Tag Archives: MCLA

It’s Time to Let Go

The Paper Dresses opening at PRESS proved to be a magical evening.

If you were unable to make it, one of the highlights of the night was the  “happening/performance” starring two dresses by Diane Sullivan and my Let Go dress.

Big thanks to my MCLA colleague in theatre Laura Standley and three of her students, Courtney McLaren, Crysta Cheverie, and Kelsey McGonigle. They created an evening to remember. Please enjoy this slide show of the performance. Imagine the first few songs of the Amelie soundtrack and you might just be able to picture how the happening happened. Another big thanks to summer BHIP intern Nicole LeClair for taking these pictures!

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The performance began with all three young women walking into the gallery at various speeds and intensities, moving backward and forward and in and around people and artwork. After about 5-10 minutes of this, Courtney, who was wearing the Let Go dress stopped. Crysta and Kelsey then began inviting people to come and tear off the part of the let go strips written with various statements. Sometimes it was very easy to tear off the strips, at other times quite difficult. Once torn, they were to be left to the floor. Gone, having been let go. This went on for a few minutes then the young women returned to the starting movement before taking up positions in the window where they moved slowly for a little while until they were released.

This dress evolved out my interest in what other people hold onto. Over 250 people contributed statements over the course of the summer. The top “thing” that people hold onto, according to this very informal poll, is fear. I shared this with my father and he reminded me of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. I wonder what our world would be like if we all let go of fear.

During the opening, the various “let go” statements were torn off the dress and left to the world, as a reminder of how sometimes we need someone to help us let go, as well as that it is sometimes just really hard to let go…

It all comes together through process

The first show at PRESS this summer features the work of Alke Groppel-Wegener, MCLA Hardman Family grant awardee who spent part of January and May working at PRESS and with MCLA students. Alke mined the tradition of mantras at PRESS to create this inspiring piece:

Alke Groppel-Wegener

Process Doesn’t Get You…by Alke Groppel-Wegener

You can see this and more of Alke’s work during her exhibit at PRESS What’s your Mantra? An Exploration of Academic and Creative Mantras during June and July. Alke not only explored mantras but how they help form and mold one’s identity. Different mantras work for different parts of our lives. To demonstrate this, she carved a linoleum block with a fingerprint. She transformed her prints of the fingerprint through weaving, collage and other manipulation. Through the process of weaving, cutting and collaging, she contemplated the five primary identities she holds, [artist, teacher, researcher, writer, designer] considering them visually.

She invited me to take prints of her fingerprint linocut, to think about the question of identity and transform the prints to represent me. I listed all the ways I identify myself:

| artist | educator | gallery chief | curator | lover | biker | runner | gardener | baker| seamstress | daughter | organizer | writer | auntie| friend | confidant |caretaker|mourner|teacher | researcher | naturalist | communicator |connector | woman | 

How to represent all of these ways I identify? I struggled to make the fingerprints work for me. Ultimately taking water and gesso to them to conceal a good portion of them then layering collage elements plus many little dots and pathways. I look at these five individual pieces that come together to form one larger piece as a conversation between the different parts of myself. I see the birds, dots and pathways my different identities and how I move back and forth between them. Sometimes quite seamlessly, other times with much distress.

Identity Combined by Melanie Mowinski

Identity Combined by Melanie Mowinski

Identity1 Identity2 Identity3 Identity4 Identity5One of the exciting parts of this next exhibit is that the viewer will have the opportunity to take one of the fingerprints and do the same thing. Make sure you come by PRESS beginning June 26th to take part in this creative exchange.

 

The Responsibility of the Artist

We left Haiti Monday morning after a short press conference with Haitian news outlets about our trip. The conference focused on the students responses, but at one point, they wanted everyone, including me, to share what stood out the most to us.

What stood out to me was the responsibility of the artist, modeled especially by Philippe Dodard, who took time out of his busy schedule to share the art and culture of his country. He introduced us and made it possible for us to meet all kinds of different Haitian artists, from the street artists, to the artists of the Grand Rue, Saint-Soleil Movement and Croix-de-Bouquets. Within every single one of these groups, there is a commitment to passing on the practice to young people.

Grand Rue creation outside of Andre Eugene's studio

Grand Rue creation outside of Andre Eugene’s studio

Andre Eugene, one of the Grand Rue artists, is an internationally known artist who represented Haiti at the 2011 Venice Biennale and whose work has been compared to Damien Hirst of the diamond skull fame (both who stretch, on opposite ends, what no-budget art-making means). Eugene works with found skulls, as well as other materials that are on the streets. Yes, found skulls. Human skulls, that he finds on the street. He uses these and other materials that he finds to create his sculptures.  This is the epitome of no-budget art making. But more important is the work that he lauds when you visit his studio, the work made by the children of the Grand Rue. He regularly works with them to teach them to find their way into that place of creativity, using similar techniques that he does, more because that is what they can afford–whatever they find on the street.

One of the kids making art at the Grand Rue. Photo thanks to Haiti: The Bradt Travel Guide

One of the kids making art at the Grand Rue. Photo thanks to
Haiti: The Bradt Travel Guide

 

 

What I take away from this trip as an artist and a teacher, is my responsibility to continue to share what I do, and to inspire creative expression, through my teaching.

I was reminded of an experience as a Jesuit Volunteer that continues to formulate many of  my life choices, the hunger banquet. Some of you readers may have participated in one of these at some point in your life. You draw a number at random, a one, two or three. I drew a one. Your number got you a ticket into the first, second or third world. The first world sat down to a ridiculously elegant meal, with meat and all the trimmings. The second world got bowls of rice and beans. The third world got a big pot, no bowls, plates or serving utensils. I remember not wanting to accept my lot in life, being very frustrated, wanting to somehow do something to help the others, change the system, something. On many levels, I felt very powerless–in spite of the fact that I supposedly have so many opportunities at my fingertips. This thought still comes in and out of my mind.

As I thought about that in Haiti, a conversation that comes up between me and Doug surfaced: how do we end up in our families, in our countries? Am I really lucky to have been born to middle-class parents in America? What is it that I am supposed to learn in this family/path of mine? What is my responsibility as a citizen of the Earth?

How does this relate to art? When I studied religion and art at Yale, I read Paul Tillich, and embraced his argument that art is an expression of an ultimate concern. (Read a great essay about it by him here.) The above plus all of his arguments are beginning to come together to help me define the next direction that I want/need to take as an artist, mainly asking how do I address the political in my art. And not political in the sense of work that offends or shocks, but work created with purpose. Work designed to ignite conversation and engage the viewer to action, whether that is action in their hearts, mind or in the world. So this is where I am, how do I take what I do already and engage my world in a different way. I don’t know. But I will explore this through 2013. Stay tuned.

Bon Soleil! Happy New Year! Enjoy the pics below my favorite images from Haiti.