SURFACE AND COLOR
On Thursday, March 12, I left the campus of Kalamazoo Valley Community College, where I teach Art and Humanities courses, and, like everyone else, had no idea when –or if—any of us would be together in the classroom again.
So different than a long weekend made possible by inclement weather . . . day by day the realization that this wasn’t going away. The news and views. Reportage. Phone calls, texting, zooming. Listening to the echoes in my beautiful rooms, now museum-like, of a recent dinner party, “let’s do this more”! “We should get together more often!”
A last dinner out with friends on that Friday—the 13th; the restaurant already only half full on a typically packed Friday night--and no music on the empty stage.
The curtain was lowering as I crossed off plans, appointments, trips, workshops, gatherings made ahead of time; the future illegible now. Can’t read it.
Rewrote the curriculum. Got busy. Noticed the fabric of my life, so tightly woven and lovely, unraveling.
How to re-weave a life so rich? Knowing that the effort will have to be undone, redone, re-invented over and over. What is habitual? What is meaningful? Daily life and its comfortable rhythm of pattern and repetition becomes intentional practice.
Surprisingly, the relationship with each and every one of my students took on an intimacy not quite possible in the rocking and rolling classroom environment. All quiet now: “here’s my assignment”, and “my life is. . . I hope you are ok. . . I miss our class. . . here’s a link to listen to, to watch. . .” Grief and appreciation.
Spring. I walked the streets of my city daily --and early, as the light was leading us into longer days. Stepping over puddles, glancing at my reflection there, and in the shuttered windows, feeling the breeze as I passed through air—refreshingly clear, the chicken scratching in Bobby’s yard, the chartreuse shoot of an emerging flower, the birdsong—constant, the geese—slowing their crossing near the ponds. Why rush?
Fragments. Moments. A question--what is available to me now? Scraps of material leftover from bigger ideas, “serious” work—"use what you have” as a daily practice, “move material” (something I tell my students).
Intentional—yet random, each collage was a little conversation with myself, a deep dive into memory, a kind of meditation, a daily prayer until I finally tired of the ritual and moved on. At some point I added them up, like playing cards, sorted, grouped and arranged. At last count there were 65.
If I had considered a “magic” number to coincide with my 65 students who moved through the end of the semester with me--our COVID Spring-- or the 65th year I aged into in May, my ritual would have been a plan.
What will we become? We can be our own best teachers in this reflective moment.
In 2006, I studied encaustic with Christy Dietz, and again in 2016, with fellow Teaching Artist, Barbara Ellmann. Current work in encaustic is developing a series from an artist immersion experience along the west coast of Ireland in May 2019. This developing body of work incorporates photography and collage with encaustic and will be shown at the Ninth Wave Gallery in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2020.