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

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

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