, Molly Ockett navigated multiple sociocultural and economic systems that both privileged and marginalized her status, astutely adjusting her behaviors according to her setting. Although successfully transcending some local colonists’ concept of indigenous Americans being “savage,” Molly was unable to transform the majority of colonizers ideas regarding her people. Her behavior alone could neither change the settlers’ greed for land nor their irrational fears and violence toward the Abenakis.
Although both the co-created quilts made by Jane Arthur Bond and Rebecca Bond Routt and Molly Ockett’s pocketbook are loaded with paradox, perhaps the linsey-woolsey slave cloth raveled by Shaw (2012) tells an even more disturbing story woven in early an American cloth: the Quaker educated brother, Roland, co-owner with his brother Isaac, of the Peace Dale Manufacturing Company in Rhode Island, employed freed black men to card and spin (Shaw, 2012, p. 5). Guided by both principles of equity and exploitation in their hiring and business practices, the Hazard brother’s supported freed men while simultaneously reaping huge profits from the slave labor system.
Despite the rare instances of collective social, economic or cultural behaviors toward people of color, the Anglo American protagonists in these textile narratives were blind to the most obvious oppressions they perpetuated. Although Rebecca Bond Routt allowed Jane Arthur Bond to co-design the Routt’s family quilts, their slave-mistress relationship prevailed. The “intercultural exchange” (Ulrich, 2001, p. 259) represented by Molly Ockett’s pocketbook did not stem the tide of the ruthless extinction of ethnic groups living in the American Northeast. Roland G. Hazard publicly supported abolition after four decades of wealth derived from the manufacturing of slave cloth. Unable to critically reflect upon and ultimately change their contradictory behaviors, neither Rebecca Routt, New England Colonists sympathetic to Molly Ockett, nor Roland G. Hazard, could make the epistemic leap that ultimately would have freed Jane, cultivated social and political relations between Molly’s indigenous brethren, and work toward emancipation and equity of freedmen in the early decades of the 19th-century.
As I researched historical politically driven American sewing circles (Sapelly, 2016), I discovered behaviors similar to those discussed. Abolition was no exception. When Yankee women began to participate in abolition efforts, they turned to their needles, and raised thousands of dollars by selling their hand made items in anti-slavery fairs (Ferraro, Hedges, and Silber, 1987). But while they declared their unwavering support, they continued to perpetuate racist behaviors. Theory contradicted practice. Alas, most Yankee women banned black freed women from membership; in the few biracial groups that formed, most retained segregated seating arrangements between black and white members (Yee, 1992).
Despite racial hatred and distrust practiced within antislavery organizations, one all-female abolition group came close to achieving equitable relations across race. In 1833, the Philadelphia Female Antislavery Society began; membership included wealthy black and middle class white women. Many of its most prominent Yankee members belonged to the Society of Friends. Freedwomen, Charlotte Forten, her daughters Sarah, Margarita, and Harriet, joined Quakers Lucretia Mott, Sarah Pugh, and recent converts Sarah and Angelina Grimké, among others, to work toward racial equality (Yee, 1992).
Shirley Yee (1992) writes that more than any other by racial group, they “weathered the storms” of racism. Anglo and African American women sat together and mixed among white and black men, incurring the wrath and violence of many Philadelphians who were appalled at their conduct. Hence, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society established new patterns of behavior during a socio-politically turbulent period of United States history.
Pedagogically, Quaker and black women merged the stitch with the theory, method, and practice of Christian democratic principles. Through their needles, speeches, articles, petitions, meetings, and conventions, they expressed their deep moral and sociopolitical commitment to living a truly democratic life. Unlike Quaker educated businessman Roland G. Hazard, these Quaker women practiced what they preached.
My overall research aim is to relate the theory, method, and practice of feminism as expressed through historical textiles with the narratives surrounding their making. For me, it was not enough to research and write about the pedagogical paradoxes threaded through the quilts made by Jean Arthur Bond and Rebecca Bond Routt. I wanted to not only share their unequal narratives, but also to apply the practices of those sewing circles that did manage to transcend much of the hypocrisy writ large within Antebellum American society - in my pedagogy. I found my teaching and activist model in the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, whose members stitched a collective, socially engaged activist practice through dialogue, the lectern, the pen, and the needle. With them in mind, I applied the activist sewing circle to my undergraduate teaching.
As I composed a syllabus for my course taught during the 2015-16 academic year, WMNST 106-004: Representing Women and Gender in Literature, Art and Popular Cultures, I asked: How could I apply what I had learned about the pedagogical functions of historical and contemporary American sewing circles to shape a critical, feminist pedagogy rooted in the stitch?
While struggling to envision a more collective approach, I forgot the crucial practice guiding the Quaker and Black freedwomen abolitionist members: that of building relationships among strangers-and their practice of needlework to support the cause. Hence, in order to build a trust in the classroom, students needed time to get to know one another! Since the class met twice a week in the morning from 9:45 to 11, I devoted the first fifteen minutes to sewing a small quilt square and socializing. In so doing, I hoped to establish a socially engaged learning space that nurtured community among students, most of whom were first semester freshman. My experimental sewing circle classroom began.
Most of the students already knew how to sew or learned quickly. As the course progressed, an atmosphere of goodwill pervaded, even as we pondered contentious topics. At times, I had to resist my natural urge to counter a point; increasingly, I found that if I stayed silent, students naturally debated and challenged one another regarding pervading norms and stereotypes. For many, the collective social and sewing time seemed to make a difference in how comfortable they felt about relating personal stories to the themes chosen by the group discussion leaders. Although not all of my students embraced sewing or the collective classroom, the majority seemed genuinely engaged.
I observed how their sense of aesthetics emerged in their quilt squares. A couple of students felt that they had no “artistic” talent, even after we had finished a heated discussion concerning definitions of “art.” But, as I examined each square before class began, I saw that many created images that related to the university or their friends or family. Others sewed geometric designs that resembled American quilt block patterns, embroidered a phrase, or improvised, scribbling with their needle and thread. An example of a student’s quilt square is shown below.
Although the course was not totally successful in disrupting students’ preconceived notions of societal norms, I recognized how many became more sensitive to inequalities surrounding intersections of gender, race, and class. Through the compositional choices they made in their visual projects, I also saw how they explored their sense of beauty and design. Students’ attitude toward sewing and art changed; they appreciated learning about discourses surrounding our hierarchical society through aesthetics. Some called quilting “therapeutic,” saying it provided a temporary relief from the pressures they faced as young adults living in the 21st century. Through weeks of sewing, discussion, reading, and reflective writing, students created a sympathetic learning community, even if they simply agreed to disagree. The sewing circle encouraged invention in the serious, feminist university classroom.
Although the quilt provides a sublime metaphor for activist curricula theory, I found that group sewing tended to encourage informal relationships and trust. Hence, this historically domestic site offers opportunities to examine and modify unconscious patterns of habituated thinking and behaving. Such feminist pedagogy thoughtfully navigates the perils and promises within the activist-educational space.
Overall, the outcomes of the introduction to gender studies class inspired me to continue exploring how the sewing circle could be applied to other public and traditional classroom contexts. Holding the vision of the interracial Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society, I will continue to integrate aspects of the informal campus sewing circle within the critical feminist classroom. Friendship as manifested amongst the Quaker and freed black women of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society is pivotal to the authentic, emancipatory classroom – and in the building of a collective society.
Dedicated to and revised for Michelle Wilson on the 5 January 2017
Yuriko Saito (2001, 2007) recognized the seemingly insurmountable barriers surrounding social art practices that seek to mimic everyday experiences. She suggests that these works rid themselves of their traditional “art-hood,” in favor of presenting “the message, idea, and the like in the best design possible, so that it fulfills the aesthetic, educational, and practical mission within peoples’ everyday life” (Saito, 2007, p. 251) . . . A casual, participant driven sewing circle preclude it as a form to be seriously studied within these standards. Ultimately, Saito argues that the gaps between social life and art as defined by western aesthetics appear unbridgeable (Sapelly, 2016, p. 19).
In November 2014, I wrote a blog post situating Michelle Wilson’s work in paper to my definition of aesthetics that emerged through my research on sewing circles. Although I impetuously deleted the blog, I continued to develop the concepts undergirding that page in my doctoral dissertation, quoted above.
Initially motivated by readings on several definitions of “alternative” aesthetics, including relational (Bourriaud, 2002), dialogical (Kester, 2004), their critiques (Bishop, 2004, 2006, 2012), as well as ideas surrounding site specificity (Kwon, 2002), I saw that each scholar fiercely retained connections to traditional Anglo-European art history. These contexts also maintained strong ties to Dickie’s (1974, 1984, 2001) contentious definition of the institutionalized art world. As Auther (2010) explained, most female artists working with fibers who attempt to find a place in this art world often find themselves homeless; or, they must constantly position their work in traditional fine art theories and disciplines. Consequently, these women artists routinely reproduce the systems of oppression that characterize the visual arts by willfully ignoring or belittling the histories of female textile labor. Many identify those who practice traditional fiber arts as amateurs or “hobbyists.” Exclusion continues to dominate Western aesthetics, even by those whose work is most marginalized in that world.
Soon, I realized how irrelevant these angles and debates were to my research on how American women contributed to mass movements through their individual and collective hand needlework. Rather, goaded by Koren (2010) and inspired by hooks (1990, 1995), I wished to define a new aesthetics that avoided the pointless art vs. craft / professional vs. hobbyist disputes that are inevitably tied to art as commodity– its value and preservation as determined by certain art professionals.
I named my definition of beauty living aesthetics. Why? Because it’s a philosophy born from and inclusive of simple acts of what was once considered women’s work. Whether a wealthy women leisurely embroidering or a poor women weaving cloth and sewing clothes, the needle was part of many women’s daily tasks. Also, its practices can be done while engaging with others, where both practitioner and participant equally work toward their own aesthetic visions and outcomes. Communally and independently motivated, living aesthetics thrives on a community that thinks, feels, works, and lives through their hands.
Paper and print making as a living aesthetic
Provoked by Wilson, I established relationships between paper and textiles. Papermaking shares fiberarts’ negligible status in art history. As a process, it too lies well outside of the Western canon. Few art departments include paper as a major. Often, as in the case of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Penn State, a papermaking studio exists but incorporated as an elective course or experimental space in the fine arts. Further, as Cochran and Potter (2014) show, the genealogy of paper and printmaking is inextricably linked with the hands of women. Devoted to its process and conceptual possibilities, Claire Van Vliet and June Wayne established communities and businesses based on a collective passion for hand made paper and print, yet their names are largely unknown in mainstream stories of art.
My early attempt at defining living aesthetics was further fueled by a 2014 trip to Chicago to attend a knitting conference sponsored by Vogue. During that trip I visited Anchor Graphics, set in Columbia College Chicago’s papermaking department. Observing the sinks, drying racks, and gadgetry ornamenting metal shelves, I recalled a similar aesthetic governing the dye kitchen in the Fiber Arts department at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Both spaces reflected the cold atmosphere of a science lab. Seriousness repressed any sense of play in these institutionalized studios focused upon marginalized processes!
During my tour of Anchor Graphics, I met Nuria Montiel, a visiting artist from Mexico. Paring down the printmaking process, Montiel constructed a printmaking studio on a cart, and went all over Mexico City teaching people how to make prints. By taking paper “on tour,” she engaged strangers, built community, shared the process of paper and print making, and ultimately created a form of socially engaged pedagogy rooted in the hand. Further, Montiel generated a form of collective knowledge, which, if permanently captured, establishes a foundation for further development of her teaching and practice. If Montiel desires, she can share this knowledge and build a Global community.
Hence, what is deemed insignificant in the art world becomes a creative interruption during the daily life of an interested stranger. Montiel’s “studio on a cart,” redolent of the elementary art teachers “art on a cart,” emerges as an everyday activist practice of getting to know others through a marginalized artistic process. Here, manual labor and portability offer infinite inventive possibilities.
In conclusion, I suggest to anyone willing to engage in either the pure or applied aspect of my theory and philosophy of living aesthetics is to do the following: Remove paper and textiles from the academic art setting. Restore their collaborative, every day roots and roving natures. Throughout, cultivate processes guided by the unknown, ruled by improvisation and chance, and you have what I call living aesthetics.
In his essay, Walking While Black, writer Garnette Cadogan writes about the differences between meandering while at home in Kingston, Jamaica - and as a student and professional living in the United States. A sensitive and chilling interview with Marco Werman, as well as his essay, are well worth listening to and reading...
Walking is a popular topic explored by many researchers in the arts lately. Naturally, intersections of gender, race, class, and ability all influence one's attitude and approach to walking. As a woman, I'm not going meandering along dark city streets; however, unlike Cadogen, I do not have to worry about others being afraid of me or being randomly stopped by the police. I've caught my fair share of sexual harassment, but, other than being hyper-aware while walking as an undergraduate living in the Fenway section of Boston, I felt safe, secure in that city built for walking.
Walking is a huge part of my life, has allowed me to pay attention to the world when life was grand or difficult. Lately, I've been contemplating buying a bus pass, but I'd rather walk the 35 or 40 minutes, or ride my bike to campus, rather than take public transport. Walking helped me write my dissertation, explore my future options as I prepare to graduate, and simply smile at the sweet landscape surrounding me.
To have to "perform" - as Cadogen must - in order not to appear threatening is tragic. My small gesture of support is to share his story...
Mulling Cadogen's words, I wrote, walked, revised, and published. Rise, write, walk, repeat...
Killing, mourning, and wounding are routine this summer. Last night after listening to more stories and perspectives on the shootings in Dallas, I lay in bed thinking about the vigil for the Orlando victims held on the steps of Penn State's Old Main barely a month ago.on June 16.
Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, more in the US...as the host of my favorite radio program, The World, a weary voiced Marco Werman put it: I'm losing track of all the violence.
As I design my syllabus for my fall course, Feminist theory and practice, these incidents compel me even more to explore with students how to put into practice the critical theories we study. bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Richa Nagar and the Sangtin Writers, Zaneli Muholi, Patti Smith, and Nikki Giovanni are my models. With them by my side, I feel encouraged to persevere in the face of hate and bloodshed.
Writing, along with sewing or knitting, have become my preferred methods of healing, understanding, and reconciling myself to the paradoxical world of love, hate, and indifference we live in. I can publish and teach as a way of actively trying to change society, even if it is a whisper among the deluge. I am comforted by my blog, my pedagogy, and my hand work to help mend the deep tears that continue to plague humanity.
Last week I had my first full body massage in months. Writing, knitting, reading, and, more recently, moving, has injured my upper back and neck muscles and my right wrist.
Four hours later, I sobbed for two hours.
My body, far more attune to my emotions than my conscious mind, enacted the very antidote to reflect upon my frenetic, uncertain but exciting exploratory post-grad student life. I am a devoted walker, runner, and now cyclist, but when it comes to the actual physical healing of my wounds, I tend to ignore or endure the pain. But I MADE the time - and money - for my masseuse's comforting, healing hands to begin the process of molding back into place my battered muscles. In the process, I realized that I am no longer on a graduate stipend, and am committed to steering my own scholarly and aesthetic ship. I jump into the unknown, however, with a circle of support, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity. Unsurprisingly, my body helped me pause, mourn my original but rigid plans after graduation, and move on...
We academics talk a lot about self-care but rarely practice what we preach. I am striving to nurture all aspects of my life, and this implosion was painful but enlightening.
If you're in State College, make an appointment with Christine Hoskavich at J. Stephens Salon on Waddle Road, before you hit Wegman's. You'll look like hell but feel terrific!
Be ready for and embrace the intense but cathartic fallout afterwards...
About a month or so ago, I had a physical. My PA saw that I had a major wax blockage in my left ear, and suggested that I have an "ear lavage." The nurse arrived with a spray bottle equipped with a long thin tube, a rectangular plastic device with an oval hole, and towels. After several blasts of warm water and ear wax softening solution, the pesky, nasty bit loosened - and finally left my ear canal. We had a good laugh afterward! And, I regained what I began to assume to be partial hearing loss...
The lavage experience reminded me of the trials and triumphs I experienced while writing and defending my dissertation. After repeated blasts of warm water, I felt as if I was drowning. But I had to undergo this process in order to clear my canal.
How analogous these feelings were as I wrote, rewrote, edited, and revised my dissertation!!!!!
Last Friday, June 3, I received official word from the Penn State Graduate School that my dissertation had been approved. I will graduate in August.
Already, I am picking up some of the stitches I had to drop while revising my endless drafts. One is examining the relationship between house slave and plantation mistress, and the converging aesthetics that manifested in their quilts...I am fleshing this out for a guest blog post for the Textile Society of America's upcoming conference, and for a proposed conference paper for Penn State's African Feminist Initiative Conference this Fall. Many thanks to Anne Swartz, Professor of Art History at Savannah College of Art and Design, for the chance to share my work outside of Proquest and Penn State....
Class today. How do I describe it? The students split open like ripe fruit, sharing stories relating to the issues facing pregnant teenagers between the second world war and Roe v. Wade.
Spurred by their reading - a chapter in Ann Fessler's book, The girls who went away - many students revealed intense, emotional, personal narratives. I watched and felt the thoughts emanating from 50 or so young people sewing before me with their heads bent.
You never know the healing power your stories have upon others.
Some of these freshmen may not fully grasp the weight of these stories now – but later will be confronted with a similar situation, and know they can seek help and choose what's best no matter what other people think.
This, while I sat and stood with some Novocain left over from my morning root canal…
A couple of days ago, I watched a periscope with Henry Lohmmeyer discussing his latest photography course, Heard. At one point he discussed design versus decoration. Interior design - interior decoration... the decorative arts....What's the difference? One carries more intellectual and aesthetic weight than the other. Also, decorative is an adjective historically applied to women's creative work inside and outside of the home...
Below is an image of my handmade journal imported from Italy and bought from my favorite store in State College, The Nittany Quill. A perfect intersection of superb design and decoration!
By chance, I joined a handful of grad students to lunch with a potential professor. Over sandwiches, she asked us about our own job searches. I spoke of how I don't fit into any of the descriptions typically found in art education, (teacher prep and certification); women’s studies (transnational feminism; queer studies) or studio art. "Well, you have to tailor your research to the job," replied one of the students. I sighed, thinking, "story of my life, I never fit anywhere and am not about to alter who I am and what I do." But another grad unwittingly reassured me. "You know, that's true, but I feel inauthentic when I try to imagine myself in a position that doesn't quite match my work."
My pedagogy is driven by authenticity as described by adult education theorist Patricia Cranton. She defines authenticity as a practice by which an educator examines and revises unconscious assumptions by focusing on “self-awareness, awareness of others, relationships, context and critical reflection” (Cranton, 2006, p. 113). Educators wishing to establish a learning environment based upon trust and mutual respect must recognize that vulnerability and risk are inherent in this process. In her work with mostly middle aged, working class Canadians, she struggles to achieve such an atmosphere. Later, I thanked the grad student for her honesty in the midst of an academic world increasingly trendy and inauthentic.