Saturday, May 31, 2008

Art Blog: When things are NEW

It looks like job search central around this place. Papers are everywhere. I have transcript request forms sitting right here next to me. That will be one of my first tasks this weekend. I finished one online application for a district just west of Orlando. I am half way through another application for a school district about an hour north of where I live now. Doing these applications is making me spacey. I had to take a break because I was starting to hyperventilate! LOL
Another reason I wanted to write is because something just occurred to me. I was searching for art jobs online. I would see K-12 job openings and copy the information for future reference. Then I saw a couple of college level openings. My heart literally skipped a beat. I want that kind of job! I loved teaching at the college level. I was so sad when those jobs seemed to slip through my fingers. I have always wanted to do that again. Then, I started to think about it. Memories are funny. It is like remembering an old love relationship. I tend to remember only the good things about former lovers and wonder why we broke up. I have to think hard to remember the horrible events. Even though I didn’t quit my college teaching jobs and remember loving those times, I don’t acknowledge the flies in the ointment. It isn’t all peaches and cream working with young adults. They have many “issues”. Some still carry around their teen angst baggage along with a suitcase full of bravado. Many lack the skills to be responsible and have never heard of “work ethic”. I found these things to be very annoying.
I realized this is one reason I love working with younger students. Everything is NEW to them. The world is full of wonder. They have fresh eyes and honest perspectives. They are appreciative. Very often when you teach them something, they think you are a genius or an angel. They are truly full of awe.
A couple of days ago, I had the first grade art class in my room. It was their last art class for the year. They had finished their final project and we only had a half hour left. I asked “So what do you want to do for the last few minutes?” A little boy said “I want to learn how to make a paper airplane!!” I said “OK! That is a great idea!!!” So I ran and grabbed a stack of paper and showed the kids how to make a simple paper airplane. Within minutes, the art room looked like an international airport with planes flying in and out and over and under. Zoom!!!! The kids were laughing and giggling. I was too.
I highly doubt many of my college level drawing or design students remember me. If they do, it would be a passing thought. However, I know for sure these 1st graders will remember the day the airplanes flew.
The next day one of the kids came and gave me this drawing with a thank you note. It gave me chills.

Do you remember when the world was amazing?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Art Blog: Inertia Ends

Oh I know, I know. I have been talking about this forever. I just needed something to push me over the edge. I guess I was CHICKEN. Well, yesterday it happened. I experienced the moment that was the last straw. I am done. I am ready. It is time for me to move on. Oh my goodness, it is such a relief to say this. It is OK. It will be OK. It is a good thing. One thing I know for sure is I always land on my feet. Also, my friend Gilda reminded me I have “remodeled my life” before. I can do it again!
I don’t want to go into details. However, something happened at work that was like a bop on my head. I get it now. I get the fact it is really, REALLY time for me to move on to new things. New horizons. A new life. I am looking at it like a new adventure.
Have you ever worked at the same place for 15 years? Have you? If so, you know what I am going through. I am a fixture at my job. I am a really great fixture. They are so lucky to have me. I have been so lucky to have them. I have always gotten what I needed to do a really great job. Yet, I am not happy. In fact, I am miserable. That is why it is time to move on. I realize this now.
It is time.
I came home yesterday and immediately started looking for another job. This is a HUGE step for me. Until now, I have been paralyzed with fear. I am over being scared. So, I dusted off my transcripts. I made a “job search” folder and started to collect leads. I have already sent inquires concerning a few advertisements I read. This weekend I am polishing up my job resume and preparing application materials. I am open to all kinds of possibilities. I am keeping an open mind and want to see what I can find out there. I might not teach K-12 anymore. I might go back to being an adjunct at a college. I might go back to working at an art center or museum. I might even end up working as a truck stop diner waitress!!! Who knows? I am less concerned with the kind of job I will get. I am more concerned about keeping my sanity and health.
It is kind of ironic. I started working with mentally ill children because I related to them. I understood their chaos. Growing up, I lived a life less than calm. However, I think I have FINALLY outgrown this. I don’t need to live every day in an environment of chaos and anger. My body can’t take being tense for seven continuous hours as I wait for the next kid to throw a chair and break a window with their fist. I am tired of being abused verbally on the hour. I am worth more. I am eager to use my talents to do great things with students who will truly benefit from my contribution. I am ready now for that to happen.
It might take me a while to find my new life. I will. At least, I have started looking. It is time. HALLALUEAH!

Hey, if any of you come across any art
teaching positions leads, drop me an email!
Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Art Blog: Elegy for Rauschenberg

No time to write tonight. I got off work (HA HA HA HA HA) and proceeded to work on my last big project for my job for the past six hours. However, I just logged into YouTube and found this WONDERFUL video put up today. It is EXCELLENT!!

Art:21-Elegy for Robert Rauschenberg

Monday, May 26, 2008

Art Blog: Square One

Have you ever experienced a moment in your life when you wanted to either slap or shake yourself silly? I have. In fact, I feel like that right now. I want to grab myself and scream "SNAP OUT OF IT!!!!!" I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry, I am going through a passage. I am truly hoping this is the dark before the dawn. Right now, I am not comfortable in my own skin.
I have been trying to figure out what is going on. I don’t feel grounded. I feel like I am moving a thousand directions, yet going nowhere fast. I had a thought yesterday as I sat out on the patio. I realized this is the first time in 24 years I am truly free at least to make the decision to do whatever I want. This is why I was entertaining the idea of moving yesterday. FREE AGAIN!!! I have always treasured my freedom and independence. That is why I have been single most of my life. I didn’t have my daughter until I was thirty years old. That put a little kibosh on my free spirit nature. I thought I was freewheeling, but she slowed me down a bit. In many ways, I am thankful for that. Having her made me responsible and bit more serious. I am so glad she has been a part of my life.
She left a few years ago. I was never one of these “empty nester” mothers. In fact, I helped her pack just so she could leave faster. LOL LOL To be honest the first two years after her departure, I still wasn’t alone. She lived elsewhere, but had a foot in my door for a while. Despite my disapproval, I still was holding some financial strings like the last threads of the umbilical cord. Now, she is firmly planted in another city and is a true adult. No strings attached anymore. I thought about this yesterday. Then I realized her graduation to adulthood plays a role in what is going on with me right now. I am back to “square one”. My mind flashed to 1982 before I became pregnant.

Back then, I was making my art, being an artist, and just being Sheree. I did what I want, when I wanted. I just realized I am back there. I am all alone again. It just feels so weird.
I went out into my studio and looked around. Holy macaroni!! What a mess!! This state of chaos is common this time of year. When I am finishing up work projects, I let things pile up. Just looking at the resulting mess, makes me tired. So the first thing on the agenda in the next few weeks is to get busy cleaning, organizing, and overhauling my studio. I have to do something to get out of this blue funk!! SLAP SLAP SLAP!! Get it together Sheree or I will shake you silly!!

If cleanliness is next to Godliness,
I better do something fast
before I go to HELL.

Gnarls Barkley (my favorite) says it best:
"Maybe I'm crazy
Maybe you're crazy
Maybe we're crazy

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Art Blog: The WALL

I have been talking so much about being free. No attachments! Free as a bird! Happy-go-lucky! Kicking my heels up and experiencing the world! NOT! During this time of reflection, I have contemplated chucking it all. I have been poor before. I have lived like a bohemian. However, even though I mentioned being back to square one yesterday, I really can’t go back. I have STUFF now. I have no diamonds or pearls. Even my house is a tiny bungalow. I am not talking millions here. In fact, the things I prize are worthless to many. However, they mean the world to me.
I have been thinking about moving(?) You know the part about “shaking myself silly”. Well, I thought maybe I should sell my house and move somewhere, anywhere, do something different, anything!!!! However, every time I think that thought, the first thing that pops into my mind is my WALL. This is the first house I have even owned. I had always been a renter. I bought this house in 2001. For about a year and a half, all I did was work and change this place to be my artistic house. I had stored up visions for decades. I need to have all those pictures in my head come to fruition. So I worked, painted, tore down, put up, and created my own creative nest.
One thing that took me nearly a year to complete was my kitchen wall. I made tiles and intentionally cracked them. I hoarded baubles and beads. I collected dishes and smashed them to smithereens. I glued and grouted and polished until it was done. I FINALLY had my mosaic kitchen wall. I guess it took more out of me than I thought. OR, maybe I put more into it than I ever imagined.

I don’t want to leave this silly kitchen or my stupid wall. The figurative and literal connotations of this dilemma are funny and sad all at the same time. I mean, think about it. A wall keeps you out or it keeps you in. It creates a barrier. It keeps the boogie man out. It keeps you safe. Right now, I have hit the WALL, so to speak. I have made a little mosaic wall that I wanted for so long and don’t want to give it up. Yes, I could make another one, but that makes me exhausted just thinking about it. Also, it would never be the same. I don’t recall ever being this needy. I have never been so attached and possessive of anything until now. I have a specific (neurotic) feeling of CLING to this kitchen wall. Is it time to move on? The thought makes me nauseous. Yes, I have it bad!!! Maybe moving isn’t the answer. Back to the drawing board.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Art Blog: Creative Process

Obviously, I love creating. That is my job. However, I also love the creative process. I find creativity such a fascinating thing. How our thoughts are generated and how ideas evolve seems miraculous to me. It is like an extended game of connect the dots.
When an artist creates, the entire process does not always take place in the studio. For me, I might get an idea and let it bounce around my head for weeks or months. It is as if I have a little incubator inside my head. I see something and it becomes a seed. Then, I hear something and in goes that sound. The feel or taste of my world creates the water and soil for the idea to grow. One thought leads to another and little by little those thought seeds take root. During the gestation, events play a role in the feeding and nurturing of a new creative baby.
For example, I am currently collecting concepts for new art work. Here is how one of my new ideas is evolving:

Seed #1: An autistic student gave me one of his drawings. It was a huge, poster board marker drawing. He said it was called the “Treasure Map”. I really looked at it. I was so taken by the creative purity this drawing contained. The artist had no hesitation. His marks flow and images dance. Also, the idea of “Treasure Maps” stuck in my head. I brought the work to my studio and kept looking at it.
Seed #2: That same day, a colleague gave me a huge, box of printed maps. I figured I would use them for collage or teaching resources. At the time, I didn’t see any connection between these maps and the Treasure Map drawing.
Seed #3: As mentioned in my “Catalogs” blog post, I was reminded of and acknowledged I miss my “Detroit River” piece which is a collage drawing incorporating a map.
Seed #4: I was speaking to a friend about how I never travel. Except to drive to work and the grocery store, I am nearly agoraphobic.
Seed #5: I am going through a passage in my life right now. I am SEARCHING for an elusive something. Lately, every day is spent trying to find myself and my future. I don’t know where I am going (physically, emotionally, or artistically) right now. I am in search of direction!

I have taken these five events, stirred them up, shaken them until I see a fizz, and POOF!!! I have a new art direction. One new series will be my own TREASURE MAPS.

A gift
The Treasure Map
By “A.M.”, an autistic boy

Oh, and before he gave this drawing to me, he gave himself a grade: A+!
No problem with self esteem there!! Tee hee hee

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Art Blog: Dumbing Down

I thought it was me. I really did. I had heard stories about becoming opinionated and cranky as you age. I guess I was starting to buy into that myth. In the past few years, I have noticed more and more how stilted and one-sided our news coverage appears to be. Now, I know we (AMERICA) have always had an ethnocentric view of the world. It just seems to me to be getting so, so obvious and “in your face” lately. Also, our news is getting more and more DUMB and less and less relevant to important issues in our lives.
All this crap about Britney, Lindsay, Whocaresy???? When Anna Nicole died, my daughter was working for CNN. She wrote me an email and expressed exhaustion. She said the news bureau had gone berzerk trying to cover this celebrity death. Just the idea and imagined visual makes me sick. Are we really this shallow? Are we?
Meanwhile, there is a whole world out there. In this technological age, it is shocking and sad to realize we are told and know very little about our world. We really don’t.
To me, this is very, very scary.

TED video
”We know less about our world”

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Art Blog: Catalogs and Coincidence

I got such a great surprise in yesterday’s mail. I received a catalog of a show I was in at Kulturhaus Pusdorf in Bremen, Germany. I didn’t even know they were making a catalog. This kind of stuff tickles me. Even though I have been in a lot of exhibitions with catalogs, there is just something exciting about looking through the pages and find something you created. Just looking at your name in print is kind of heady. LOL LOL
The show was called “Am Fluss / By the River”. Obviously, the theme was “rivers”. I just had to do a piece about my Detroit River. I swam in that river as a child. I rode many boats on that river. I looked down on that river as I crossed the Ambassador Bridge. Later in life while doing “beer runs” to Windsor, Ontario, I drove through the river via the underground tunnel! LOL
My Detroit River has many fond memories. So I did a fold out, mixed media collage with text. I sent it over to Bremen, Germany never to see it again. It will be a part of the Kulturehaus Pusdorf collection. I miss that collage. I loved it so. However, I am so glad others got to see it and it will be enjoyed in the future too.
The weirdest part of all this is I have been collecting ideas and stuff for my new art in the past few weeks. This past Friday, a guy I worked with came to me and gave me a huge box of old maps. He said “I thought you might be able to use these.” I looked at the maps and immediately remembered my “Detroit River” collage. I thought of doing some art this summer using maps. Then this catalog came in the mail. Bizarre little coincidence!!
Here is the cover of the catalog and “my” page:

Click to see a large image of this piece on my Mail Art webpage. Scroll down. It’s there.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Art Blog: Louise Bourgeois

I gotta start counting my blessings and thinking of the good parts of my life. I just have to because I am on the downward side of an emotional rollercoaster and it is having an effect on my art life. So I got out a pencil and began to think. Ironically, I mentioned this in an email to my friend this morning. We were tossing around ideas about our lives and art. We are nearly the same age and have a lot of the same stuff swirling around our minds.
Come on Sheree, think. The very first thing that popped into my mind was how lucky I am to be a female artist because I have many very wonderful role models. Historically speaking, quite a few of the female artists who live long lives tend to be just the kind of person I want to be. One of my primary artist mentors is Louise Bourgeois. She is just too cool. She is little and feisty like me. Maybe that is why I have always been drawn to her. I have a video I watch all the time that shows her in her studio working. She is so crusty and funny. She has this “I don’t give a shit about anything (except me and my art)!” kind of attitude. I love that about her. She has such a brusque, yet entertaining sense of humor. I love that about her too. Then there is her art. Her entire lifetime has been spent making absolute treasures.
I have heard about her “show and tells” that take place in her studio on weekends. I only wish I could be a fly on the wall of one of her Sunday salons.
I am not one to bow to celebrity, but it would be so dreamlike to be in the same room with such a force. I would love to have a moment to simply breathe the same air.
Ok…..That was #1. GOOD thing…Now back to my list. Keep writing, Sheree LOL

#1 I have been lucky to know I have a life purpose.
Women like Louise Bourgeois have inspired me to keep making art until the end.
Watch this little video I found.

Click here to see another exquisite video at Artivi about her current Paris retrospective.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Art Blog: I DARE You!

Today I read a post about “Emerging Artists” on a blog. The debate was about what IS an emerging artist. Of course, I have my opinions. After all, if you haven’t “made it” (whatever that means), you are still emerging, right?
One of the commenters took umbrage at another comment about those describing artists who are not emerging as those artists who can create freely, sans day job. The commenter went off. She said a bunch of stuff which included the word (her word) rubbish! I liked her passion!
I have been working very hard the past few weeks to finish things, tie up loose ends, and polish off the work of my day job before I am allowed a two month break. After reading the post about emerging artists, I thought “SHIT!! I am still “emerging” even after all these years!” However, I realized I have spent a lot of time and energy spreading my talents around to include a vast realm of tasks that may or may not have pushed me up or down as I have tried to EMERGE.
For example, I teach. I teach students who have all kinds of weirdnesses. It is very interesting, albeit exhausting work. Luckily it is a creative job, I am working as an artist, and I get to see the concrete product of this vein of spent energy. Look below to see a few art works by my students.
Yeah, I am still emerging after all these years. Shoot! I might be emerging until I am 90 years old! LOL LOL. I have no regrets though. I am an artist juggler. I dare you to try to do what I do every day.

My kid's art.
All I can say is BRAVO!!

Art Blog: Mr. Rauschenberg

This sounds kind of moronic and juvenile. I have been an artist all my life. I have a “stamp of approval on my forehead (reading M.F.A.) artist” for 29 years. When someone asks, “Who is your favorite artist?” I cringe a little bit. I mean, I have seen so much art and read so much about artists in my life time; I have lost count of the impressions and influences. Yet even though the question is simplistic and very fundamental, I have always responded immediately with “Rauschenberg!”
When I was in grad school, artists like Frank Stella, Lewitt, Pearlstein, Pfaff, Hesse, and a zillion other artists of the 70’s were all the rage. I heard lecture after lecture about their artistic brilliance. Yet, I had heard stories about Rauschenberg before I arrived. I remained loyal to his cause. He has always been my imaginary mentor.
I always loved the life narrative provided by stories about Rauschenberg and his relationship working with Johns. (Jasper Johns is my favorite artist too! It must be a tie!! LOL) I was in the company of John Cage once and he related Rauschenberg stories as they related to his work and life. I was in awe. I loved the way Rauschenberg thought. His “Erased DeKooning” scandal was brilliant. I love watching him speak on any video I can find. For some reason his voice and ideas have always been soothing to me. I have always believed him. I find myself nodding Yes! Yes! Yes! every time I watch.
Then there is the “goat” story. That has been in my mind for years. I love that goat. I love the work. I love Rauschenberg.
Like I said in my last post, there will be a time our turn is over. Robert’s turn ended May 12, 2008. How sad. How happy. We are left with the work of a wonderful artist’s life and ideas. We are so lucky. I am so thankful.

Rauschenberg talking about the GOAT

Monday, May 12, 2008

Art Blog: DING!! Your Turn is OVER

If you get freaky or deny the fact we are all going to die, you might not want to read this entry. It is about my thoughts on dropping dead. LOL LOL

It is going to end. There will be a time when your “turn” is over. We all die. There will come a day when the bell will ring. Time is up! Fininto! The jigs up! You are done! The END!
Gosh, what a scary thought. Sad, but true.
Reality bites!

I remember when the space shuttle blew up. My father who had an eighth grade education said “Where did all those brains go?” Now I know this isn’t a brilliant, articulate, or delicate way of responding to this event. He was doing the best he knew how to do. However, I totally understood and agreed with his perceptions. He was wondering about the essence of the human being. In his simple way, he wondered about all the attributes that work together to make the person. He realized there was more to it than just having a body. His question was sincere and he wondered about all the inner human traits.
Where DOES it all go?
Recently, I checked out Coagula Live Journal and learned of Eugenia Butler’s death. Eugenia was a conceptual artist. You can see her speaking (quite informally) in the video linked below. As I watched the video, she reminded me of me. Now don’t get your panties in a wad. I am not comparing my art to her art or comparing my place to her stature in the art world. I am comparing myself to her as a human being, a female, and an artist. She goes on and on talking about ideas and her perceptions of the world. One idea leads to another and another. I watched that video and thought things similar to my Dad’s thoughts. Where is she now? Where did all those words and ideas go?
I think of death all the time. In fact, I don’t question it. I am just curious as to how it will happen and when. I also wonder what will remain. I will be floating in the wind and after being cremated, I will settle as kitty litter in my back yard. However, where will all my ideas, perceptions, experiences, racing thoughts, energy, and verve go? Will they drift in the wind along with my ashes?

No. They will be right here on my blog, website, and vlog. They will be contained in all my art works. They will be walking around inside the heads of all my students and all the people I have met in my life. I will still be alive, just not in body. That is all we can hope for in this life. We pray for a legacy. I am as sure of mine as I am sure of my eventual demise. Maybe this is why the idea of dying doesn't really bother me. I know who I am. I know what I have done so far. I know for sure, I done good! :-)
I just wonder how much time I have left to do more stuff(?????) Hmmmmmmmm, Don't you wish you knew the date your bell will ding? I do!

Eugenia Butler 1947 – 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Art Blog: Art Baby

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I am a “Mommy” too. That is a shocker at least to me. I never thought of myself as being a Mom. Even when I was a little, little girl, my sisters would play house and name their potential children. I would roll my eyes and know this was not my plan. I had no maternal aspirations at all. I just wanted to live my life and be an artist. Thinking back, I suppose I was quite precocious, but honest. Being a mother wasn’t on my list of life plans.
Well, we make plans and God laughs. I went to school: CHECK. I became an artist: CHECK. I had a baby: HUH? What a great surprise. Even though I was very unsure and frightened, I went with the flow of life. She was and still is my “Art Baby”.
To be honest, I am so thankful. I am not sure I would be alive now if I hadn’t been blessed with her birth. She gave me drive and the will to survive. She gave me hope. She gave me laughter. She taught me about life. She taught me about love. She gave me lessons on how to be a Mommy and a good one at that.
Time flies when you are having fun. My little Art Baby is 24 years old now. She is a vibrant, inspirational, intelligent, and beautiful woman. So I am having a Happy Mother’s day because I was lucky enough to be allowed to raise the best daughter in the world.
Love you with all my heart ART BABY!!

”Sheree and Art Baby”
postcard photo shoot 1984
”Art Babies” exhibition at Detroit Council for the Arts
Photo Credit: Gilda Snowden

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I feel the pressure rising from my body. Not counting weekends, I only have 15 ½ days left before I have a two month vacation. Well, vacation isn’t the right word. I work like hell during those months. It is my primary art making time. However, it is a break from having to do and think about things other people want me to do and think. Freedom reigns!
This is the time of year that is so much fun. I dive in head first and immerse myself in all things art. I am totally self absorbed and my mind fills with racing thoughts: “I need to work on a new series, I need to do a little marketing, I need to make connections, I need to do this and that NOW!” Also, I have time to read, relax, and contemplate my so called “art life”. Just this week I began reading art blogs again. My other duties are winding down and I have time to do things I WANT TO DO.
This morning I was reading Eva Lake’s Blog. In her current post “Ways to be an artist”, she mentions feeling a panic attack coming on when people ask “What are you doing now?” I relate to this so much. I made an honest comment on the post about how I understand this kind of anxiety particularly in these technological times.
Obviously, I write this blog. I have a website. I also make art videos and put them up on YouTube, Live Video, and Blip. When I started my YouTube channel, I happily started uploading videos of finished work and works in progress. A few of the videos had me talking while painting. For a while, the video camera became a fixture in my studio. Then it happened! I started getting so freaky and anxious about what I was doing, I began to see the camera as the enemy. I started second guessing my art work and became increasingly self conscious with every brushstroke. I felt like BIG BROTHER WAS WATCHING ME! So, I have slowed down and stepped back. I will still make videos, just fewer and farther between.
Sometimes I get that same feeling writing this blog. I intentionally think of topics other than what I am working on in the studio because I need a bit of head space and privacy to create. With all the blogging, vlogging, websiting, and videomaking, it is easy for an artist to feel the panic. It is as if you have this huge eye watching you as its huge mouth is yelling directly in your ear:
I can’t deal with that, so I have to take it slow and mellow. Technology is great. The technological community is even greater. However, every artist needs a quiet, private time to work sometimes.
What do you think?

By Sheree Rensel
Acrylic/Mixed Media/Canvas
Click to enlarge

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Art Blog: Tell me about the Rabbits

I have always had this thing. I want to be known and seen as an ARTIST, not a teacher. I have spoken before about my “day job”. I find it ironic that when I began teaching (begrudgingly), I started getting so much attention and notice. I won awards and accolades. Sheree became the great teacher. Sheree the great artist got lost in the shuffle. I didn’t like that, so for the past few years I denied that part of me. I don’t talk about it. Of course, I go to work each day, but I might as well be going to dig ditches. I just don't discuss my job. I stopped corresponding with other teachers. I stopped doing educational research. I focused on my art. That is where my heart is. If I was going to have a tombstone, I would want it to read “Sheree the ARTIST”. That is my own perception of myself and that is my primary legacy.
Every so often this plan to establish and galvanize my identity gets pushed aside. Since I teach kids with challenges, I am often disappointed. Today I learned that one of my students was charged with armed robbery. He robbed a pharmacy for drugs. I saw the surveillance tape. I saw his mug shot online. I look at him and just want to puke. He was one kid I thought had a chance. I thought he was smarter. I thought he knew better.
The artist in me wants to throw my hands up and say “I told you so!!! Society is totally screwed up!” The teacher in me feels so sad. I have worked with this student for years. He was a great student. Yes, he had issues, but there was some residue of hope. Now, all those perceptions are gone. This is exactly why I wonder why I do this kind of work. But then……..
Reality started to set in, then today something else happened. Some of the kids I teach are thugs in training. Some are truly emotionally disturbed. Some just don’t fit into the school system for multiple reasons, so they put them at our school. One such student is “A”. He is a huge guy. He is autistic. Every time I look at him, I think of Lennie in the Steinbeck novel “Of Mice and Men”. I expect him to blurt out “Tell me about the rabbits George” at any given moment.
Today “A” and I worked on a project together. As we were working he mumbled something I couldn’t understand. I told him to speak more clearly so I could understand what he wanted. He then said “Ms. Rensel, what are budget cuts?” I was shocked that he even asked that question. However, I told him budget cuts are when you are getting a certain amount of money and then someone says you don’t get that same amount anymore. So you have to stop buying so much stuff because you don’t have as much money.” He looked at me. I looked at him. I said ““A”, why did you ask me this question?” He began to flap his hands and said “I heard that because of budget cuts the government is taking away our art classes!!” This remark was akin to a bucket of ice water being thrown on me. First, I was shocked he could even comprehend or connect the relationships. Second, I was floored he was so concerned. I threw my arms around his robust waist and gave him a huge hug. I told him “Don’t worry “A”. I am not going anywhere. We will still have art at this school. If they tell us no, we will fight for it, together, right?” He smiled a big, goofy smile. I did too. I realized this is why I continue to teach. I need to be there to tell kids about the rabbits.

I rarely publish my teacher website.
This is the link to our project gallery.
I am doing it now in memory of the good times and good work I have shared with my students.
May they find peace in their lives.
They are in my mind and heart always.
Click pic to see student work. These are the kids some people say CAN'T.
Well, look at the work. Who would have thought?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Art Blog: ART Home Shopping Network?

If you are a reader of this blog, you know there has been plenty of “blah, blah, blah about art marketing, art genres, art business, and art everything. You know I scrunch my nose up when it comes to doing art for the masses. (This is my choice. If you want to do that, go for it! Please don’t write me hate mail.)
Even though I wrestle with the ideas of the kind of art to do and the venues in which I sell (or don’t sell) art work, I am fascinated with the artists who are taking the bull (no pun intended) by the horns and going for it. “Natasha” is one artist who just makes me laugh. Every time I see her online, I just sit and watch. I can’t write everything I am thinking. There are just too many racing thoughts. However, when I watched one of her recent videos, I not only laughed out loud, but I took notice. She reminds me so much of those “Home Shopping Network” sales people. She has it down pat. She has the smooze. She has the product placement. She has the threat of “time is of the essence”. She knows how to fuel the flames of potential sales. She understands the concept of insinuating SCARCITY. She knows how to repetitiously mention product and brand. She has this line of products; she has that line of products. She has Swarovski crystals in some of her artwork for goodness sake!!! Oh. OK. She has it down!
I don’t ever want to do this kind of thing. Never. However, I think Natasha is speaking to the current economic culture and societal expectations of commercialism. I just can’t help but expect her to come out one day like the late night TV car salesman sporting a gold grill and a bit of bling while she waves her arms around saying
“Tonight, I have a DEAL for you!!”

Hey, Natasha has it going on.
Even though this is not my art marketing style or aspiration, I have to give her credit.
She is doing her thing.
More power to her!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Art Blog: There is a Season

I can remember back when I was about 34 years old, I met an artist who was in her 70’s. She had a very illustrious resume. At one time, she was an artist commissioned by the U.S. Air Force. She did oil paint “portraits” of fighter jets. I admit, I was so stupid and na├»ve then, I wasn’t impressed. After all, I was a young, successful emerging, contemporary artist. I was so full of myself! I met her because I was the education coordinator at an art center. She came to teach classes there. One time, she was in my office and her pantyhose were riding down under her pants. She dropped trou right in front of me and pulled her pantyhose up. I guess she noticed my jaw drop and she was quick to say “Honey when you are my age, you don’t care what people think!!” At the time, I thought she was just an old, crazy lady. Now, I “get it”. In fact, I wish I could meet her again. I could learn so much from her, NOW. (File this under the “Young and Stupid Category”)
I also remember feeling sorry for people who were “older”. I just figured they never had any fun. LOL LOL LOL Oh geesh, I know better now. It might surprise some to learn that if I walk into a room with a hundred people, I seek out those in their late 40’s and early 50’s. These are my people, my peers. We get along just dandy and have lots of fun too!! They speak my language. I speak theirs. It is all good!!
No matter what age we are, we all notice time brings changes to our lives. One of my YouTube subscriptions is the “Generic1927” channel. This channel features videos by Peter. He is an English man who is obviously a senior citizen. I love his videos because he always has sage advice and lots of words of wisdom gathered during his long life. His most recent video speaks of saying goodbye to an old friend. At first, you might think someone has died. Instead, he is talking about having to sell a treasured car. It was a Mercedes sports car. The reason he had to give it up was because he realized due to the car’s road hugging stature, he was no longer able to boost himself out of the low sitting car. Watch the video below to hear him tell the story. It is poignant and kind of sad.
After watching the video, I really felt bad for him. I started thinking about how age has robbed him of one of his joys. Then I realized everything has a season. At every stage of our lives, we can do certain things. Even as children, we grow out of a treasured outfit. A time comes when we can’t ride our favorite bicycle anymore because I legs grew too long.
In our teens, we are forced to give up childish things because of peer pressure or the desire to appear grown up. When we are in our twenties and thirties, it is time to be an adult. Even if we like partying or being free spirits, life responsibilities creep up and force us to be mature. I know at my age, I sometimes want to go out in the backyard and do cartwheels. I stop myself because I don’t feel like risking a trip to the chiropractor.
Everything has its season. However with each new era in our life, new things come to bring joy and happiness. I might not be able to do cartwheels, but I still can act silly and dance around. Also, I have more freedom than any other time in my life. I can remember years ago, NEVER going out of the house without makeup. Now, I couldn't care less! Like Lorraine told me "you get to a certain age and it just doesn't matter to you anymore". Peter doesn’t have his sport car, but he has a new car and has the wits and humor to make entertaining videos. Watch him. He inspires me and makes me realize life goes on despite setbacks and changes time brings to us all.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Art Blog: The ODDS

After posting a “tongue in cheek” entry about bizarre art methods and genres, I started thinking about my own art history. From my teaching experience I have learned that the personality of a child when he/she enters kindergarten is basically the package. Oh yes, they grow up and mature, but the general components of adulthood are all right there standing before you. I think this was true for me when I entered art school. I had all the stuff. It just didn't have it quite together for it to make any sense.
Here I was an almost twenty year old, bleach blond ditz enrolling in art classes. I wanted to be an ARTIST. At that time, I really didn’t know or understand what that really meant. However, I jumped into the pot with both feet. I didn’t know art from diddly squat. I was in art kindergarten. All I knew was the feeling I got when I made stuff was the way I wanted to feel forever.
Looking back I ask “What were the ODDS?” I pose this question because I was fortunate enough to have an inspirational professor like no other. His name is David Barr. I couldn’t have been any luckier to have him as my first art professor. He is a top notch artist. His teaching abilities were beyond reproach. The UNIVERSE was so kind for directing me to cross his path.
I am a painter. My work has always been pretty straight forward. Conceptual art has always been something that boggled my mind. Yet it was quite intriguing and something for which I have thought about often. David Barr is a sculptor. During his long, productive career, he has created a huge portfolio of large scale sculptures. He has also created a number of conceptual projects that are mind bending. By accident (?), I found this old video of one such art project. It is called ”Four Corners”. I question the “accidental” discovery of the video because it is too much of a coincidence. I have been talking about art intent, art process, and art product lately. The “Four Corners” project is about all of those things. This art work is a bit difficult to explain. I wish I could share the video. However, due to copyright issues, I cannot do that. David envisioned a tetrahedron inside the sphere of the earth. The four corners of the tetrahedron would touch four points of the earth. Barr sculpted “corners” out of stone and with the help of a mathematician and geographer, Barr chose those points on the earth. He then went on a journey to plant those corners at specific sites: Easter Island, Greenland, New Guinea, and the Kalahari Desert. It took him years to complete the project. The concept is unbelievable. Even more incredible is he actually brought the idea to fruition.
This is why I feel so lucky to have had David Barr as my first, real life, art influence. Even though my art is not conceptual, his ideas about art, drive, process, and creative philosophy act as the soil from which Sheree the artist grew. Like Barr, I believe intent is one of the most important components of creativity. I know some people think I am an odd duck. Some might think I have strange, unusual opinions about just about everything. That is just fine. Thinking back on my art life, I realize why I am the way I am now. Even after all the years, my true foundation stands strong.

”Yin-Yang” by David Barr
Click to read a David Barr interview
at the “WHY” project blog.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Art Blog: Smirk

I am sitting here smirking like a Cheshire Cat. You just have to have a sense of humor. This is true in life and in art. I woke up this morning and decided to check my email before going into the studio. While on the computer, I decided to look at the “Art Deadlines” website for any interesting exhibition opportunities. Sometimes it is frustrating looking at calls for entries for juried shows. The themes make it so hard to enter if you don’t make art in the exact genre, style, or message they want to promote. As I read through the list, I saw this: “CALL FOR FOOD THEMED ART” The show is scheduled to take place in late 2008 at Pittsburgh State University. I am not a food artist. I don’t paint food. I don’t make art about food. I don’t make art with food. I just eat a lot of food. However, that post made me curious. So I went to the website to investigate.
Anybody who might read this call for entries who doesn’t have a background in art might think they are calling for artists similar to those on the Food Network. You know those people who make monumental, sculptural cakes or fantastic ice sculptures. NOPE. That is not what they mean. The exhibition juror is Liz Hickok. She is an artist who constructs molds and fashions little cities out of Jell-o. Currently she is known for her Jell-O art. The installations are quite unique and colorful. Of course, Jell-O doesn’t last long, so she takes photographs and makes videos of the pieces. That is the long term, end product.
I went to her website and sat there and looked at her photos. I didn’t really know what to think. It reminded me of something I said in a recent post about having a “hook” to market your art. Likewise, many artists have “hooks” to get noticed. Think about Duchamp’s fountain (urinal) in which he launched the concept of readymades. Jeff Koon’s is always getting attention for some bizarre monstrosity he has made. Christian Serrano stirred up interest in his photography with the scandalous “Piss Christ”, a photo of a crucifix floating in urine. Let’s not forget Damien Hirst. He comes up with one fantastic albeit weird art concept after another. More power to them all.
Getting back to the Jell-O artist, her work reminds me a bit of photographers akin to Sandy Skogland or Cindy Sherman. They set up self manufactured scenes to photograph. All these ideas and methods are quite ingenious.
However, I just can’t help but laugh and giggle. Sometimes making art isn’t enough. The madness in the method gets a whole lot of attention too.

"Self Portrait with Bed Head"
Oatmeal, Strawberries, Orange, and a 1-A-Day
Like I said, you just have to have a sense of humor!!
OH!! BTW. This photo of my oatmeal portrait is the only surviving record of this art work.
This is because I ATE IT!!