Art School: Semester 6, Week 8

Welcome, once again, to Jeff’s annual complaint about getting sick. Being surrounded by germ factories — even if they are 20 year old germ factories — is no fun. I am rapidly moving through the symptoms of a cold, which started on Wednesday in the early evening. The sore throat is going away as of Friday morning, and the nose (and cough) are just getting started. Yay.

But you really didn’t come here to read a rant about colds. No, you came here for … what now? Something about art school? Life in Canada? I am honestly not sure, but I welcome you, and invite feedback. Those of you who have signed up for an account with Medium can leave a public response if you want. Everyone else, that’s why they invented email. ;)

Anyway, this may be a lighter than usual post thanks to the disease, but I will figure that out when I get to the end. No way to know, really, until I start writing. So…

Advanced Ceramics

There was no change in the status of the current project this week, so no photos here. But a couple of things are in the works.

First, we did crit of the first projects, and it seemed I did OK. I have no mark back yet — that comes next week — but I think I did fine. I am guessing that the instructor is interested in seeing us push ourselves, and I did that on the first project. At some level I pushed so hard I don’t think the work was all that successful as an art piece, but as an exploration of the medium and my own abilities in it, I think I did OK. Time will tell.

Next, she handed out some copies from a book that discussed things like cultural appropriation, derivation, culture, and artistic democracy. We’re to read them (I already have, once) and we’ll discuss them next Monday. This is part of the next assignment.

Which got discussed in class. It’s kind of interesting, though I have no clue how this will turn out. Here’s the plan:

  • On Halloween, the class is going to the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, where we will be given a tour of the Koerner European Ceramic Gallery.
  • Then we will be turned loose to look over the objects anywhere in the museum, with the goal of finding one that we really like. At that point we will draw and/or take photos of it.
  • And we will research it. Learn more about it in depth, at least in some way. Whatever aspect of it drives us to like that object (at least), that’s what we should be researching.
  • Then we’re going to make and fire a miniature version of the object. Tiny… just a couple of inches tall.
  • Then we’re going to build a contemporary piece based on the miniature and our research.
  • And we’ll give a short presentation to the class based on our research and work.

As you can see, we’ll be playing with something from some other culture, which leads to the questions of appropriation, derivation, and so on. This will be an interesting project, I think, though without a clue what I will be working from I currently have no idea.

And finally, the instructor caught me and asked me a couple of questions about my new project two — the tendon piece I showed you last week. She was worried that I couldn’t fit it in the kiln, which was a thing I’d worried about as well, and I had plans to chat with her about it on Monday. Instead we chatted this week, and on Monday I will build an angled shelf out of clay to allow it to fit into the kiln for firing. Easy. She also didn’t know what I was going for with the holes in it. I told her the general idea, explained that I had completely discarded the first piece, and that I had a very specific plan for the holes, but I kept that to myself. (Sometimes you want to surprise people.) I think she was happy with the thought I have put into the piece, based on that conversation, so I should be just fine. As with all things, time will tell.

Here’s that piece again, for those who don’t recall it, or who find this post later for some reason:

Public Art

I’ve been hopping here. Last week I shared the image of the final vinyl layout for the SkyTrain station windows. This week I sent the prepared files off to the printer for review. Sounds like they will get to look at them this weekend. With luck, this will all be fine and I will have no more work to do for it other than answer a couple of emails.

My personal project is moving along, though if I don’t get in to the studio this weekend thanks to the cold I will be a bit less than thrilled. I did manage to prime all of the hexagons, and get some tentative paint put on my test pieces as well:

And I managed to take the test pieces to the library, where I put them on the shelf top I am planning on working with, and wandered around it, checking lighting, colour, and so on:

So… that looks a tad bland, I know. There are a couple of things going on here.

First, those four hexagons have particular paint patterns on them, and as a result of those patterns, it is hard to see the colour changes. (There are two colours present — a light and dark teal — but the lighter colour looks dark in the shadows.)

Second, there are only 4 hexagons up there, not 100. So imagine a much larger display in the end.

As for the colour issue, I am still experimenting. I don’t really like either of the patterns I tried in that photo, so I am experimenting with two others. I think one of them will work out well in the end, but I really need to fully test them to be sure. That’s on the docket for this week, and to start the rest of the painting.

And finally, we’re starting to crash into the third project here. This is the proposal for a wall hanging art piece at the SkyTrain station. I am starting to put some ideas together, though I cannot say for certain if I like them yet or not. I also have a bit of research to do because my ideas may or may not work in the actual installation location. So that’s amusing. As soon as I am well enough to head back to campus I will be taking some photos of the current piece on display there (and the older one on display on the wall of the A building on campus) to confirm the reality of what I am facing. It’ll be amusing, I think.

Maybe next week I will have some sketches or something, depending on what I figure out with my research. Keep your fingers crossed. I need to be able to show the instructor something soon.

Cultural Theory

We got our midterm exams back this week. My mark was 17 out of 20, and the comments on the exam were basically meaningless. I suspect that’s an A, but regardless it means I am on track to pass the class. And as stated last week, that’s all I am after.

The lecture and discussion in class were related to post-colonialism, specifically as it plays into racial issues. We covered three pieces. The first was a short piece by Frantz Fanon about his experience encountering the white man when he moved to France. It was an interesting read. At the surface level it was often poetic, and very strongly worded, and yet the instructor says it all refers back to Lacan’s work. (If you recall, I hated reading Lacan, and couldn’t really understand — or believe — a thing he wrote.)

We also discussed an extract about Orientalism by Edward Said. This was more straightforward reading, and basically accused Europe of really botching their collective understanding of the Middle East. (Why he calls it the “Orient” I don’t know. Some historical thing, I suspect. Nothing in the piece was about the “far east” which is more along the lines of what I consider “the Orient”.)

And finally we covered a piece by Kobena Mercer which discussed an exhibit of photos by Robert Mappelthorp. The photos in question were nudes of black men, so the question of race comes up again. Mappelthorp was a white, gay photographer, for those that don’t know, so there are all kinds of questions that can be asked about what he was doing with this particular exhibit.

Next week we’re reading some things by Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard. I’ve started already, but my cold means I remember nothing of what I ready yesterday. Here we are entering into the realm of postmodernism, and Derrida, in particular, is noted for his really dense text. The chapter introduction spent some time discussing Being and Time, by Heidegger, and talking about how Derrida refers to it. But Being and Time was the book that caused me to drop my last philosophy class in college over 30 years ago. I spent something like 45 minutes on the first few pages, and had no clue what was being discussed. It was clearly pointless for me to attempt to understand it at the time, and I suspect the deepest Derrida will avoid my grasp in the same way. Oh well. Again, all I have to do is pass. *sigh*

Other Stuff

In other news this week… did I mention I have a cold?

Honestly, though, it’s been all school all the time this term. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true.

We should be coming up on registration for next term, and I just found early access to the Spring 2020 course list. My options are: Advanced Ceramics II (a follow on to the current ceramics class); Intro to Wheel Throwing; Public Art II (also a follow on to a current class); and — new this term — a foundry/replication class. Apparently the sculpture instructor has found some new techniques that will let students go through a modified lost wax casting process. That would be four studio classes, which would be a heavy load. And the way they are laid out Wednesdays would be very long, starting at 9 am (after the commute of over an hour) and lasting until 6:20 pm (followed by the commute home). I am honestly not sure I want to subject myself to all of that, but I might. So that’s more to ponder.

Oh, I guess I should mention that we had an election up here. My American readers should be very jealous. They (and I) have been suffering with election coverage basically since the day Trump took office. Up here an entire election happens from start to finish in just a few months. It’s over now, and Trudeau’s Liberal party remains in power, though it’s a minority government at this point. I have no clue how that works in reality, but I’ve read they will not form a coalition government with another party. As with the US, the conservative vote is basically concentrated in the centre of the country, with the more liberal/progressive votes coming from the coasts. Unlike the US, though, there is Quebec in the middle, and they have their own agenda and their own party. As an observer — we could not vote this time around, as we are not citizens — it was interesting to observe.

Harbour News

The harbour continues to be pretty dull, honestly. I did see two of the usual cruise ships this week, but they were docked and gone in a hurry. The number of cruise ships is clearly way down from peak cruise season.

And In Conclusion…

The only other thing I have for you this week is a photo of North Vancouver at sunrise, taken from the SeaBus terminal at Waterfront Station:

Even if the commute is long, and the days are short, there is beauty in it.



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