What This Class has Taught Me as An Artist and Writer

If you’ve read any of my blog posts by now, you might have already noticed my deep admiration for my Mexican heritage, my family, and my love for art. Growing up, I was surrounded by my rich, diverse culture, and have always identified myself as a visual artist. My Mama and sisters have always supported my art and continuously encourage me to continue practicing and creating, despite my decision to not follow any particular art career. As I reflect back on what I’ve learned in this course, I can see my transformation, primarily through my THINKing process as an artist. That is of course, learning how to SLOW DOWN not only in the way I think and approach art, but also in the way that I create and write about it. Just as Beth suggested early on in my writing, slowing down is part of the process. Drafting, walking away, returning, revising, setting it aside, and returning once again, are all things I had to learn and am still working on.

As a self-proclaimed artist, I have never quite enjoyed the question: What is art? Predominantly because I have always felt that art was (and is) subjective and that everyone reserved the right to dissect and interpret it differently. Early on in the semester, we had the opportunity to engage in discussion with the Director of Sustainability at SUNY Geneseo, Dan DeZarn. Dan, who started out as a sculpture professor and later on transitioned to his current position back in 2014 after Geneseo’s decision to shut down the Art Department, came to our class in an effort to discuss the relevance of design language and “how design is used to reinforce conceptual content.” For him,or at least the way I interpreted his lectureart can either fall under the category of good or bad art. That is of course, that there is such a thing as good and bad art and that value and quality can be measured.

I remember proposing him the question of how he specifically measured the value of an art work and he responded with the idea that any good art will contain clear evidence of an artist’s knowledgeability in craft, design and content. Although a valid and reasonable response, I remained unsettled because I had never interpreted art that way and felt that this particular way of illustrating art was too narrow and too restrictive. As Picassoone of my all time favorite artists noted, it can take you four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. Similarly, just as Chinese-born artist Du Yun said “Freedom of expression is the height of art” and so for me at least, anyone can be an artist and just about anyone has the ability to learn and create.

Most of us create art without even knowing, it comes as second nature. We all drew, painted and created as kids, most of us engage with art on a daily basis without even realizing. Language on its own is art and a powerful tool in the sense that it works as the gateway to which one can formulate self expression. Dionne Brand writes: “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.” Early on in the semester, I interpreted our course epigraph much differently than I do now in the sense that I now see it as a declaration for the importance of learning together because there is such a thing as finding comfort, confidence and shelter in one another. Mary Rutigliano, (who is utterly brilliant by the way) suggested that we should all come to the  agreement that “we can’t learn anything without one another’s help.” This class allowed me to really let this declaration digest and settle in. As I write this blog post now, I can in all honesty look back at what we’ve accomplished as learners and acknowledge that collaboration, failure, and process are all imperative steps in the way we learn and evolve.

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