Walk On!

old shoes, filled with dirt and growing greens

As noted earlier on this blog, I am interested in transit issues, in particular, city bus routes; I am also very interested in promoting walking, not just as exercise, but as a way to learn one’s community, to get to school/work/stores and to use your one and only animal body! (rarrr!) 

I came across this article, Our Bodies Are Made for Walking, by an Utne reader contributor on its website. I agree and from that article, I found an interesting organization, America Walks, that promotes and helps build healthier communities by helping make them more walkable. This issue will be one I pursue more actively in 2019.

the footsteps of history and our newly invented lives…

I looked up my father online to find out who is using his decades-old research, done long before the world wide web existed for civilian use. I found lots of people referencing his works, and lots of listings for his publications,* but I also found information about my grandfather, a rancher, land owner and saddle and boot maker in Texas in the early 20th.

I met Granddad only a few times—we lived on the other side of the country—and knew very little about him, mostly that he’d owned land and horses, made some money on the stock market during the Depression and refused to pay for my father’s graduate education (when his WWII GI Bill ran out, I assume). Another thing I knew about him was that he had been a saddle and boot maker for cowboys in the region of Central Texas where he lived. I have handled and cleaned the saddle he made for my dad, worn the tooled belt he’d made for one of my brothers before I was born and now own the boots he made my grandmother to match the saddle (long gone) he’d made her for her 40th birthday. They’re a bit narrow for my feet, but I’m built like she was and can walk in them without discomfort.

Granddad had been the kind of person who’d rejected his first check when the government instituted the Social Security system (they never sent a second one); I was interested in seeing what the Internet could have to say about him.

What I found at first surprised me, then really pissed me off; the interwebs told me that he was not, in fact, a saddle maker or boot maker, rather, his only connection to saddles was, they said, working for a large ranch.

WTF? Nawp, that’s not right, I thought.

I took another look at my pictures of that saddle, inspected that belt, tried on those lovely boots and dug up the charming picture of my grandmother wearing them while sitting in her custom-made saddle. I thought about all the leather-working tools that we got from their garage when my grandmother died, the sturdy sewing machine, the specialized needles, the stamping tools—this was not a hobby, this is how he made the money he used to build a life.

What the nuts, Internet?

This is the crux of the issue: The commerce of the Internet has rewritten my family history. For a fee of $60, a website posing as antiques research re-wrote my granddad’s life. Using half-assed, paltry and easy research, this site told their curious customers that he did NOT make saddles and that the initials on the saddles were NOT his, but someone else’s, someone who also worked for that large ranch. Then, the website helpfully tells their customers when and where my father died.    (what? why?)

The customers were not satisfied, and no surprise; the site’s superficial, glib and inaccurate response is not worth the dial-up. This is one of the despicable things the current “connected” age is doing; by purporting to have all the answers, internet ‘authorities’ gather arbitrary info and present it for purchase as consumable reality.   This is deeply wrong and corrosive to our lives as individuals and as historians of our own experience.

This issue is too weird and important to just let go.

*Note: There are uses online of my father’s work (invaluable research that cataloged aspects of cultures that have rapidly changed, or even disappeared) in the last several decades that his estate was not conferred with about. Companies are using his work, without permission, to make money from scholarly material that is otherwise available to students and scholars, free.  This is another thing that makes me furious. My father did that work to contribute to historical knowledge, not to help make a packet for slimy igmos online.  gah.

beauty!, in abundance

Once again, one of my favorite radio shows, On the Media, talks about something vital in my world; the other week, it was mass transit and this time, it’s gorgeous, illuminating, exciting art! On their December 21st program, OTM discusses the fabulous Guggenheim exhibit of the mystical work of Hilma af Klint, “Paintings for the Future.” This OTM segment is fascinating and informative about an artist I’d been hearing/seeing things about here and there for a little while–I regularly listen to On the Media, and, amid the expected stories on politics and media, there was this gem! This segment explores not just the art itself, but how it was positioned in history and how it came to be in the Guggenheim. I urge you to listen and be inspired! (The first several minutes of the segment is solicitation of donations, but at about 4 or 4.5 minutes, the segment about af Klint starts.)

MFA program positionality, re-considered

I just saw this review for Gary Alan Fine’s book Talking Art (University of Chicago Press, 2018) on The Chronicle of Higher Education website–I urge anyone who’s interested in arts education, particularly at the college-level, to read it. I know how I feel about my experience at grad school and was interested to come across some critical literature on the process. According to the review linked above, in April, 51 of the 54 graduating MFA students at Columbia confronted the provost to demand that their tuition be refunded because they had not gotten what they were paying for…*

I haven’t read the book, yet; my local library doesn’t have it, but I’ll put in a request at my community college library when the new semester begins. I am convinced that it’s past time to re-configure our higher education system.

             *Seriously; $63,961 for one year’s tuition? $63,961 American? When you cannot use the facilities and have no access to instructors? Really? 

Read the review! Forewarned is Forearmed!

Thank you for your work.

Artist/activist Shan Goshorn has died and she will be missed. She was a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and, although her basket work received a lot of attention, she was an accomplished multi-media artist. I admired her work and her way of being an artist on her own terms. 

In her own words from her website, http://www.shangoshorn.net, she says this about her work and her ideals: 

My intention is to present historical and contemporary issues that continue to be relevant to Indian people today, to a world that still relies on Hollywood as a reliable informant about Indian life.

It was a thrilling accident to discover that the vessel shapes of baskets are a non-threatening vehicle to educate audiences.  But even more exciting, I am observing viewers literally leaning into my work, eager to learn more about the history of this country’s First People which can lead to the next wonderful step of engaging in honest dialogue about the issues that still plague Indian people today. America has believed a one-sided history for too long. Acknowledging and addressing these past atrocities is movement towards true racial healing… which has always been the goal of my work as an artist.

Shan Goshorn

July 2016

one more try!

3-legged plywood chair

Here’s my third chair for the semester. A couple of classmates made three-legged chairs this term, with spoked legs (I’ll try those next semester!), and so I wanted to try the three-legged chair form, myself. I got the design from the book Ply Design by Phillip Schmidt, a great resource. By the end of this snowy day, I’ll have drilled a couple of more holes and put this flat-pack chair together!

‘Shop Class’ at home

Okay, chair #2 is finished and resting comfortably at home. The finish was a little more complicated than I’d planned, but turned out just about right. First, a coat of grey stain, which was too close a match for the fabric, so I sanded a lot of it off. Next, a coat of aqua stain, which was too fussy looking, so I sanded most of that off and covered it with a sparing coat of the grey, again. Final coat, wipe-on poly. Overall, it looks good, is a surprisingly comfortable seat and I learned a lot. I’m glad I chose to do two very different kinds of chair (this one, ‘Shop Class,’ and ‘La Piña’) and am already thinking about trying one of them again in the spring; I still have plenty to learn and plenty to express and the second try should go a lot quicker.

La Pina!

It’s done! Huzzah!

Imperfect, but beautiful–and it sits nice! I’ve learned a lot during the process of designing and building this and I’m already planning another special chair for next semester using what I’ve learned…

I’m pleased with the finish I devised for the ‘leaves’ of the chair: I made a very dilute yellowy-green solution of milk paint, sparingly applied one layer and then applied one layer of wipe-on poly, which darkened it slightly. The seat and legs are finished with Watco Danish finish, which I use a lot because you can still feel the wood after it’s applied. The seat back is cypress and the seat and legs are hickory.

transit talk!

In a coincidence, this week’s “On the Media(radio program from WNYC) is all about public transit and how our lives/living environments are designed by/for car use (and presumed car use), just at the moment I’ve decided to present among my artfolios images from my MFA Thesis show, “Points of Interest,” an installation to promote the bus system in the city where I was attending university. Many of the issues discussed in the OTM segments are issues and ideas I thought about, researched and discussed with my Thesis committee. Although I did not address every one of these issues in my project, I did read, listen and watch a lot of materials about these things. This topic is vital to social and environmental justice and I’m gratified to hear this week’s program.

I am still digging up images, etc, for the POI artfolio page, so it’ll be complete in the next week or two.

 

easily mailable gift

These are a couple of calendars I made as examples for a class I’m scheduled to lead: quick intro to letterpress using a calendar format. The images are two-color lino block images printed on half a page, the other half left blank to staple a 12 month calendar to. Left, it’s about 9″ x 12″, right, 11″ x 17″. Then, fold the whole thing in half and slip it into a manilla envelope and mail it off!