Saturday, October 29, 2005


I am at the University having just gone through the Northern Artisans Fair. I was impressed at how much it has grown from last year. The number of tables has at least doubled and the ATM ran out before noon. The range of materials used in the Fair this year impressed me. Artists work ranges from carvings, to recycled "blue" pine crafts, First Nations beadwork, paintings, instruments, there is pottery, weaving, jewellery, photography, and sandblasted rock work. My favorite however is probably the "edible art" chocolate hockey pucks with your favorite NHL team logo.

I like art that is also functional... sometimes known as crafts. Is an artisan an artist? I think so... if you check out my hyperlinks you will read that: "to become a master artisan, you have to produce a masterpiece that meets the standards of the guild." Can you see a masterpiece in a Christmas Oranment or in a hat that looks like cookie monster?

I took a "philosophy of art" course in my previous life as a Bachelor of Arts student. I fiercely debated the under-represented artisans' work as "art" (sorry that should be art with a capital "A"... and you should say that with some kind of accent... "Art" - as in high culture and big ideas). I think if a toilet installation in New York can be considered art than craft work that has been taught formally and informally across generations should be considered more than a kitchy skill. I also wonder if it is because many women tend to create "crafts" that some people are heistant to induct the work of artisans into the "Art" world. Perhaps it is because the work of the artisan is "hands-on" or manual and not always full of "heady" ideas that it's place in the "A" list is debated.

So I settle for being an appreciator of "Folk Art" (that's as close to the big "A" Art that I may be allowed to get) the art of "Arts n' Crafts" the realm of the self taught or apprenticed artisan. One thing I find funny is that this art is in most homes but rarely copped to as a work of art. I have a wooden siamese cat in my room carved by a man in Indonesia. This is probably my favorite piece of folk art. The cat is carved to look as though it is sleeping. It brings me peace... being an animal lover who is currently without animal. Sometimes the heady ideas that high culture requires are created by the meanings we place on those pieces we chose to adopt and love.
The symbol of a dove may be peace for some people... I have a siamese cat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I dedictate this one to Cadbury.

Chirtie's response inspired me. I took at look at the website she posted at Molecular Expressions Photogallery. The images that struck me most were the ones from Australia. The photo (left) is a glimpse of Vegemite under the microscope. I never did come to appreciate vegemite but it is a taste and a smell I will never forget! I spent seven months in Australia and I absolutely loved the landscape. I also fell in love with aboriginal Australian art, especially dot paintings. When I came back to Canada I taught some lessons at my mom's school in Alberta. These lessons were based on "story maps" and involved teaching the concepts behind some of the dot painting that I saw done by aboriginal artists in Western Australia.

Dot paintings are made by artists who are seated, usually on the ground. The artist's paintings represent many things from Dreamtime stories to practical stories of how to find food in the local area (like this one may be as it is entitled "going for honey ants"). The wonderful and challenging part of these paintings is that they are all painted from the perspective of one looking down from above or from a 'bird's-eye view.' The artist spends a lot of time dreaming and imagining the story from a point high above the earth before creating a work of art. Sometimes artists use symbols widely recognized by many different aboriginal groups in their art. Sometimes they use personal symbols and sometimes they use different colors of dots to represent various characters, settings, symbols, and feelings in their art. Dots are marked onto a solid colored canvas using a blunt stick. Paints may come from natural colours like in the picture above which feature colours such as reds, ochres, black, and white. While more modern paintings may use many different types of paint from oil to watercolour and use all the colours of the rainbow. I like that in this culture the artist is also a story teller and to truly appreciate this art you must hear the story of the painting. The true meaning of a painting is secret until it is delivered in an oral sharing. This makes collecting this art very special. You may take with you a story that keeps that painting 'alive.'

I challenged the kids in my mom's class (Grades 1-6) to make a story map in this way. They shared the events of their journey to school in the morning. All of these children were schooled at a rural location and so many of them had up to an hour of bus rides throughout the country side. They really enjoyed creating symbols for landforms, people, and animals in their own country. They also had fun learning about bird's eye perspective and sharing their painting's story with their peers.

Once again this is a fascinating form of art because it involves looking at things from a different perspective. I like that vast areas are represented by relationships of color and tiny dots marked on the canvas, sometimes layered. It is a very creative form of thought and I think quite complex. You have to step back from these pieces to see the 'big picture' similar to the idea behind the microscopic images Chirtie posted. The largest canvas I saw took up an entire wall and was created by three women working together on a dot painting. I was surprised by how long I could stand and appreciate different parts of this single piece of art work. I was amazed at how the artists managed to maintain the scale of their work while creating what was essentially a mural! I looked at it for more than an hour and came back to the gallery in Fremantle on several different days to see if I could see even more. It is wonderful when art can speak to us in such challenging ways. I like that this abstract looking art also serves practical purposes and was important culturally to educate others with information. This is art that crosses many boundaries... how exciting!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Man·del·brot set (män'dəl-brŏt') n.
The set of complex numbers C for which the iteration zn+1 = zn2 + C produces finite zn for all n when started at z0 = 0. The boundary of the Mandelbrot set is a fractal.
[After Benoit B. Mandelbrot (born 1924), Polish-born American mathematician.]
Draw and learn about Mandelbrots online.
Learn more about Mandelbrots with the Mandelbrot Set Explorer

I have wondered about infinity for a long time. How do you explain such a concept. Where do lines go? Where they start and end is as much an artistic puzzle as it is a mathematical one. At my school students learn to understand the concept of lines reaching to infinity by symbolically unrolling a string in both directions at once. No one ever explained math to me that way. However, my mom and dad are artists as well as teachers and so I learned a lot about vanishing points and perspective when I was very young. Line really is about a journey.

I like these fractal images because they embrace a marriage of math, science, and art in this way. Many of the images also remind me of underwater scenes, images of life under a microscope, or a sense of a universe seen from far away. Line travels from the smallest centers of being and imagination to the greatest landscapes and mindescapes we can create. What a beautiful thing possibility is. I wish that the people involved in the teacher's strike right now will find a concrete vision of education that embraces the idea of journey to a healthy future while they strive to find solutions to the puzzles ever evolving in complexity around the province.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Drama: Loosen up and Gain a New Perspective

I am thankful for our Fine Arts 406 class today. The musical energizer worked for me and helped me prepare for our exam. It has been a rough day and I found myself in a negative frame of thought developed through some frustrating interactions. Music allowed me to develop an idea of what type of object would move and how it would move to such an interesting beat. I imagined a gnome/dwarf character. Have you ever seen a garden gnome without a smile?

Drama is a force that allows you to compartmentalize a part of yourself in order to exchange your personality for a different perspective on your external and internal environment. I even moved around in my seat and kept the musical refrain and vision of my character going before our test. This helped me regain focus and reflect on how much I love drama and the arts. Some people meditate to find their center... drama is a great exercise to center yourself in other spaces!

I hope that we can participate in some challenges that require us to develop characters and consider gesture and voice. I might have to look at creating a challenge in this area myself.

If you have some ideas about how to create characters or some experiences you would like to share with me about how drama has helped you de-stress then please write me.

Hi ho, Hi ho, uga chucka uga uga uga chucka!

Friday, October 07, 2005

I DID IT!!! Thank you to Jen for guiding me through the process. Peers learning from peers is an effective method to practice your teaching skills.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving All!
I will be blogging again in the future.

Leah aka Miss J.