Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A New Hat

Rene Magritte - A Pilgrim - 1966
Being an emerging artist in these contemporary times means one has to tap into many different skill sets to run one's business. There is the creative maker side, who makes the work, finds and taps into the inspiration. There is the analytical archivist who catalogues and organizes the work. There is the curator who, well, curates the work, considers the presentation, and directs the audience. The list goes on, marketing, website management, logistics, etc.  To do it all is a momentous feat, as each job requires a different skill set not often found in the same individual. To transition between these roles in my working arts practice, I envision myself donning virtual caps, to delineate the particular job at hand. There are also the other personal 'hats' in life, each with their own demands, taking time and energy away from the creative making part of an artist's life.

Well, I have a new 'hat' -- Teacher. I just finished my first teaching job. I was doing a community outreach project through the local junior college at a private arts focused school, teaching pinhole photography to some local middle schoolers. The experience was terrifying, energizing and fun. Being a huge history buff, and wanting my students to understand the historical precedents, I started the class out with "The History of Photography in less than 15 Minutes",  showing Photography's evolution from Mo Ti's observations in 400 BC, through the 1800's chemical discoveries with Daguerre and experimentation by Henry Peach Robinson, continuing through the early 20th century with Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams, onto the Bauhaus, and finally showcasing a few contemporary photographers.  This was a lot of information in a very short time, missing entire epochs, and important figures, but this severe edit was necessary. I had to make it just short enough to keep these adolescents engaged through the entire narrative. They were a bit overwhelmed after our first hour together, but the fires had been lit. That spark was evident in their eyes after experiencing being inside the camera, in a camera obscura I'd built in the schools copy room.

The students went on to make their own cameras, spent several hours in the darkroom, creating lots of great pinhole photographs and experimented with placing objects directly on the photo-paper, creating photograms. After selecting their best images, the class concluded with an exhibition at  a local arts center.

To share my love of the craft with creative young souls was expansive. It was energizing to my own creative practice, and I think they taught me as much as I hopefully taught them. It's a new hat I am proud to wear.

Man Ray - Photogram - 1941