Sunday, April 17, 2011

Place Project

The central Minnesota area has been a significant inspiration to my artwork in general. Within this location, there is an abundance of lakes and woodlands with flourishing ecosystems. A wealth of plants, animals, and other organisms thrive, from which I gain most of the subject matter for my work. These natural surroundings and an appreciation for wildlife have always been a value in my family; so much to the point that within the yards of my family members, there is an imitation of these organisms. Kitsch garden décor overtakes the yards of most of the homes in the area. It is a cultural norm for people to decorate their gardens and yards with an abundance of mass-produced garden paraphernalia. Frogs, bees, flowers, birds, deer, rabbits, and many other appreciated organisms are imitated in the form of cheap, plastic junk that serves no functioning purpose other than to supposedly be “cute.” There seems to be a natural desire to make yards “pretty” or appealing, which is understandable by my standards. What I do not understand is why the culture in central Minnesota finds these distasteful items to be appealing when placed out in nature where they do not translate.

This motif of garden décor is all too familiar, as I grew up seeing these items on a daily basis, which brought about positive and negative connotations. They do provide nostalgia for me personally, as they remind me of my grandmother and mother. As a child, I appreciated these decorations since they were toy-like representations. This may be a reason why I do have a positive response to them in my memories. There are also negative connotations with these decorations being seen as unnecessary and overbearing, especially in my eyes today. Looking beyond the human-made aspects of a yard, there are blatantly beautiful life forms that need no justification in their aesthetic appeal and purpose. Nature already provides a landscape full of many distinct organic forms and colors. What I am addressing and exploring through this project is the reason why people feel the need to distastefully imitate the already beautiful place in which they reside.

My grandmother’s yard is especially littered with sporadic garden décor. I have very fond memories of spending time with her and my grandfather at their cabin. This nostalgia includes mental imagery associated with their gardens at the cabin and the items in them. Their yard contains items of pastiche including plastic and wooden imitations of ducks, bees, frogs, rabbits, butterflies, birds, geese, loons, and many other native animals that are all too commonly found on their property in reality. There is an underlying reason for my grandmother’s enjoyment in imitating these common organisms, which I am exploring through the photograph of the bee. This photograph of an artificial, whimsical bee was taken at her cabin. I edited the photo by inserting an image of a real bumblebee to emphasize the irrational existence of the artificial one. The redundancies of the images I have produced add to this. Through this ridiculous and silly context, I am attempting to help others realize the unnecessary, but common motif of the culture.

My mother’s yard entails a unifying theme of garden décor. She enjoys the parody of frogs in her gardens with many figurines placed about in an excessive manor. There also must be some meaningful approach to this imitation, similar to that of my grandmothers. I explore this frog themed décor through the image I have produced. Just as the photograph of the bee, this frog is an artificial, whimsical representation of the realistic version. It is so excessive that it is even wearing a crown. The redundancy and positioning of the realistic frog with the artificial one emphasizes the ridiculousness of the artifice, again. In addition to the redundant theme in these two works, I plan to create a series. This will push even further the idea of redundancy.

In documentation of the garden décor, I have taken pictures to examine the themes and motives behind their existence. In my own satire, I have assembled collages via Photoshop to express redundancy on a deeper level than just the artificial version in gardens. Repetition, redundancy, and the concept of place are all evident in the collages of Suzi Gablik. In studying her work, I enjoyed the color and whimsical representation of the places portrayed in her collages.

Through my exploration and documentation, I have learned that there is a primal need for humans to imitate “beauty,” or what they may personally find beautiful. This concept is often a derivative of the values in a given culture. There is enjoyment in dwelling on what one may find beautiful or enjoyable, in the sense that it creates a longer-lived existence. The people in central Minnesota know that there are deer in the surrounding area, although they may not see them all of the time. Artifice and imitation provides the longer-lived existence. In the images I have created, I am providing a permanent existence to the redundancy in which humans find essential to well being.


This is a series of 16 wood burnings on cedar titled Vulnerable. They will be featured in my senior show on May 2nd - 6th.


This series of ink drawings began with the mapping project. I have continued to develop these into a series of ten titled Invasive, which will be featured in my senior show on May 2-6th.

Protest Project Paper

For the protest project, I am essentially protesting protest. While many of my classmates are politically protesting against Scott Walker, the budget bill, or some effect it has had on Wisconsin, I have taken my piece in a different direction. The piece I have created does not necessarily project my politics on the matter as much as it does project morals. The events that have taken place as a result of the governor’s, as well as voters’, decisions have caused chaos and resulted in unfortunate actions of many people. I am protesting these unfortunate actions and the negative effects they are having on the public, specifically students.

In all of the excitement as a result of Governor Walker’s actions, many teachers are overcome with the idea of losing their rights. As a result, it has become popularized to walk out of schools in protest. These walkouts have happened in schools all over Wisconsin. Teachers have been walking out to represent solidarity in their union, while either being unaware or carefree of the impact this specific action is having on their students. With these educators being caught up in the moment, they are leaving their students behind when they walk out of schools. Some teachers have had their students participate in the walkouts. This is including them in a political agenda, in which they may not agree with, or may not be mature enough to understand what they are partaking in. It is unclear to me why these educators think that walking out on innocent students is the best solution in the given situation. By walking out, teachers are targeting the wrong audience. The largest impact of these walkouts is on the students, as it directly affects them. There are many other constructive ways to prove a point, while still practicing what you preach.

Just as walkouts are negatively impacting Wisconsin’s students, the general attitude of their teachers negatively impact them as well. As an art education major, I am constantly in and out of schools for field experience. I have observed some very shocking attitudes and actions over the past few years, but there was specifically a recent occasion that caught my attention in accordance to this project. This incident happened in an eighth grade classroom, where I am currently completing pre-student teaching hours. There had been a lot going on with news on the budget bill, the risk of layoffs, and walkouts. This caused tensions to be high. The teacher told the students that she wasn't having a very good day and that, “Today is a bad day for teachers!” One of the students replied, "What do you mean? It's a great day!" I really appreciated his optimism. This interaction between student and teacher was very powerful to me. The negativity of the teacher completely interfered with the students' learning that day. The power that the teacher had in bringing her entire classroom down just amazed me. But, the impact that particular pure and innocent student made was beyond his years. He has no idea how impactful his statement was.

On this particular day, the students were making origami lilies. The juxtaposition of the lilies and the negativity in the classroom was very contradicting. The lily symbolizes devotion, innocence, purity, and youth. A teacher should be devoted to his/her students. I thought that this occurrence had a lot to do with the meaning behind walkouts. A teacher could be symbolized as a lily, in the sense that they are devoted, maternal figures, but this concept is completely backward when teachers decide to walk out. While the educator may be corrupt, the student remains pure and innocent. They remain devoted to learning while they are in school.

For the protest project, I wanted to create something that would represent this interaction between the student and teacher. I decided that there should be two origami lilies - one representing the teacher and one for the student. The teacher’s lily is folded from a newspaper article about walkouts to represent bringing corruption into the classroom. The student’s lily is made of pure white paper to express purity and innocence. I decided to photograph the lilies so that I could permanently capture the teacher’s lily in an ominous, looming manor, and the student’s lily in a small, innocent manor. I also wanted the compositions to appear as if the lilies are separated, but interacting with one another. To aid the interaction, I have included dialogue from the student and teacher with paint on the photo surfaces.

One artist I can identify with is An-My Le. She is interested in the experiences she must go through in order to take her photographs. What she experiences at military sites is very significant in the conceptual aspect of her work (2). I feel the same way with the protest project I have made. It was essential that I experienced what was really happening in the classrooms to decipher how I would make the concept at hand function as an art form. In general, I can also identify my work with hers in the sense that she is interested in the way that humans and nature interact. The soldiers she has conversed with claim that combat is really an interaction with nature. She speaks of this interaction as a “communion,” which I can relate to my own work (3).

Sam Durant is an artist that I can identify with in terms of the visual aspects of my project. Much of Sam Durant’s imagery involves haphazardly transcribed text (1). This chaotic way of making a statement seemed to be appropriate when layered with the photography I have done for my piece. The text I have added creates a dialogue within the diptych in a disordered way, which is reminiscent of the issue at hand.


Sam Durant


An-My Le



Final Protest Project

I have printed an image of each lily and painted quotes on top. I am not sure if it has translated well. During critique, some classmates were saying that poster size images of these would be more appropriate (as they are only 9"x 6" now). I preferred that the conversation of these two pieces stay small and intimate, since the conversation actually happened in small-town classroom. Some classmates were saying that they liked the origami in its 3-D form. I think I have come to agree with this. I wanted to achieve some permanence and stability to the work, which is why I chose to photograph the origami in the first place. Then I realized that this is not necessary in its presentation. It actually makes the conversation seem more realistic by having the origami pieces exist as objects, as they would in the actual classroom. If put in a gallery, I would display the origami pieces on a pedestal, facing each other as if they were conversing. The titles would be the quotes, which would be an adequate amount of information to get the point across.