VVP: Art 434 & Engl. 410

Website for Vision Voice and Practice: An Interdisciplinary Course in Art and Creative Writing

Monday, April 6, 2015

Individual Practice

Each week students post examples of their on going individual studio practices. Here are a couple interesting ones from the  visual artists.

Natalie Crane

 Amy Geiken

 Chris Rasmussen

In this project artist, Lex Aquilina answers how many licks does it take to get to the center of a lollipop. 

Text-based spot collaboration

We asked students to write down one thing they had seen on their way to class. As they did this, we opened, on the screen, a browser. We then asked the students, one by one, to tell us what they wrote down, and we asked other students for each new word or phrase to give us a number, roughly 1 - 7. We made a search for each word or phrases, landing on the image corresponding to the number we received. For example, one student said they'd seen a "crosswalk" that morning, and another student said "4," so we looked at the fourth image of "crosswalk" that came up in the feed. We projected each image on the screen for a few seconds, and asked all the students to write down one or two "concrete," descriptive phrases and sentences for each one. Finally, after we'd gone through all the images, we put students in groups of two and three and asked them to make a collaborative poem out of the language they each now had. They didn't have to use all of it, but they couldn't add any new words, unless they were linkage words, like conjunctions or articles. The words that started the whole thing are below, followed by some of the poems.

Fat cat
Kids wobbling on their bikes
Red tea kettle
Fake bacon
My mother
My speedometer
Utility cart
A muffin I was eating it
Pet owner
Richard’s golf cart
My puppy wanting breakfast
Cement mixer
Flower bushes
The sun
Power washer


Not English Old woman, Keen-eyed baby Can be towed—Fluff or fat, A red child.
Weirdly angled Muffin, kiss?
Orange-lit night drive; Paths all around.
Billowing skirt—Way too loud, Too much emotion.
Flat dead bacon, Bright utility, Over 6000 rpms:
Wheels, lines, beams, glass; Fusion and fires;
Artificial Black sky Offsetting gray
Secure Floating truck.


Gateway View

A blonde woman in a green dress watching from the shadows guards the dream: people moving, eyelashes, purple divine roses; towering people stand like ugly machinery, surrounding, stiff, waiting. This is a library, a common square, a white line framed in black semicircles. It’s all moving way the hell too fast.


Meet the Johnsons

Daddy finally gave in. Lazy scoundrel. Ugh. The mad hatter is always drinking something. The punk. A new strider bike for crossing the street speeding to the nightclub. Don’t be so jealous. It’s a sin. Susi lived over the speed limit, a glowing speedometer. Over abundance. Fat lips on that bay. Hold my hand, happy while the small Sheppard dog sleeps.
Eat, sleep, repeat.


White White White Black

Black sleeping anything
White eating father
Pink kissing hell
Blue smiling kettle
Red holding gum
White laughing child

Four bombing doom
Two going machine
Two sleeping humiliation
Three holding death wish
Four eating turmoil
One hundred and forty eight nothing

That awful butterscotch
A rather sensual display
Don’t take a picture.

Image Text Collaborations

We asked teams of students to create works based on an image/text collaboration. The image was to be privileged. Here are a few fine examples.

Elkins reads Roden

Elkins’ How to look at Nothing reads Steve Roden’s The same sun spinning and fading

We had students read several chapters of James Elkins How to look use your eyes. We then asked them to use one of the chapters as a lense to read a Steve Roden art work. 

Here is an example by Janet Diaz:
          I see forms contained by black lines. Forms that want to expand but are constricted yet defined by the lines. There are colored forms within the colored forms that are not separate but submit to the larger color shape. I see colorful dynamism emerging, evolving, and forming out of the muted earth tones in the background. The black organic lines greatly enhancing the movement and activating the work by giving clear direction. The movement is balanced with moments where your eye drops quickly down a chute but then is caught by a more leveled horizontal wave of a line created by converging shapes. The background has shapes as well, but they are more linear and geometric, more rigid and not as organic and free flowing as the large colorful form that fluidly divides into smaller forms.

There is an abruptness to the select color that meets with the black line, clearly defining its form such as the two large red shapes on either side of the paint and a couple in the bottom center. Though there is an abruptness to the black lines, they unify and hold the piece together, almost as if they are keeping the chaos in order.

I see the work expanding off the picture plane, its exit being the bottom. There is no black line containing the color and it confidentially touches the edge without leaving any space between the edge and itself. The work is delightfully balanced with both muted and saturated hues. There are good spaces of rest in case your eye get tired or dizzy while trying to follow the avenues of color. 

Making Mistakes

The students read and responded to Walker Percy's Metaphore as Mistake. Here is Adrianna Coe's response:
As I read this essay by Walker Percy, I came to realize the high importance and value he places upon mistakes. He uses a few examples in this essay of mistakes or happy accidents, which lead to greater truths. He talks about how he misread a line from Rupert Brooke. He read,
                        The keen
Impassioned beauty of a great machine,

Percy later realized he was mistaken, and had read unpassioned as impassioned. However, this did not change how he was affected by the poetry and potential truth in what originally inspired him in the misread text. He sees how the readers or viewers are just as important as the writer or creator. The viewing of art, or reading of text is always collaboration between the creator and the audience. Percy realizes in his essay that mistakes allow for the creator to lose total control over their work, and allow the work to take on a life of its own, independent of the creator. These mistakes can reveal larger and deeper truths that the author or artist might not have ever stumbled upon on their own.

            I have found, many, many times, I both my own practice as well as my experience of other artist’s work that there are always hidden metaphors within a piece. Last semester, I painted a very simple, straightforward self-portrait on a white canvas, devoid of context. Since I finished this piece, it has sat in my garage at home. My family sees it every day, and every time someone mentioned it, they read into this piece a little more, trying to find the meaning within. When I painted this portrait, I intended it to be a simple study of the human form. However, over time, and my friends and family experiencing my portrait over a large span of time, this work has developed a history and is rich with meaning. They see my expression, posture, how I see myself, how they see me, etc. the mistakes that Percy writes about are some of the most wonderful moments in my art making. It takes the pressure off of me, as the artist, and I have learned to have fun with my work, and allow others into my space and process. Collaboration is not just between artists, but it also between the artist(s) and viewers, and the influence of natural human error, misinterpretation, accidents, and everything that doesn’t go “according to plan.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

VVP @ the CSW

Yesterday and today the English writing program threw the second annual Celebration of Student Writing. We were asked if we'd send some of our work out of our little classroom and into the wider world for display. We did, as this picture demonstrates...

Two Great Photography Projects

I came across these two projects this week, and both reminded me of the sort of stuff students do in this class: site-specific, inspired, inviting viewers/readers think a little outside themselves.
1) "There's Tiny Art Hiding in the Streets of London"

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Malcolm Guite

Today we were visited by Malcolm Guite, visiting campus this week as part of the CCCA's "visionary-in-residence" program. Guite, an Anglican priest, a chaplain and teacher at Cambridge University, read some poems for us, and he also shared some of the collaborative projects he's been part of. Guite is a prolific sonneteer, and he shared with us a series of sonnets he made in collaboration with drawings and paintings by Adam Boulter, set in the holy land. Guite ended his time with us today by reading the following poem, while projecting an early watercolor "sketch" of the finished painting, below. Both poem and painting were inspired by camps in Jordan filled with refugees who have fled or been driven from their homes by ISIS.

     Christ Amongst the Refugees

     That fearful road of weariness and want,
     Through unforgiving heat and hate, ends here;
     We narrow sand-blown eyes to scan this scant
     And tented city outside Syria.
     He fled with us when everything was wrecked
     As Nazarene was blazoned on our door,
     Walked with the damaged and the derelict
     To where these tents are ranked and massed, foursquare
     Against the desert, with a different blazon;
     We trace the letters: UNHCR,
     As dark smoke looms behind a cruel horizon.
     Christ stands with us and withstands, where we are,
     His high commission, as a refugee;
     To pitch his tent in our humanity.

Friday, March 20, 2015

John Early

Yesterday, the conceptual artist John Early visited the class. He described a number of magical-in-an-everyday-sort-of-way projects, such as his eclipse photo series, where various objects are tossed into the sky--lawn chair, bicycle helmet--and then photographed as they eclipsed the sun. (We were told it took lots of tossing and lots of shutter clicks to get the images.) He talked a bit about being influenced by post-studio artists, who make and compile their work anyplace they can, including the living room, the office, the street.

In one particular project, Early described turning his life-long habit of collecting car parts into installations where he remade those cars, or at least parts of them, in the gallery, suspending the pieces according to their positions in the original vehicles. The results look similar to the way incomplete dinosaur fossils are articulated in a museum, prefiguring the (hopeful) possibility, thousands of years hence, when people unearth these machines and assemble them for display for in their public spaces and galleries. Click here to see an image.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Walker Percy, the Beatles, and the Mistaken Metaphor

A couple weeks back, we read the essay "Metaphor as Mistake," in which Walker Percy describes several instances of mishearing, misperceiving, misreading, or mis-composing that lead to richer insight into the thing described than what was/is meant. An example he gives is how the "wrong" term "Blue Dollar Hawk" captures the unnameable something of the bird it describes better than its more "correct," descriptive name, "Blue Darter Hawk." The "Blue Dollar Hawk" is a metaphorical description that somehow perceives, effectively and poetically, the being of the thing itself.

Every time I re-read the essay, I'm reminded of an anecdote about the composition of "Hey Jude" I first heard in the Beatles Anthology miniseries, from the 90s. The song was written by Paul McCartney for Julian Lennon, John's son, as a kind of comfort for the boy as his parents divorced. Here's the Wikipedia summary of what happened when Paul, who had a few "nonsense" lyrics as placeholders till he could revise them, first presented the near-finished song to John:
When McCartney introduced Lennon to his new composition, he came to "the movement you need is on your shoulder" and told Lennon "I'll fix that bit." Lennon asked why, and McCartney answered "it's a stupid expression; it sounds like a parrot." Lennon parried with "You won't, you know. That's the best line in the song." McCartney thus left the line in and later said: "when I play that song, that's the line when I think of John, and sometimes I get a little emotional during that moment."
There's a lot that could be said about this--about, say, the metaphorical "rightness" of the "wrong" phrase--but what stands out to me is that this action, this preservation of the lyric, occurs because Paul showed the song to John--i.e., out of a collaborative process. Even if that process was a shadow of what it had been at the beginning of the Beatles' career. As Paul, I think, somewhere said, when he wrote Beatles songs, even on his own, he always imagined what John would say about it.

Walter Ong on the power of the grapholect

I've been reading Walter Ong's best known book, Orality and Literacy. Given the attention we give in this class to crafting images and writing, I thought I'd put something down here here. The analysis is more complicated and nuanced than this passage might suggest.
Though words are grounded in oral speech, writing tyrannically locks them into a visual field forever. A literate person, asked to think of the word 'nevertheless,' will normally (and I strongly suspect always) have some image, at least vague, of the spelled-out word and be quite unable ever to think of the word 'nevertheless' for, let us say, 60 seconds without adverting to any lettering but only to the sound. This is to say, a literate person cannot fully recover the sense of what the word is to purely oral people.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Cross-Genre Conversations, Cornell & Moore

In this project students were introduced to the work of poet Marianne Moore and artist Joseph Cornell and asked to look for ways the artifacts they made (poems and boxes, respectively) suggested similarities in theme or practice. The visual art students were then asked to create work that responded to Moore or was Moore-like in some way, and the writing students were to create work that responded to Cornell or was Cornell-like. Here are a few examples:

Ian Koh:

[Made:] Saturday @ 7:30pm – 8:30pm, 28 February 2015

Response to Cornell’s “Solar Set”

Object of Obsession
Scientists exhumes from their deep mental crevice,
Silence leaks sacredness, like a beautiful delicate chalice.
but intensely chalked lines and numbers gambit
at inapprehensible magnitude.
Found just over head in clear imaginary ether
So distinctly shining, a tiny crystal,
Like a cartoon mouse hole in a spot
on an infinitely large wall; and a child waits for a clap and squeak. 

 Chris Rasmussen:

Kaitlin Lanning:

Lex Aquilina:

Marisa Lainson:

The Last Medici Princess

There are ghosts in the kitchen drawer next to the sink,
mixed with the whisks and the spoons, asleep.
They're hidden under the silverware tray. Above,
slippery waves of moonlight spill through the window
and kiss the countertop blue. A bird sits on the sill and sings,
"How do you do, How do you do."

The clock chimes two.

I roll marbles in the grout lines of the tile
floor. They scatter and the cat chases after,
following lines that look like telephone wires, a
crucifix covered in shoe prints. I hear our mother
sob and roll three marbles all at once.
They clash and clatter, globs of matter
in motion.

The cat doesn't know where to run.

It'll be three hours yet before the sun comes
up. Voices swim in the rafters like whales
in the ocean, they echo and they spar.
The bird extends her wings and says,
"Goodnight, whoever you are." Our parents
are still fighting, but the dawn is marching
towards our door.

Katie fell from the second floor.
She doesn't play marbles with me anymore.

She lives in the kitchen drawer next to the sink,
sleeping in pearls and a dress. Sisters I never knew
keep her company, likewise clothed in their best--
pendants and curls, their wide eyes unblinking
and blue. They whisper in silence,
"We're waiting for you."

We were the last two. 

Adrianna Coe:

Abby Zilka:
My Eye Falls on Cornell's Parrot and Butterfly Habitat

and meets two other eyes, 
two other creatures staring out,
plump, perched, complacent, nestled and floating,
they flash against the whitewashed sky. Beneath
wrapped-wirey knotted cloud, breeze trails me to the hatched
and boarded case where drabber beasts of air
toss lightly, wing
to wing, span to span, landing
dusty rooted to the ground, then lift and
rush back up: two old friends.

Safe, contained, I tumble through;
watching them watching others
and again.

Kristen Hatakeda:

Kristin Rasmussen:

Ian Heisler:

Holly Collier:

Kelly McBride:
Mare Insularum:

sea of islands, the southeast range
of moon mountains. A light flickered on
in the old section. I returned in tropic showers,
saw the racehorses and yellow trees at dawn.
In Belmont, they're playing calypso music, 
tidal forces against the shores. Night
in the Ibrium Basin, a surface breach,
a flood of lava uprising.

[Text taken from Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Near Side of the Moon and Isles of the Caribbean.]

Johanna Hickle:
 Sands of Time

Each in turn must scoop his share
From the floor of this desert we call life.
Goblets, hats, cupped hands
Clutching at what we cannot keep.

Sand always discovers the
Cracks in the class
Tears in the cloth
Gaps between the fingers.
A trickling towards
The inevitable conclusion.

Life is not the organized hour glass
But an imperfect vessel--shattered. 
Time leaks.
Its loss will end coldly
And yet we linger in each warm grain of the present.
Sand wears down stone and bone alike
But does so 
Almost gently. 

Jessamy Delling: