Welcome to my blog; used to post all alleged professional developments as a reflective tool and potential resource ... really, just another snake at the bottom of the MossPITT.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What is a Who?

First off, I listened to the majority of the podcasts posted and was roundly impressed by the insightful, articulate contemplation that these “high school students” expressed (even if it took 50 attempts). Whether I agreed with their analysis or not, I listened, left a tip and walked away a little bit jealous.

The one that I’d like to respond to was May Geolot’s interpretation of Edward Hopper’s Cape Cod Morning. For several reasons; one, I had just finished reading a feminist blog by one of my friends that referenced a NY Post article stating Barack Obama would be our first woman President and then naturally gravitated toward the 2007 theme “Representations of Femininity in Art” (which was never explicitly entertained in this podcast); two, I miss Cape Cod in the summer with its baking sun, ice-cream counters, cool breezes and low humidity; three, Edward Hopper rang a bell; and four, Princeton was my first choice!

Sitting in a stuffy room as the sun sinks beneath the bottom branches of the oak tree out front with an empty bowl of ice cream and … now empty bottle of wine, Hopper’s earnest indulgences feel like the punch-line of a Sunday morning sermon. Hallelujah! I hear you, brother. Cheers. I’ll get the litany out of the way; alienation, loneliness, detachment, isolation. It is overwhelming, and, in that “misery loves company” sense, comforting. Born contemporaries, Hopper courts Dr. Seuss while Norman Rockwell dances with Disney. Both give us a different version of American life; “normal” scenes but witnessed through different eyes. Both are safe, nostalgic, simple and highly emotional. But while Rockwell gives pot-luck answers to his audience, Hopper asks tough questions that have no obvious answers.

With art being about the expression of a world seen through the eyes of an individual, which may (if they eventually become “known”) one day resonate with a multitude of other individuals, Edward Hopper very consciously sacrifices himself before this eager Bethesda student and to the rest of the world. However, what really gets me, is that his paintings are not only confessions of self-expression but also brilliant works of social commentary, bending those ever-present beams of light inward to expose the shadowy insecurities that catch us all and hold our attention in those quiet moments of contemplation we don’t get enough of (or take the time for) any longer. They tell a story that has no ending and only a faintly insinuated moral or purpose. They conjur the sentiments of Thoreau, who some would call a sociopath and who once claimed, "I've never met a companion as companionable as solitude."

There is a great range of sociability which shifts with cultural movements, whereas today someone could claim 700 Facebook friends or a full inbox without ever making the time for (or consciously desiring) meaningful connections that extend beyond these superficial high-fives. Longer work hours, growing commutes, cell-phone and email relationships make us simultaneously more and less “connected”. With Hopper’s dynamic of urban (technological?) isolation, or, in the case of Cape Cod Morning, a solitary figure overwhelmed and caught between two contrasting empty spaces, we see this same ironic juxtaposition of socialization and compassion. A woman half inside and half outside. Is the light that shines in her face filled with internal “rejuvenation and hope” (as Geolot the Tiger feels) or is it taunting the same way a warm hearth would appeal to a homeless beggar gazing through the window of stranger’s home while standing outside in the cold? There is an essential difference between solitude and loneliness, between Thoreau and, oh, The Bachelor, where one is disciplined and self-imposed while the other is forced and suffocating. Hopper delicately sits on this fence. He gives you glass-less windows that either paint a picture of possibilities or show you how much greener the grass will always be.

Interesting, particularly if meant as a “representation of femininity”. What would he have done without Jo?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

building blocks

"We called one school counselor the next day and told her that so-and-so was chosen, said Ms. Beck, and she said: ‘Thank you. You have just saved this child’s life.’

... There are so many good reasons to finish our nation-building in Iraq and resume our nation-building in America, but none more than this: There’s something wrong when so much of an American child’s future is riding on the bounce of a ping-pong ball. "

- from Hope in the Unseen, a NYT article by Thomas Friedman (author of The World is Flat)

This reminded me of the documentary Boys of Baraka and the re-realization that with the right environment and the right resources anyone of our children would be capable of anything they can dream, but once resigned to the acceptance of an imposed stark reality that is out of their control then the challenges often become overwhelming and inescapable.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

it's a magical world, my friend

Posted this here as well since I'll be blogging a bit about educational art and I think the comic below is an excellent example of a modern amalgamation of technology (right now, it is only offered online), creativity and a potentially strong pedagogical application. Sort of a Boondocks meets Maus.

Click on the picture above to read "Bayou" by Jeremy Love.

"South of the Mason-Dixon Line, lies a strange land of gods and monsters. Born from centuries of slavery, civil war, innocent bloodshed, hate and strife lurks a world parallel to our own. LEE WAGSTAFF is the daughter of a poor, sharecropper in a depression-era, Mississippi Delta town, called Charon. She’s an introspective, brave child and hard labor in the fields has made her sturdy and strong. One day, Lee and her father help the sheriff retrieve the body of a boy who’d been lynched and thrown into the river. Lee dives into the depths to tie a rope around the boy. While under water, she catches a glimpse of a strange world. Ever since that day, Lee hears voices in the trees and rivers. When Lee’s playmate, Lily, is snatched by BOG, an evil inhabitant of that place she saw, Lee’s father is accused of kidnapping. The worst thing a black man could do in the 30’s was harm a white child. Lee must pursue Bog into his world in order to save her friend before her father is lynched. Lee enlists the help of a benevolent, blues-singing, swamp monster called BAYOU and together they trek across a Southern Neverland in search of Lee’s friend. Along the way, they meet several colorful characters, like BR’ER RABBIT. Lee soon realizes that Bog has some sort of hold on all the inhabitants in this world and feeds off of hatred and strife in our world. As the racial tensions grow, Bog grows more powerful, so not only are Lee’s friends and father in peril, but all of Charon." (zudacomics.com)

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Art is sex"?

EyeLevel Blog Response: Art & Love, 1.15.08

Longing, sure. Communication, yes. But sex? Either Howard is looking at art that I've unfortunately yet to see, his own definition of sex doesn't predetermine physical intimacy with another or he speaks in reverse-correlation like Yoda. Now, if he had posed the opposite (that sex is art) I would give the man a high-five and buy him a drink. Or, if he had stuck with the thought suggested in his posting's title I would read on without raising an eyebrow. Now, I'm hesitant to quote Woody Allen in anything relating to this subject, but play along. "Sex alleviates tension and love causes it", is focusing on the physical associations while a reverse quote claiming that sex causes tension and love alleviates it could be more of an emotional assessment. Metaphors aside, the two words should not be synonymous.

Art IS an expression of love. And passion, devotion, commitment and even obsession. It is powerful to feel or attempt to imagine an artist's engagement with their work of art and admire their dedication to this creative commitment and the focus of one's life on making profound, even poetic (in a way), personal statements. It must be self-satisfying, though the lives and psychiatrists of many acclaimed artists may testify otherwise, but is also at the same time very much for the enjoyment of others.

Now, to get away from the expression and focus on the engagement, while I can understand how the experience of an art museum could potentially be efficacious for the casual couple or a reinforcement for a pair of seasoned patrons, I know that I would just as soon read a book concurrently then try to pace my way through another gallery with somebody else. Meaning, I wouldn't at all. At least not from my experiences. Then again, I've yet to gaze at Van Gogh or read Lolita while holding the hand of a lover so perhaps those rosey-hued lenses would fit nicely; know where I can find a pair? Some things are better alone while others are not and its prudent to avoiding blending those two (see first paragraph).

Walking through a museum with my mother (yes, now we're about as far away from sex as you can get ... or are we?), who was the chauffer/tour guide/art historian and sandwhich distributor for me and my friends growing up, was about as awkward as agreeing with her on which clothing to buy from Filene's Basement. It's her fault I spent most of my childhood in plaid. She was an elementary school librarian who explained contemporary art or the Renaissance period the same way she would read Goodnight Moon to a semi-circle of soon-to-be-napping nose-pickers. Biographical information would be laced with critiques on Andy Warhol's need for a haircut and our pace would speed up whenever a statue bore its fruits for all to see as if any lingering looks would necessitate a stop at the confessional booths on our way back home. Because of this, I became practiced at the art of "getting lost" and would escape between Dada and Dali to wander around free from the bonds of maternal oppression.

And so, I'll cite Freud when expressing this continued desire to walk away from anyone that I know and purposefully lose myself in the halls and corridors of museums. Maybe for similar reasons that I gew up prefering to hike alone in the quiet woods all day over pick-up games in the street or that I resist group religious exercises and prefer solemn, individual communion, I also tend to approach galleries with a certain solitary sanctity of thought and reflection. Similar to spirituality, anyone aside from the artist/creator (and sometimes even them, too) is simply an outside observer contemplating something they may recognize but could never entirely understand. Despite the outward separation, it's this shared connection, sometimes overwhelming, with the passion or patience on display that I feel would be significantly lessened if it were to come secondary to the connection you might have with the cute-coed at your side making your stomache flip.

My sole attempt at love a la musee was while strategically following the most beautiful girl off-canvas in the Louvre a few months ago for far too long to admit comfortably. I paused where she paused and attempted to muse over her shoulder more than once. Right now, sitting in a humid classroom far from France, I can still smell her perfume, picture the green print on the sundress she wore and remember the way she walked from room to room (and feel the tension) ... but could not honestly claim to recall much in the way of the art that was hung on the walls. Must have been hypnotized by her smile.

I'm going to stop before this gets any more ridiculous.

... somebody tell me Steven Colbert still has his portrait hanging in the NPG.

... & our kids need to be a part of this.

... one more; do they put out wine and cheese, too? If so, Everyday Magic will be there.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

great expectations ...

looking forward to the summer (break) to attack
that list of things put off that's been getting pretty fat
and reflect upon the closing year
assessing where i'm at;

we read a couple books, blogged a bit with my kids,
writing prompts, Apartheid and The Alchemist
tried to mix it up with Moodle, but disabled the chat
posted forums, pics and poems
archived wiki's on their past
big poppa e, slam poetry and ipods for books
senior project so our grads are gonna get a good look
without drama in my life
i might sleep some at night
but we're on youtube for you to scoop
and our shows were pretty tight
("ars longa, vita brevis" - Chaucer may have been right)
broke bread in Jackson with Moss Point pilgrims in MECA
PowerPointing to the promised land for Cisco inspectors
will try top it in Texas, during ISTE's NECC lectures
(and to avoid hungry vultures pecking at my liver
I'll finally activate my ActivBoard to more than a projector ...
and maybe lay a few orange eggs for expedient assessors)
in the meantime, its Sherry Levine-time at the Smithso-nian
will channel Schlechty and November for INTECH in New Or-le-ans

and then ... chill