Sunday, March 25, 2007

But Isn't It Obvious?

I taught a workshop yesterday with a group called YAS (Young Artists Society-of Richmond) and it was awesome. We met at 1pm in my shop and busted out some damn good work by 5pm. It was a vernacular photo/wheat paste workshop that I turned into a site specific collaboration. Each of the 10 YRA's, Kim and Jessica (their leader-guide) brought 10 images of themselves (or a part of themselves) that they felt were important to be included in the work. We started out by looking at everyone's work and having people talk a little bit a bout why they chose the images they brought. It was great- the exact opposite of what a critique is supposed to be. Basically everyone was given the space to tell a story (or two) about their images.

After talking about the images we began editing and organizing them into semi-cohesive groupings. This led to a bit of healthy haggling about sequencing, conceptual and formal concerns. Jessica finally piped in and suggested that we move along (I was ready to do a silent group meditation but I knew we still had a lot of work ahead of us so I suppressed my inner Minor White and we got down to business).

What isn't pictured here is that after deciding which images would go where we numbered each and then made 11"x17" color copies of each one. This took an awfully long time and I'm really thankful to Kim and Jessica for taking on this dreadful task while myself and a few others went out and prepped the site.

The site is the studio of Joan Gaustad and Gerald Donato, two longstanding and well respected artists who were generous enough to allow us to use their building on the Corner of Granby and Main in Richmond. They joined us for the workshop and even gave an impromptu tour of their studio while Jonathan and I were marking the window areas (so that we'd know where to start pasting the images).

I had figured that we would winnow down the 100 (or so) images that the YRA's brought down to 72 and had a pretty good idea of what this might look like when it was done, but I am always nervous when the first few images go up. But the excitement was palpable and I knew it was going to work out alright when all the cameras started coming out of purses and pockets. I did the first few rows and showed everyone what needed to happen in order for the images to adhere well. Joe, one of the YRA's had some previous experience wheat pasting and was surprised by how careful I was with the placement of the images. I explained that when you're doing this and it's legal, you can take your time and it can look good.

After the first few rows everyone else began jumping in- there was a crew applying the wheat paste to the backs of the images while the crew hanging called out which number image they were looking for next. At this point we only had about 30 mins. left of the workshop and a number of the YRA's had to be home so I my insistence that we be fastidious about labelling the prints worked well and we became a well trained, nontoxic wheat paste organism.

To me, it's really staggering how much the images change when they're enlarged, and re-contextualized on the outside of a building on a corner usually occupied by drunk homeless people. These are pictures that normally wouldn't have been put next to someone else's pictures, let alone removed from the page of the photo album where they've resided for years. Something as private as Christmas morning, or riding a horse suddenly becomes this public experience. It is also staggering how satisfying it is to do collaborative projects. I was sad to see all of them leave yesterday. They, like most are great people- amazing really. I'm calling the project "But Isn't It Obvious" because of a bit of text that was written on one of the YRA's photos. And really, I think that's a great reply to anyone who might ask what this whole project is about.

Here's Kim posing as if she did all the work! She was, as always a huge help and I took her out for Ethiopian food after we were finished cleaning up. Thank you Kimberly!


Churlita said...

That's so cool. I wish they had something like that here. My daughters would be so into it.

Martin said...


Robin said...

Excellent project!

George said...

That is what teaching should be like. Who said education cant be fun for the teacher as well as the students?

Michael said...

Churls- Thanks, maybe I can do a workshop in I.C?
Martin- Thanks
Robin- You're no longer a blurker, despite your profile being set to private!
George- That's true, I haven't been this excited about teaching since I was living in Frostburg, teaching all those good students in my advanced class.

travis said...

super cool.

Anonymous said...

This makes me miss those photography clases at Frostburg.


Susan said...

Fantastic. You could probably get grant funding for projects like this.

I love you in the face said...

Yay!! That is so neat Mikel!

I love you in the face said...
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