The (sort of) Calm before the Storm

These last few weeks have been sort of calm. I’ve been compiling my classes for the upcoming semester every night for a couple hours and doing some preliminary planning for my residency. But tomorrow, the semester starts for real and today I just got some news that is going to keep me a lot busier.

This semester, I’m listed to teach 6 classes for 2 different schools. 4 of those classes I’ve never taught before (2 of which, I developed). So that has led to quite a lot of prep work leading up to this semester. However, it looked like 1 or possibly 2 of those classes would not be running. That’s fine, that’s why I’m listed on so many. But today, I found out that those last 2 classes did indeed get enough students to run, so I’ll be teaching an incredibly full load of 6 classes, for 2 schools, at 4 different locations and 1 online. (For those of you keeping track, a typical “full load” for a full time professor is 2-3 classes).

So now, I’m feeling overwhelmed but blessed, because I know there are too many out there in higher ed that weren’t as fortunate with their classes running. Time to take a deep breath before I dive in. Something tells me it’s going to be a wild ride.

A short update on my game: Park Trails

I just received a small order of my Park Trails card game that I am now sending off to some reviewers and vendors. We’ve also contacted some local stores in Collingswood and Haddonfield, and they’re very interested in carrying it on their shelves. Hopefully we can get some wheels turning before Christmas. We’ll see.

The Road to Acadia

So if you look at the map, the part that most people associate with Acadia National Park is the large center island called Mount Desert Island. Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, and all the classic calendar shots are on that island. However, that is not primarily where I’ll be. The Schoodic Peninsula is that little spot of green over to the east, just below Winter Harbor. We’ll be staying at the very southern tip of that peninsula (schoodic point), walking distance from the waves crashing on granite shores. I’m sure we’ll make several day trips over to the main island, but it isn’t really my goal to recreate all the iconic Acadia shots, so I’m not really that concerned. There will be plenty to explore on schoodic (and several Maine locals have recently told me that’s there favorite spot in the park!)

The other spot I would like to explore, though I’m not sure if it’ll happen, is down to the far southwest, Isle au Haut. It is by far the most remote and least visited portion of the park, which makes it inherently interesting to me. But getting there is a bit of a pain (couple hours in a car and then a ferry), and honestly if I’m going to make the trip I’d like to stay over night to get more shooting in. However, there are only 5 camping spots on the island (no b & b for me), and they require reservation. I’m hoping there aren’t any major weather issues on my trip, but there could be a hurricane, so I’m not really too keen to reserve something just yet. I think I’ll just bring the basic camping gear and ask about availability when I get there.

Many Updates for 2015

It has occurred to me that if I were more faithful in contributing to my blog, each post wouldn’t have to be so epic in scope. And yet, somehow it is always so difficult to find time for such a simple thing.
Well, at any rate, it has been entirely too long since I’ve posted anything, and as a result, there are many exciting things that have happened in my art career that need documenting.

First, I was a teaching artist in another residency in Camden over the winter. My previous residency there was extremely positive and rewarding. This time there were many more challenges involved, but towards the end I was able to hit my stride in the after school program and I felt like I was really contributing to the program and to the kids’ lives.

Snowflakes made by paper casting
Zentangle landscape

Second, I have now officially developed my first online class for Rutgers. It is called The Contemporary Photographer, and focuses on contemporary photographic practice, critical issues, and image making. The development is finished, so now it is listed as a summer session class. I’m not %100 certain it will get enough students to run because it was listed very late compared to other classes, but I got the bulk of the work done at least, so now I’ll just have to wait until it gets offered at a good time. At any rate, it has been a learning experience (I was previously trained in Blackboard, but Rutgers uses Sakai) and I am very thankful for the opportunity.

Third, I have 4 weeks left in my Art Appreciation class at BCC. It has been a lot of work, and teaching a lecture based class is a whole different ball of wax than the studio classes I’m used to, but I’m very glad for the experience and for all that I have learned out of it. (Not only did I have to brush up on my broad view of art history, I have also been incorporating various lecturing and classroom techniques.) I am probably most proud that for one of their projects, they had to go out on first friday in March (braving the cold) and to an analysis and comparison of two works. It was great to see them all down on 2nd and 3rd milling around the galleries and using their classroom skills in the real world.
I’m also excited because I’m already on the schedule to be teaching darkroom 1 again at BCC and hopefully one other class in the Fall.

Finally, the biggest news for my year. In October I had applied to a residency in Rocky Mountain National Park for their centennial celebration, and just a few weeks ago, I got it! It was such a shock to get a call from the National Parks Service in which they congratulated me for being selected. It is such a huge honor. This residency is much different than my experience last year at Artscape Toronto – Gibraltar Point. That residency was much more of an artist retreat, where I could spend time in the studio and sharing my work with the others in residence. This one simply gives me a cabin in the Rocky Mountains for 2 weeks. I will be giving 2 short artist talks at the visitor center and after my time there I will be giving them some of my  work to help promote the park and the AIR program. Other than that, the time is completely mine. I am free to hike, explore and collect resources for my art to my hearts content. I’m so excited, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to dedicate to thinking about or planning much yet. But now that the semester is almost done, I can start laying plans and figuring out what my goals should really be there.

The cabin I will be staying at…. yay!

So that is all for now, at least all that I feel like writing down at the moment. I’ve had some great opportunities this semester and I’m excited about my upcoming ones. It’s proving to be a wild year.

Year’s End Looming

It is absolutely crazy how quickly this semester has gone. It seems like I’ve barely spent any time with my black and white photography students, and suddenly there are only 4 weeks of class left! Not that they (and I) haven’t been working like crazy. I think I just forgot that is how it feels for a once a week class. But I’m proud of the work they’re starting to produce and I think I can expect great things as we gear up to the final project.

I am also excited to announce that I am listed on an Art Appreciation class for the Spring semester at BCC. I’ve never taught a class like this before, so it should be a learning experience. And even though I’m pretty sure I’ll always prefer studio classes, I am looking forward to what that new experience will bring. I am also hopeful that another Black and White Photography class will open up at BCC, and supposedly an online class that I proposed for Rutgers is going to be listed as well. Right now I’ve just started a 6 week online class training course using Blackboard. All this to say, if all of this goes through, I’m up for a busy next semester.

Recently I’ve been putting in a little time towards figuring out where I could apply for my next residency. I’ve been checking out the residencies offered in various national parks across the country and have decided to apply for a few. The first one (which I’ve already submitted) is for Rocky Mountain National Park’s centennial celebration. I’m also considering applying to Mesa Verde and Isle Royale, along with a couple others that seem like they could be a good fit. Wish me luck.

Finally, I’ve recently been in a exhibition with some fellow Moore Alumnae at the MC3 Gallery in Blue Bell, PA. It is an awesome space and I was really excited about being able to show some of the work from my Toronto residency. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the opening, but they’ve sent a few shots that hopefully give a little sense of the gallery and my work.

Mildly Successful

I’ve had a few nice things happen recently that are nice little shots in the arm that make me at least feel like I have at least mild professional success.
First, today I had a phone interview with Moore Magazine, from Moore College of Art and Design. I am to be included in their fall issue which will focus on careers. It is of course an honor to be included (they put out a fantastic publication) but it was especially nice to essentially brag a little about myself. I realized somewhere in the middle of the interview that I’ve had a pretty good year professionally. So good, in fact, that it was hard to keep all of my various pursuits in mind. It’s always nice to be interviewed and actually be excited to share what’s going on. As a side note, I’ve also confirmed that I’m a terrible phone interviewee (I’m a “pacer”, seriously, I probably walked a couple miles), so no promises on the quality of the article that will result, though I have faith in their editors.

You can view past issues of Moore Magazine on their site.

I also am excited because I was hired as an adjunct professor of photography at Burlington County College. I actually just returned home from their new adjunct orientation event. I’ll be teaching Photo 1 in the darkroom (which I have taught before at Camden County College). I’m glad to be back in the college setting after a little break and looking forward to a great semester in the darkroom. What Fun! Now I just have to set up my syllabus and figure out how I’ll organize my semester.

Finally, I was accepted into an exhibition at Yell Gallery. I’ll be showing a piece I made a couple years back but never exhibited. It is always such a positive feeling when your work is accepted, I hope that never gets old (and of course, that it continues)

“Christina”, from the Social Portraits Series

Work at Rutgers

Today I visited Rutgers to talk in a “Artists in Society” class, essentially giving my experience post – undergrad as well as talking about the progression of my work from undergrad through grad school. I talked, answered some questions… it was really fun. When I think about how much I didn’t know and hadn’t even thought about when I was in their shoes, I know that there is a lot of information I have that could help them out. I was invited by the professor, Ken Hohing, (my mentor from my Rutgers years) and hopefully I’ll return in a few weeks to help in a guest critique of one of his advanced photography classes. 
I also have some work up at Rutgers right now in the main lobby of the Library. Bruce Garrity asked to use my work and hopefully it will be up until the summer at least. Included is a piece from the collection of the Stedman Gallery and one from the Camden County Cultural Heritage Commision. It is work that I did while a senior at Rutgers, so it’s not as exciting as having current work up, but still it’s nice to be recognized. They even wrote a little bio about me. So, if you’re in the neighborhood of RU, check it out.

Disorder and Dilemma

Sometimes, Yes.

Then I decided that this disorder and this dilemma, revealed by my desire to write on Photography, corresponded to a discomfort I had always suffered from: the uneasiness of being a subject torn between two languages, one expressive, the other critical; and that the heart of this critical language, between several discourses, those of sociology, of semiology, and of psychoanalysis – but that, by ultimate dissatisfaction with all of them, I was bearing witness to the only sure thing that was in me (however naive it might be): a desperate resistance to any reductive system. For each time, having resorted to any such language to whatever degree, each time I felt it hardening and thereby tending to reduction and reprimand, I would gently leave it and seek elsewhere: I began to speak differently.

Roland Barthes – Camera Lucida; part 1, chapter 3

I started looking at Photography Professor positions today for next fall. Aside from the insane lists of qualifications they are looking for in a candidate (which no mere mortal has the chance of possessing in entirety) almost all of them make a point to mention a “strong understanding of contemporary critical theory”. This makes sense of course, a perfectly reasonable requirement, but it made me start thinking of my own troubled relationship with critical theory. Sometimes I wonder if the mandate to be making and talking about work in the scope of critical theory stems from Artists trying to justify to the world the value of Artists. That we aren’t just beautifying the world or enriching culture, we are tackling deep sociological and psychological issues that are crucial to society’s advancement.
But that seems slightly false to me, which is why I’ve always remained wary of the critical discourse. Not that there isn’t value (for it certainly does) but that it feels like that is the only lens through which to make or talk about art.But as Barthes said, it is a reduction. Maybe it is an important part of the artistic puzzle, but it is not the essential quality that it is often made into. When I look at the situation I see a certain amount of circular reasoning. Art is talked about in standard contemporary art theory terms, so contemporary art theory is taught to students, who in turn make work that is framed within that reference, and when it is shown, must be talked about on those terms… and the cycle goes on. I know there are a lot of artists that talk about being fed up with the “art world”, but at the end of the day it smacks of bitterness that they have not been on the receiving end of its collectors. Thus far I harbor no bitterness towards the system (of which I am barely in) but I do long for the freedom that exists beyond its reach. 
Another way of illustrating my frustration/realization is a story from last summer. One of our visiting artists was pushing all of us (as was his job), but it seemed to be towards the obscure or obfuscating (to use a word from my dad). He took us to several shows and it was clear that he most valued the work that was beyond difficult to “get”. As my classmate put it, “I think he likes to be confounded”. That is the complex which I think many artists don. If a viewer cannot understand it, then the work is inherently higher and therefor more valuable. But when I look at it all I see is something inaccessible that doesn’t draw me in. 
So what can I do? Maybe not much. But I can at least agree with Barthes and resolve to “speak differently” about my work at the very least. Its not that critical theory isn’t valuable and not that I won’t use it, but why must we always begin with a reduction of something that is infinitely broader?