RAWk Star

Imagine staring at a rock - a dull, gray, lump that's rough to the touch. It doesn't have much importance, doesn't really stand out, nor does it capture your interest. What if I told you that you're missing something?

So begins the college application essay written by Rachel, my mentee at RAW Art Works in Lynn, MA. Well, RAW uses the word "mentee," but I often found that she was the one mentoring me! Take her college essay, for example. After introducing the reader to a plain rock, she proceeds to show that appearances can be deceiving. If you make the effort to crack the stone's obdurate surface, it reveals a sparkling crystal geode interior - a metaphor for her own introverted yet brilliant persona. In her film that inspired the essay (posted above and worth a watch) she eschews the prevailing view that introversion is something that needs to be overcome. I wish I were that comfortable in my own skin when I was 17 - heck, I still haven't learned this lesson at age 31!

Rachel and her hand-painted RAW graduation robes. How clever is that brush tassel?!

Rachel and her hand-painted RAW graduation robes. How clever is that brush tassel?!

Over the course of the year, we worked together on her college applications. Her unending optimism and work ethic during this process was a constant source of inspiration for my own parallel job search. This fall, Rachel is UMass Amherst-bound with a slew of scholarships! In the long run, she has an innovative and  selfless vision to combine elements of psychology, landscape architecture, natural resources, and film production to create spaces that protect the environment and improve the population's well-being.

You can support RAW Art Works and their rewarding mentoring program by hitting up Flatbread pizza in Somerville TOMORROW, Tuesday July 11. Or better yet, become a mentor yourself!

RAWk on,

Sarah

The Best Defense Is...

As a lifelong student-athlete, I'm a big fan of bringing cheesy sports metaphors into the academic vernacular. "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" feels very appropos to the grant and job application process, while the Nike slogan "Just Do It" is pretty much the only way to get through a long writing project. So when it comes to defending one's dissertation, people are always tempted to invoke "The best defense is a good offense" as in the comics below.

However, the dictum "There's no 'I' in 'TEAM'" is much more relevant, as the dissertation defense is one of the few - perhaps only - times that a doctoral candidate's entire academic team is assembled. I was fortunate to have a well-balanced team of five knowledgeable coaches in my corner. For my 9 years at Boston University, my primary advisor Gregory Williams has been a receptive listener, knowledgeable teacher, and motivating mentor. My second reader, Patricia Hills, has provided critical feedback as well as firsthand insight on the 1970s art world (it was not uncommon for her to casually remark in the margins of my drafts that she was having brunch with the scholar I cited the next morning). Jenni Sorkin far exceeded the expectations of an external third reader by guiding my professionalization process and deepening my craft consciousness. BU professors Ana María Reyes and Cynthia Becker rounded out the committee, taking time out of their busy teaching and research programs to ensure that I was attentive to issues of race and coloniality. After I finished, I was surprised by a campus visit from my three favorite cheerleaders: my husband and my parents!

The  Lego Grad Student's  reinterpretation of XKCD's original comic. If you aren't following this sharp, witty Tumblr, you need to start immediately! 

The Lego Grad Student's reinterpretation of XKCD's original comic. If you aren't following this sharp, witty Tumblr, you need to start immediately! 

The format and structure of a doctoral defense can vary from field to field, school to school, and even committee to committee. For example, the Lego Grad Student (above) gave a Powerpoint presentation. Mine was more of a conversation about how I can improve upon the project, deepen my analysis, and ultimately develop my project into a book. I am excited to tackle my revisions and start the next chapter!

Yours,

DR. PROFESSOR PARRISH, PHD!!!!

Student Spotlight: Anna Speaks at MIT

This is the second time in my memory that we have had a spring snowstorm in Boston on April 1st, and I think it's a testament to my former student Anna's magnetic personality that her entire support team braved the morning cold to come see her present at the MIT Graduate Consortium of Women Studies' 2017 conference, "The Personal is Still Political: Challenging Marginalization Through Theory, Analysis + Praxis." Her paper, "Together Yet Apart: Felix Gonzalez-Torres in 1991 (The Billboard Series)" was included on the panel "Performance as Praxis: Art + Representation as Modes of Resistance." It was an adaptation of the paper she submitted for my Summer 2015 course, Contemporary Art: 1980-Now. She also used the essay as the writing sample for her graduate school application to Boston University - where now she is no longer my student, but my classmate!

Anna's paper addressed the conference theme "the personal is political" through Gonzalez-Torres' series of billboards representing the empty bed he once shared with his partner Ross, who died of an AIDS-related illness. She saw the collapse of public and private spaces in the billboards as a subtle form of activism, arguing that "while some expose privacy in order to oppress, the artist thinks we should expose privacy in order to unite." This idea of community was also of concern for Kyrstin Felts, an MA student in Communication Studies at McGill University. Her paper "Tumblr Feminism: the Role of Personal Blog Posts in Building Feminist Communities Online" provocatively argued against the popular interpretation of online resistance efforts as "slacktivism." Rather, she viewed the casual accessibility of Tumblr as an source of activist empowerment. In "Reclaiming the Whore: Mimesis in Performance Art," Ess Neissl, an MA student of Women's, Gender, + Sexuality Studies at SUNY Albany, extended Kyrstin's discussion of virtual spaces by examining how artists such as Amalia Ulman's parody of Instagram's It-Girls "exists in the very form that it deconstructs."  Turning from visual to musical representation, Jamielynn Varriale, PhD candidate in Latino Studies at the University at Albany, circled back to Anna's theme of Latino masculinity with her talk "Crudo Soy: Los Crudos, Hardcore Punk, and Performative Identity Politics." Her lecture elicited many questions from the audience, including apt comparisons to Riot Grrrl. 

In addition to the session's eponymous themes of art and performance, I detected two other provocative currents coursing through the four talks. First, all of the speakers situated their respective subjects as agents navigating specific spaces: city streets, web forums, and punk dance halls. To quote Ess, "content and context matter." Moreover, I was struck by how all four panelists highlighted forms of activism that were somehow "impure" or "diluted." For Anna, Gonzalez-Torres made his AIDS critique more palatable through beauty, universalism, and metaphor, and for Kyrstin and Ess, the familiarity of social media rendered it a relatively non-intimidating site for resistance. Jamielynn likewise made a point of qualifying that "being in a band is hard work, but its not the same thing" as other activist modes. I am left wondering: in the 1990s to the present (both Anna and Jamielynn's papers begin in 1991) are forms of radical activism no longer tenable? Or are the brands of "soft" activism outlined on this panel precisely what we need to enact change in our image-saturated, late capitalist climate? 

I'll leave those of you who are snowbound this weekend to ponder these issues...

Sarah

Editing Art and History with Nayda Cuevas

In most minds, the phrase "Spring Break" conjures a tropical MTV landscape populated with "bros" and bikinis. Or, at the very least, a quiet week away from campus. But for graduate students and academics, work goes on! I did, however, take a "Spring Break" of sorts by putting my dissertation revisions down long enough to work on a side project: freelance editing Nayda Cuevas' forthcoming self-published book, Puerto Rican "American": Uncovering Suppressed Histories Between Puerto Rico and the U.S., which you can buy later this spring on her website: www.naydacuevasart.com.

A trio of portraits from the series  #Latina: Reclaiming the Latina Tag , on view at the  Arlington Art Lounge . View more examples from the series  here . 

A trio of portraits from the series #Latina: Reclaiming the Latina Tag, on view at the Arlington Art Lounge. View more examples from the series here

I met Nayda in 2014 while working on her MFA thesis project as a writing tutor at Lesley University College of Art and Design. At the time, she was doing a body of miniature smartphone-scale paintings that dealt with Latinx identity and activism through hashtags. By tenderly and faithfully reimagining Instagrammers' selfies in paint, she illustrated a wide range of Latinx appearances and experiences - which often defy the limited stereotypes presented in the media. 

A sneak peek of images from  Puerto Rican "American": Uncovering Suppressed Histories Between Puerto Rico and the U.S . At left, a government document pertaining to Nayda Cuevas' grandfather, Angel Ramos Torres; at right, Nayda's artistic rendition of his friendship with PR Nationalist leader Pedro Albizo Campos,  Los Compadres , silkscreen.

A sneak peek of images from Puerto Rican "American": Uncovering Suppressed Histories Between Puerto Rico and the U.S. At left, a government document pertaining to Nayda Cuevas' grandfather, Angel Ramos Torres; at right, Nayda's artistic rendition of his friendship with PR Nationalist leader Pedro Albizo Campos, Los Compadres, silkscreen.

Her latest series of silkscreen prints is quite a formal departure; at first I didn't realize she had made them herself! Instead, I mistook them for the authentic vintage advertisements and political posters that inspired them. My confusion was perhaps prompted by the fact that Nayda has collected and compiled a substantial dossier of primary historical documents pertaining to her family history: birth and marriage certificates, ship manifests, and even redacted declassified FBI papers! By following the trail of these documents and corresponding with historians and relatives, Nayda's text and images uncover a dramatic story that is both personal and political. 

Cuevas Poster.jpg

In addition to editing Nayda's draft, I was also able to see her prints and paintings in person at the Arlington Art Lounge at the event "It Wasn't Our Choice: Untold Histories Between Puerto Rico and the US." If she hosts more evenings like this, you should definitely attend: they are immersive cultural events with food and music in addition to art! I may not have been able to travel internationally over Spring Break, but Nayda's writing and visual art certainly took me to new destinations in my career and consciousness. 

What are you doing for spring break? Share in the comments!

Sarah

College Art Association Conference Re-CAA-p

How can conferences be so invigorating and exhausting at the same time? I'm wrestling with this paradox on the train back to Boston from the College Art Association Annual Conference in New York City.  

What's black, white, and red/read all over? The title slide of my 2017 CAA presentation!

What's black, white, and red/read all over? The title slide of my 2017 CAA presentation!

I wore multiple hats at this particular event. First and foremost, I presented my paper "Throwaway Society: Ed Rossbach's Con/Temporary Basketry" as part of the composed session Exhibitions Between Art and Design. Following this new format, my two co-presenters and I submitted papers independently and were paired up based upon shared themes rather than responding to a pre-formulated question posed by a session chair. Because there is no formal chair for composed panels, we split the the responsibilities. I had the honor of introducing the major concepts unifying our talks: materiality, display, and temporal disjuncture. Rossbach articulates these ideas by combining ancient, enduring textile techniques with disposable detritus of the 1960s and 1970s United States. Thanks are due to the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design, who generously sponsored my stay in in NYC for the second time with a Craft Research Grant. 

The  Critical Craft Forum  never ceases to inspire. Discussant Jenni Sorkin, Assistant Professor at University of California Santa Barbara and member of my dissertation committee, is at the podium. Co-chairs Namita Gupta Wiggers, CCF powerhouse, and Benjamin Lignel, Art Jewelry Forum, bookend the speakers.

The Critical Craft Forum never ceases to inspire. Discussant Jenni Sorkin, Assistant Professor at University of California Santa Barbara and member of my dissertation committee, is at the podium. Co-chairs Namita Gupta Wiggers, CCF powerhouse, and Benjamin Lignel, Art Jewelry Forum, bookend the speakers.

With my own talk over early on Thursday morning, I was free to relax and enjoy the other panels, such as the Critical Craft Forum's eighth CAA session, Gender and Jewelry. Julia Heineccius, Evergreen State College, made a powerful point about fashion photography: "the jewelry is borrowed, the body is hired." This visual conceit is essential for marketing jewelry to customers who can imagine themselves wearing it, thereby vicariously transforming themselves into the idealized model. renée c. hoogland, Wayne State University, used an equally direct, compelling soundbyte to summarize the prevailing normative cultural expectations of gay versus straight lives: "In everyday life, heterosexuals are, homosexuals become." For example, straight cisgender people are rarely asked to consider the process by which they discovered their sexual identity, whereas LGBTQ are repeatedly questioned about when and how they "came out." In the context of a panel on jewelry and subject formation, hoogland sees this closet metaphor not merely a space of hiding and shame, but one that houses valuable tools for overcoming gender conformity: fashion, accessories, or as James Tigger! Ferguson so memorably put it, "my dead grandma's jewelry collection." If you missed this session, keep checking the CCF site and Facebook group; a podcast or publication of the event is forthcoming.

Installation view of   Françoise Grossen Selects   at Museum of Arts and Design, New York. The flames of yarn in the foreground are by my dissertation artist, Claire Zeisler!

Installation view of Françoise Grossen Selects at Museum of Arts and Design, New York. The flames of yarn in the foreground are by my dissertation artist, Claire Zeisler!

Sometimes I think that a list of the sessions one attends at their field's annual conference paints a composite portrait of that individual as a scholar. Here is mine: So Near Yet So Foreign: Negotiating Touristic Experience Through Design; New Materialisms in Contemporary Art; Reception Studies in Modernism: Reinterpreting Modern Masters; Art After Zero: Making Sense of the Aughts; Reinventing the Familiar: Updated Approaches in Art History and the Studio; and State of the Art (History): Pedagogy Laboratory

Of course, a trip to CAA wouldn't be complete without playing hooky for a few sessions to check out exhibitions around the city. At the Museum of Arts and Design, I caught the Peter Voulkos retrospective and Françoise Grossen SelectsIt was valuable to see her work in person again after giving a talk on it last fall.

Finally, I leave you with some exciting news unrelated to CAA: The American Craft Council (discussed in my post last October) named me their 2017 Emerging Voices Scholar! I'm thrilled to be acknowledged by an organization that I respect so highly, and that does so much good for American makers. Plus, I'm in such good company; I can't wait to meet the Emerging Voices Artists when we convene later this spring!

'Till next time,

Sarah 

On the Conference Circuit: ACC to SECAC

The past few weeks have been a marathon of listening, learning, speaking, and networking, first at the American Craft Council's Present Tense Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, October 13-15, and then at SECAC (formerly the Southeastern College Art Conference) in Roanoke, Virginia, October 19-22. The events each offered abundant inspiration in their own right, but attending them in close succession enabled me to make connections between materials, ideas, and practices that spanned both events. 

The 2016 American Craft Council  Present Tense  Conference Scholarship Award Recipients at the industrial-chic venue  KANEKO , with  Jun Kaneko 's ceramic heads in the background. Photo by  Ben Semisch . 

The 2016 American Craft Council Present Tense Conference Scholarship Award Recipients at the industrial-chic venue KANEKO, with Jun Kaneko's ceramic heads in the background. Photo by Ben Semisch

The American Craft Council’s generous scholarship program provided me and other emerging professionals with an invaluable opportunity to attend their triannual meeting. Many conferences in the crafts are inhibited by their emphasis on a single material (clay, metal, fiber) or approach (academic, creative, curatorial). In contrast, Present Tense stimulated rich intellectual, aesthetic, and social exchange by bringing together students, teachers, trustees, entrepreneurs, and artists practicing in a range of media. Though my research may focus on fiber, some of my most helpful interactions at the conference were not with textile artists and historians, but rather with ceramists, woodworkers, and glass critics. Their perspectives broadened my craft knowledge in clay, metal, wood, and glass, providing inter-media frameworks for understanding the behavior and meaning of fiber in my own scholarship. 

Oblique view of Sonya Clark,  Tendril , 2007, combs.

Oblique view of Sonya Clark, Tendril, 2007, combs.

Of the many debates addressed throughout the weekend, those most relevant to my research and pedagogy concerned the interface between craft and ethics. Questions of cultural appropriation are central to my dissertation, which explores the ways in which American fiber artists of the 1960s and 1970s drew inspiration from textile traditions beyond the borders of Europe and the United States. These difficult tensions are more effectively explored through conversation rather than in isolation, and it is a positive reflection on the state of the field that virtually every Present Tense panel made a point to discuss issues of diversity and access. Otto von Busch’s energetic presentation was filled with conceptual tools and vocabulary—such as Barbara Deming’s concept of “two hands of nonviolence,” Brian Eno’s “scenius,” and his own neologisms “compassionate fashion” and “strategic sloyd”—that offered new insight into the actions and intentions of the artists I study. Likewise, Sonya Clark, Nicholas Galanin, and Tanya Aguiñiga’s powerful rebuttals of racial tokenism underscored the urgency of addressing white privilege in the arts. 

Enamel on aluminum works by Roanoke artist Dorothy Gillespie in  Legacies: Honoring Artistic Luminaries from Southwestern Virginia  at the Taubman Museum of Art. Foreground:  Ribboned Presence , 1993. Rear left:  Tiered Arrangement III . Rear right:  Colorfall Series, Garden , 1993.

Enamel on aluminum works by Roanoke artist Dorothy Gillespie in Legacies: Honoring Artistic Luminaries from Southwestern Virginia at the Taubman Museum of Art. Foreground: Ribboned Presence, 1993. Rear left: Tiered Arrangement III. Rear right: Colorfall Series, Garden, 1993.

Sonya Clark was a hinge between both events. Following her riveting artist's talk in Omaha, I was able to view her exhibition Follicular: The Hair Stories of Sonya Clark at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke. The power of her work stems equally from their conceptual and material properties, making it crucial to experience their texture and, in some cases, participatory elements, in person. At the Taubman I also discovered some new favorites like Dorothy Gillespie in an exhibition titled Legacies: Honoring Artistic Luminaries from Southwestern Virginia. The rad palette and patterns of Gillespie's enamel-on-metal sculptures from the 1990s made me nostalgic for my childhood in that decade.

I love the play of textures and colors between my patent-leather wedges and this dazzling "fauxaic" (yes, I am coining that word. You're welcome!).  

I love the play of textures and colors between my patent-leather wedges and this dazzling "fauxaic" (yes, I am coining that word. You're welcome!).  

Another fantastic art venue in the area is Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University, which hosted a reception for the SECAC 2016 Juried Exhibition on Friday night. There were some great works on view, but as a newcomer to the school, the vibrant campus stole the show. The entrance to the museum was paved with a temporary spray-chalk installation, and by the door were two decorated trash cans that I learned were part of a "Battle of the Bins" competition among the students. From this example, it seems evident that Hollins students are deeply invested and creatively engaged with their surroundings.

A slide from my presentation, in which I identify formal congruences between the sculpture Claire Zeisler made (left) and collected (right). Both of these fiber objects juxtapose a densely articulated upper register with loose, cascading strands below.

A slide from my presentation, in which I identify formal congruences between the sculpture Claire Zeisler made (left) and collected (right). Both of these fiber objects juxtapose a densely articulated upper register with loose, cascading strands below.

My interdisciplinary experience at ACC was so rewarding that I chose to emulate it at SECAC by attending a range of sessions on studio art, pedagogy, and technology in addition to my typical art history circuit. My own presentation was titled "Connective Threads: Claire Zeisler's Post-Primitivist Fiber Sculpture," part of the panel "Eclecticism, Appropriation, Forgery: Issues of Borrowing in Art." I was satisfied with my talk, but not with my title. Have you ever submitted an abstract at an early stage of a project, only to find that your subsequent research diverges from - or perhaps even contradicts - your original title? Of course, by that time, the said title is printed on the program. I chose to confront this issue head-on in my talk by thematizing the disjuncture between my expected and actual research outcomes in my talk itself. I concluded: "The title of my presentation, 'Claire Zeisler’s Post-Primitivist Fiber Sculpture,' was initially borne out of my personal desire to view the artist as a figure working within the constraints of primitivism while endeavoring to move beyond them. Instead, my analysis of Zeisler’s ambivalent collecting and sculpting practices suggests that perhaps the potential for moving post-primitivism lies not in individuals, but in objects. The palimpsest of material messages in each of Zeisler’s fiber sculptures provides physical evidence of specific cultural traditions while recognizing their common humanity." 

What conferences or events have inspired you lately? Post in the comments! 

Sarah

 

 

Student Spotlight: Eva's Essay in WR

The Boston University Writing Program has been one of the most important influences on my pedagogy to date. As a fellow from 2014-2015, I participated in over two semesters worth of professional development seminars, and designed freshman composition courses on specialized topics related to contemporary art and craft. One of program's many indispensable resources is their annual journal, WR, which publishes exceptional student essays from Boston University writing courses. Instructors are encouraged to incorporate its articles into their lesson plans for students to use as attainable models of the textbook's teachings in action. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the editors selected an essay by Eva G., a student from my course WR100-K9, When Cultures Collide: Global Perspectives in Contemporary Art! 

Not only did Eva contribute an essay to the collection; she also won the annual Cover Design Contest. She explains: "The reflective puddle, the distorted quality of the marks in the water and the stones convey an other-worldliness, which in turn highlights the fact that students’ ideas go far beyond a single essay and have much greater implications in the world."

Not only did Eva contribute an essay to the collection; she also won the annual Cover Design Contest. She explains: "The reflective puddle, the distorted quality of the marks in the water and the stones convey an other-worldliness, which in turn highlights the fact that students’ ideas go far beyond a single essay and have much greater implications in the world."

Eva's essay, "Passive Objectification: Vulnerability in Yoko Ono's Participatory Art," was one of 13 selected out of 429 submissions. Yes, you read that correctly: 13 out of 429! The way I was running around the department boasting about her success, you would have thought it was my own article that had been published. In my Instructor's Introduction, I elaborate further on why Eva's essay was so successful, and how it may serve as constructive model for other students:

"Writing is an inherently participatory, communal act, as a scholar can only form a meaningful argument in dialogue with other artists and authors. Students in WR 100, “When Cultures Collide: Global Perspectives in Contemporary Art,” directly addressed this issue of participation in their third paper assignment, which asked them to contextualize an international visual artist’s work against relevant theories of interactive art. Yoko Ono, an artist renowned for her individuality, nuance, and grace, seemed a natural choice for Eva Gallagher, who exhibits these same qualities in her sophisticated prose.

"Eva’s essay is notable for its dexterous treatment of multiple types of sources. A historical performance such as Ono’s Cut Piece must be contemplated through its documentation: videos, photographs, and an “event score” or script that dictates the action. Eva met this challenge by translating her visual source materials into lush descriptions, which in turn, she interpreted using the theoretical texts assigned for class. She further expanded the discussion to include carefully selected sources from her own research. Perhaps Eva’s nuanced approach to these visual and textual materials stems from her concurrent work in graphic design: her composition Puddle Illusions adorns the cover of this issue of WR. Ultimately, Eva’s conclusion links Ono’s proto-feminist examination of gender to contemporary feminist efforts, such as the “free the nipple” campaign on social media. In so doing, Eva reveals how Ono’s piece transcends its original 1960s iteration to illuminate urgent contemporary concerns, both within and beyond academia and the art world."

Eva's full essay is available here, and you can learn more about her cover design here.

Enjoy!

Sarah

 

Puzzling Street Art

Earlier this summer I posted about a pack of graffiti ghosts that were haunting the greater Kenmore area. Regrettably, no more ever appeared, and all but the purple tag along Storrow Drive have been removed. Lately, however, a new batch of street art has captured my attention: a trio of tiny relief sculptures resembling puzzle pieces.

My favorite piece is also the one closest to my apartment. You can find this turquoise relief at the corner of Mountfort and Saint Mary's streets, overlooking the Mass Pike.

My favorite piece is also the one closest to my apartment. You can find this turquoise relief at the corner of Mountfort and Saint Mary's streets, overlooking the Mass Pike.

Much like the subtle interventions of another Boston-area street artist Nate Swain, these anonymous, jewel-like miniatures only reveal themselves to those who are sensitive to their surroundings, or introverts who keep their eyes low to the ground. They do not announce themselves, but instead function as cryptic punctuation marks framing normally overlooked architectures. As such, they intervene in our experience of the cityscape, prompting us to move through the streets in new ways. 

Not only is this the biggest and brightest of the reliefs I've found, it's also placed higher from the ground (at waist level). It's located at the intersection of Carlton Street and Comm Ave. 

Not only is this the biggest and brightest of the reliefs I've found, it's also placed higher from the ground (at waist level). It's located at the intersection of Carlton Street and Comm Ave. 

In comparison to the more common street medium of spray paint, three-dimensional reliefs are rare but not unprecedented: check out Luna Park's photo essay on Hyperallergic rounding up the best of New York's street sculpture from a few years ago. Their three-dimensionality allows these works to establish a close formal dialogue with their surroundings that would be unachievable in paint alone. For example, I love how the blockiness of the turquoise relief chimes with the raised bolts alongside it. The red cutout also creates a mirror image of the discolored concrete to its right. The forms themselves are quite unique; their closest art historical relatives may be the cartoonish contours of graffiti artist Keith Haring's personnages and the abstract, linear matrices they inhabit. Last but not least, the visible, goopy adhesive keeps these gemlike objects from appearing too precious. 

This coral cutout reminds me of a dinosaur. It's outside Boston University's 808 Gallery on Comm Ave., so despite my affection for this body of work, I obviously can't endorse the artist's illegal defacement of school property (or, for that matter, private and public property in general). Art belongs  INSIDE  the gallery, people!

This coral cutout reminds me of a dinosaur. It's outside Boston University's 808 Gallery on Comm Ave., so despite my affection for this body of work, I obviously can't endorse the artist's illegal defacement of school property (or, for that matter, private and public property in general). Art belongs INSIDE the gallery, people!

My search for these street sculptures coincides with the recent craze for Pokémon Go - maybe you've heard of it?! This app fascinates me for the way that fantastical creatures populate familiar landscapes to render them foreign, leading players on unanticipated paths that run tangentially to their everyday routes and routines. Whereas Pokémon Go accomplishes this goal through a novel fusion of the real and virtual, the BU street sculptures reassert the physical, embodied space that they share with their architectural substrates as well as their viewers. I "gotta catch 'em all!" Will you help me? As many of us return to campus this fall, I hope you'll keep your eyes peeled so we can solve this puzzle together. 

Happy Hunting!
Sarah

Research Spotlight: Claire Zeisler's Chicago

I'm deep into the process of writing my dissertation chapter on Claire Zeisler, so it seems like the perfect time report on the research behind the text. In April I had the opportunity to spend a week in Chicago to visit galleries, museums, libraries, and individuals pertaining to the artist.

A grid of Lausanne Biennial covers from the Friends of Fiber Art International archives.

A grid of Lausanne Biennial covers from the Friends of Fiber Art International archives.

My first stop was the Friends of Fiber Art International outside the city. If you are interested in contemporary fiber art, FoFAI is a fun, kind, knowledgeable group, and they organize trips to major exhibitions like the Lodz Triennial in Poland. An affiliated private collector generously invited me into her home to view her fantastic collection of fiber and decorative arts, including Claire Zeisler's High Rise Stick. Though it is a study for the Milwaukee Art Museum's High Rise (1983-4), this spectacular piece hardly deserves to be called a "maquette." Its technical perfection truly communicates the sense of order and rigor that Zeisler demanded from herself and her assistants. I really admire her work ethic and am trying to channel it while writing my draft.

Color coordinating with Claire Zeisler's  High Rise Stick .

Color coordinating with Claire Zeisler's High Rise Stick.

From the suburbs, I took a train into the city and was very impressed by my accommodations at the Freehand Hotel. At the risk of competing with you all for a room next time the College Art Association Conference is in Chi-town, I'll let you in on a little secret: my dormitory-style bunk was only $35 per night! There is a restaurant and coffeeshop downstairs with all the trending hipster foods: burrata, kale, cucumber water served in mason jars, etc. Plus, I think it was a good omen for my dissertation that there was fiber art in the lobby, rooms, and even the bathroom stalls. THE BATHROOM STALLS!

You may think I spotted this gem alongside Zeisler's work in a museum, right? Nope, it was totally hanging above a toilet in my hostel. Fiber art is everywhere these days!

You may think I spotted this gem alongside Zeisler's work in a museum, right? Nope, it was totally hanging above a toilet in my hostel. Fiber art is everywhere these days!

At any rate, the Freehand was the perfect home base for trips to other institutions and archives, such as the Field Museum. Their wonderful staff and I collaborated on a Facebook post about my visit, which should be accessible via this link: https://www.facebook.com/fieldmuseum/posts/10153590110847273. As I write in the post: "At first, the Anthropology collections of The Field Museum may seem like an unusual place for a scholar of contemporary American abstract fiber sculpture to visit. However, fiber artists of the 1960s and ’70s such as Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney, Ed Rossbach, and Claire Zeisler drew inspiration from diverse global sources, including sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. On my visit to the Field Museum, I sought to explore these connections by viewing several furs and textiles that belonged to fiber artist Claire Zeisler. How did these objects impact Zeisler’s own artwork? Upon viewing the textiles firsthand, I realized that the works’ powerful materiality corresponds to similar qualities in Zeisler’s own knotted sculptures. Three African karosses – garments quilted from different animal pelts – juxtapose a variety of distinct textures, much like Zeisler’s art of the period."

Kaross, or cloak, from South Africa, donated by Claire Zeisler in 1967. Catalog number 221257. © The Field Museum. Photograph by Sarah Parrish.

Kaross, or cloak, from South Africa, donated by Claire Zeisler in 1967. Catalog number 221257. © The Field Museum. Photograph by Sarah Parrish.

I saw too many fascinating things and met too many amazing people to mention them all here, and I also wish to protect their privacy. Suffice it to say that everyone I encountered went above and beyond to assist me with my research, and I would not be able to write this chapter without their generosity and support. If you are reading, you know who you are - Thank you!

Sarah

Two Commencements

The word "commencement" connotes a fresh start or beginning. This past weekend, I experienced not one, but two "commencements." The first is the launch of my personal website and blog! Technology and community-building are cornerstones of my professional practice, and I am excited to embark on an adventure that will engage both of these activities in new ways. I look forward to using this forum to share my work with existing friends and colleagues, and I hope my site will bring me in touch with new connections as well.

The newly minted Dr. Alberts is all smiles.

The newly minted Dr. Alberts is all smiles.

The subject of collegiality and friendship brings me to my second "commencement," which takes the more literal form of a graduation. At the Boston University History of Art & Architecture department ceremony, I had the opportunity to cheer on my dear friend Dr. Lindsay Alberts as she received her diploma. Congratulations! You can follow her on her blog, The Pizza Professor. It is exciting that she is "PhinisheD" and inspiring to think that next year I'll be the one in the goofy robe and tam. In the meantime, I had to settle for this regalia-red dress. "Fake it 'till you make it," right?

A frame for Lindsay awaits more signatures.

A frame for Lindsay awaits more signatures.

In case any of you are looking for a way to celebrate the special graduate in your life, I've been making these frames for friends, family, and faculty to sign. An inspirational quote (here, "She thought she could so she did") can serve as a placeholder until the recipient has her own graduation photo to insert. I purchased everything at Blick - be sure to use an archival pen so the signatures won't fade over time.

A tower of tasty tams!

A tower of tasty tams!

Last year, I also made these tam-topped cupcakes for party I hosted. All of of the graduation gear at party stores features flat mortarboards, so this is a special way to capture the uniqueness of the PhD tam in your festivities! To make, prepare cupcakes according to the box, filling the cups less than usual so the tops are relatively flat when the batter rises. Dollop frosting onto the center of the cupcake, then swirl outward with a knife to create a thick, flat circle. Then pop on a Pinwheel cookie! To make the tassel, separate two strands of a Twizzler Pull-and-Peel and twist together. Wrap another one-and-a-half-inch segment of another strand and around the twist to create the "knot," leaving the end to hang alongside the other two. The result should be a three-pronged tassel. Pinch the ends to bond the licorice in place, and stick the other end of the twist in the center of the cookie so the tassel hangs down, pressing it into the frosting to secure it if necessary. Try not to handle the candy too much - that makes it far less appetizing. 

What kinds of "commencements," graduation or otherwise, are you celebrating this spring? 

Sarah