Friday, March 30, 2012

Oh Hey, Look at This

...evite for the exhibition I will soon be in. You should go, D.C.!

"To mark 20 years of operation, MOCA DC gallery in Georgetown has given its foyer a facelift to go along with the launch of UP FRONT at MOCA DC. The space will feature international juried shows of figurative art from classical nudes to contemporary representational interpretations of the figure.

The inaugural exhibition entitled ‘You, Me and Everybody Else: Figurative interpretations’ is juried and curated by international artist and writer Lilianne Milgrom. The show’s title alludes to the undeniable interconnectedness between people and reflects upon the infinite fascination with which we contemplate ourselves and those around us. You, Me and Everybody Else offers a fresh look at the broad contemporary interpretation of the figure in an impressive range of styles and mediums by artists from the United States, France and Israel."

Thursday, March 29, 2012


This is coming up! This is our final thesis show! MFACA Team Awesome FTW! I present to you: Heartland
MFA in Community Arts 2012 consists of a small, creative group of women, originally hailing from America's Heartland. These three individuals are highly motivated artists and community arts facilitators. Their MFA in Community Arts Graduate Thesis Exhibition, Heartland, is a culmination of two years of intensive work within communities, both local and abroad.

Please join them for the public reception on May 12, 2012 from 5:00 - 7:00 pm at MICA PLACE, where you will find a variety of art and surprises. Some of these include: the mixed media pieces of Shana R. Goetsch and Anne Kotleba in the Rouse Company Foundation Gallery and a county fair themed reception, refreshments and dance party. Also, Here Comes The Bride! A Real-Life Wedding!, a performance piece by Jessica Haywood Wyatt, will be live in the Project Room on the night of the reception. Experience the thrills and chills of a real-life wedding and get your photograph taken with the blushing bride later that evening.

Studio 208 will feature textile work from Wyatt, a screening of FUNdraising, a documentary by Kotleba, which explores the passion behind a team of young people becoming change agents in their neighborhood, as well as Art That Circles The Earth: an Exhibition of Collaborative Mandalas. This series includes the art of national and international artists who worked together for the past three years on community arts initiatives with Goetsch.

The 2012 MFACA Graduate Candidates will also be hosting <3 Heartland: Artist Talk on the afternoon of Friday, April 27 from 1:15 - 4:00 pm in the MICA PLACE Rouse Company Foundation Gallery. If you are unable to attend the talk, a digital record of this conversation will be available for you to experience online.

The MFA in Community Arts Graduate Thesis Exhibition, Heartland runs April 25 through May 16, 2012 at MICA PLACE, 814 N. Collington Avenue in Baltimore. Gallery hours are by appointment; contact MICA PLACE Program Manager Kristy Taylor at 410.225.2254 or

Come and see this Bmore, cuz we're 'bout to have some fun!

(although I now realize the corn photo may tell you otherwise)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Holding it Together

I am working on my thesis, some of this process is new for me. For one, I am using video and sound equipment. I had briefly used them both before, last year, and in undergrad, but was not at all comfortable with either of the medias. And here we are again. The reason why I chose this particular challenge was to tell a story.

I tell my story a lot through my art, it's used mainly for my own sanity, it's used by me for healing. I have had a lot of really bizarre things happen to me, namely my mother's murder by my brother and many of the events that surrounded it. There is a part of me that strongly knows that I would not be the person I am today, that I would not be who I am without these events. I also know, and knew at the time even, that they were far outside the realm of normal human experience.

One of the strange things, in a long litany, beyond just that solitary event, was that my maternal grandmother put our story on the "news" program, "A Current Affair" when I was 16. She did this to help pay for my brother's defense trial. It backfired in many ways. It was not sympathetic towards him, that's for sure...there was actually one quote by the very sensational reporter "...where did God or Nature blunder?" in reference to him. Where indeed.

I think in my head, that Nature blundered starting with the birth of my grandmother. She was a walking violation of anything right and good in the world. She was actually born on April Fool's day, so I always thought of her as one of Life's big jokes. Having been dead a good 20 years by now, I still can't stand the sight of her. My reaction is so visceral towards her in watching that video - and it's never quite reached that zenith with my brother. I really, still, hate her with a passion. I hate looking at her, I hate hearing her speak, I still hate the very idea of all of the things she did to us, even before my mom died. My impression of her, even when I was little, was always that there was something horribly wrong with her. Insane? Yes. Lacking in any compassion towards me or my mother or my father? Yes. Selfish? Yes. One of the nicknames I have for her is "The Devil's Handmaid". So you see, I still have issues with what she did.

And what she really did, the worst of it, was exploit our story, our lives to her own sick, delusional end. She betrayed my mother, her very own daughter. And my mother was always someone who needed some measure of protection, in my opinion. Sad, that a teenager was actively having to do this after her death...I was defending and protecting the memory of the person who meant the most to me. She was, and in many ways still is, my whole world.

So imagine my shock and anger, my hurt when I heard "A Current Affair" being broadcast on our T.V. with my photos, my voice, my 911 call being played for the whole world to hear...and my mother, I can't even start with that imagery. But I remember it vividly, I was getting something from the fridge, when I heard it. It was so bizarre, like an out of body experience, only dealing more with my brain, an "out of brain experience".

And it got re-broadcast, several times that year. One of those times I was ready with a video tape. I don't know what possessed me, at the time, but it was probably the same thing that made me save all of the newspaper articles, save/leave a small drop of my mother's spattered blood on the wood molding of our living room (having been missed by the cleaning crew), and save the "body bag bag" that was mistakenly left under our living room couch - not the body bag, but the plastic wrap that holds the actual bags. I remember that it had printed on it, "Human Body Bag - Large - White".

Some people may think I'm gross for this, hell, a part of me knows that I am at least operating outside  of the norm. But, in fact, I will defend my conscious choice forever, literally no one can diminish those decisions made by me. I'd like to see them try. But I think it's just one appropriate response to all of the unbelievable things that were happening, almost on a daily basis for me, all throughout high school. When I reflect on it, I do think that it was all I could do to hold it together, to face the really hard reality of things I did not/should not need to see or hear or read at such an impressionable and tender age. So I collected these things. Because it was my story, it was her story, and I needed to remember, I needed proof. The PTSD makes some things slip out of my memory - some are gone forever - but I have these things, these documents of one life.

I am working on a piece now that includes this old, saved VHS video. When I was in undergrad I took a service learning class, and one of the final projects was to create a "Witness Story". This was a hugely important step for me at the time, to talk openly and honestly about my own story. I was the witness in this assignment, rather than anyone else. This was HUGE. I had so much fear, I would not speak openly or freely about my mother before this point. When I played it for the small class I was a wreck, shaking, sweating, crying. And I sat in the back of the classroom, as far away from everyone and it as I could possibly manage without actually crawling out the window. I couldn't watch, and I think the viewers had a tough time of it too. I was sort of used to stunned silence by this time in art school, but this was a silence that was akin to me personally punching them all in the gut.

At that point however, the relief for me, was palpable. I was free, and I had attained some small glimmer/measure of control. It was such an extreme weight that had been lifted off of my mind and my soul. And then I could begin to see what I was doing in art school, why I was attempting the subject matter I was, what this all meant for me. That day, I gained the ability to have my own voice, and that was sososo important for my development as an artist and as a reasonably whole human being.

I had been building up to this point of course, the collecting I had been doing, the imagery I had been trying, but not successfully creating in my art. What this event was really about for me, was taking back control. For years I had had all of these images and sound bites and stories written about me and my family, my mother. And I was going to take them back. I stole them back from the media, I stole them back from my grandmother, I stole them back from the newspapers, I now take them back from the internet (because you can, indeed find some on here, if you know where to look).

So, in a strong sense, this is about my own self-autonomy, and the fight to have me and my mom on my own terms. Which is why I make art about her, it's always a tribute of sorts. And it's about all I can physically do to rectify and understand all of these things, for her and my sake. It's to cast her in a light that is more that just that of a victim. She was loved by many, but most importantly, she is loved by me. I am stealing her back, so that only I own the right to her memory and her image and her story from now on.

And that's what I've been doing. Stealing back and then subverting these things, in order to take back the control over my own life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Learning to Facilitate Power

Lately, and again, I have found that my blog postings are mostly event listings. I was reminded of this fact, recently, in reading some of my older posts. I truly miss having the time to actually sit down and write out my thoughts in this venue. In order to correct this oversight, I will be putting down my thoughts on my current thesis work, leading up to the final exhibition in late April. To get things rolling, I have chosen a piece that I wrote last year. I think this is a good starting point for the next few months of my journey with art and therapy. I hope you will stay with me through the bumps and bruises I will inevitably encounter.

Learning to Facilitate Power

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure...As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  
-Marinane Williamson*

When I first arrived in MICA’s MA in Community Arts program, I was made aware of the difference between “teaching” and “facilitating” very clearly. I had never really wanted to be a teacher, but now I am aware that I can impart some knowledge that could generally be construed as “teaching”. What interests me most though, is the facilitation aspect of the program. Being aware that the real change is in what the community does for themselves with tools I may have taught them how to use or connected them with. The end result is that I step away from the equation entirely and the community still works on its own towards a common goal.

That is the magic of a liberatory thought and action. More than community engagement, knowledge and action become alive, and they become sustainable. Power becomes attainable to the masses. To me, the process of attaining and then spreading power through the use of art is addictive, and it can’t be denied.

My personal art has to do with my own empowerment and brief, difficult moments in my own history. Many pieces deal with aspects of witnessing the murder of my mother. I now challenge myself and my emotions constantly in this way. I am hoping to lead by example because I find such liberation in having and expressing my voice. I’ve found freedom from fear, and I’ve gotten to that point through open dialogue, sharing emotion, and art.

I am often told that I make “powerful” images. Not so much “pretty” images, it’s always about power. When we held a critique of my thesis exhibition for undergrad, one of the students off-handedly remarked that I “knew the pieces were powerful” and honestly, it shocked me. I had had so little feedback from my peers at that point, so I was shocked that someone saw what I saw in my imagery. That was the moment where I learned about power in art.

I was making that series wholly for myself, it was absolutely my therapy, and my lament. The pieces would make me physically shake, sweat, and sometimes vomit when they were finished and I finally looked upon them as a whole. I practically feared them. But that was my experience so I knew they held power over me, personally. I had no idea that the message could be seen by anyone else. It was as if the power spread, because someone else could actually see it too.

With the freedom gained through actively making art, comes a strong sense of my own power. This is a power that is directly related to my own voice and my own experience. What I create now is my personal war against violence. The pieces are raw and messy and bloody, just like violence and love always have been. Just like witnessing my mother’s murder was for me. This is my love, standing against violence, and the weapon with which I choose to combat it is a paint brush. This is the place where I can fearlessly exude power.

One friend recently expressed that she “envied my power”. Because as she saw it, making art about what one felt inside was holding power. I explained to her that she held creative power too, inherently. She had just been conditioned for years to fear it, to not recognize it or use it, or to deny its power completely. Everyone is creative in their own way, art is built for emotion in my opinion, it’s how I personally use it the most. This is my process, and I actually ache for freedom of expression when I don’t have it.

I believe that sometimes it only takes a “moment” or a “process” by which to really gain or master empowerment. Learning in brief moments seems to be the most beautiful path on the road to empowerment. It means that every second could potentially count. I want to help arm other people with a new form of personal empowerment. And when I say “arm them” I really do mean it. For me, creativity can be a very keen weapon or tool for creating personal power, and I hope that this type of power continues to spread.

*quote from A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles", Harper
Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3