From Apprehension to Eagerness

When I first walked into our classroom, I was intimidated. I know nothing about art, but here I am in a class called the Art of Steve Prince. As the class began my feelings did not improve. Instead, it intensified when the class broke into smaller groups to analyze Steve Prince’s art. I did not know what I was supposed to look at and what to say about it. When class concluded I was wondering if I made the right decision of enrolling into the course. However, what made everything click was Steve Prince visiting SUNY Geneseo.

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The More You Know

It’s honestly wild how little I knew about really any African culture or history. Lookin at you, US education system.

This semester, I’m taking a class, The Art of Steve Prince. Steve Prince is an artist, or in his words, an art evangelist. His passion lies in community art projects, and most recently, he assigned one of those projects to the students of Geneseo. Ironically, I got super sick right before, and missed that entire project. I have however, gotten to see the end result. The project is called Urban Garden, and it featured three walls turned into a mural. One side, representing the worst in humanity, the struggles of the oppressed. The mural on the opposing wall represents the best of humanity, the passion for strength and justice. The mural was beautiful, one of the nicest things was to see friends looking at each other’s work and saying, “Oh you must’ve done this, I love it!”

While I missed Steve Prince’s lecture and art project, I was able to read the article, “The Kongo Cosmogram” and the Flash of the Spirit Jism. Never have I learned so much about African culture, specifically the Kongo. These articles/chapters went into how the people from the Kongo influenced culture in the Americas. In the US, Kongo culture influenced current slang in the English language, such as words like ‘funk’, and ‘jizz’ and ‘goofer’. Interestingly, goofer is connected to conjure-work, “Goofer Dust” refers to the Ki-Kongo verb, “kufwa”, the dirt from a grave, and is used in charm. Earth from a grave is regarded as one with the spirit of the buried. The information in these passages was interesting to learn about, but by far, the most inspiring thing about them was the resilience of the people of the Kongo. They refused to let their culture die, and now it has influenced modern life for people all around the world.

Gaining Knowledge from Lack of Knowledge: A Goal

I am used to always knowing what is going to happen. Kind of. I know what I what to happen and I work hard to make it happen. Both in life and in school. In my classes I usually have an idea of what I want to learn, how I can apply what I learn in my future career. Ever since I started taking INTD 288, that hasn’t been the case. The last few weeks of the course have been inspiring as well as challenging. But, what struck me the most was the fact that unlike some of my major classes, I am not sure what to expect. And still am not sure what to expect. I think this is a good thing though, because it pushes me to look outside of the box, using unconventional ideas to understand what I am learning. There is never such thing as a wrong answer, just different ways of looking at the same thing, and that is something that I have learned so far in my first few weeks in this course. Hearing how different people from different backgrounds view something as simple as a line is eye opening because you are able to see beyond your own understanding of it. You find yourself nodding along because you could suddenly understand why someone would think being on a line makes more grammatical sense than being in one (I agree to disagree). But anyways, that is my goal for this course. I want to be able to find comfort in the idea of not knowing anything and everything, and hopefully this lack of knowledge will teach me some new things.

~ Sarah-Anne

the line & consciousness

I found myself thinking both figuratively and literally about the line last class.

In one of my sociology classes last semester, my professor mentioned race consciousness and progress, specifically Obama’s statement of “stepping backward.” My professor drew two “lines” parallel to each other to demonstrate his point, though technically they existed in distinct planes, one line being history and the other progressivism. However, the lines do not move backward or forward in a linear fashion but waver, sometimes meeting, when they would effect change, and diverge again to continue forward in their separate ways. History is not a “straight line,” although often depicted, for purposes, perhaps, of visual streamlining, in a “timeline,” but moves in cycles, circles (which recalls “Urban Mixtape”) and trends. We are often taught about history in a linear fashion, so it was interesting and relevant that we began reading The Souls of Black Folk from the final chapter.

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Learning from Art

We have already done and learned a lot in this course in merely three weeks, but there was one experience that stood out to me that helped me settle on what my goal for this class, and life in general, will be. This experience was the “Urban Garden Music” event, and I’ll begin by describing what it meant to me. Within a few minutes of the Freedom Trio starting I was entranced—The energy in the room seemingly became a living thing, and any negativity was flushed away. I couldn’t help but feel hopeful. It was like everything that was captured in the uplifting side of the Urban Garden was brought to life through sound.

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Step 1: Know Nothing

“I know that I know nothing”

I love that I’m rejoined with knowing that I don’t know. That I know I’m wrong more than I’m right.

I know that I know a whole lot about math, and that I know almost nothing about art. Where should I begin making connections? How should I even begin looking at art?

As a math nerd with an epsilon’s worth of knowledge about culture, and everything that fills the spirit with a harmonic vibrations connecting ourselves to the world we really live in, I have no idea.

The one thing that I do know that I know is that listening to others is important. Even if a lot of sewage flows from their mouth, it’s worth the listen. You get a glimpse into that person’s mind. Familiarizing yourself with the many different possibilities of a personality is just the beginning.

The exchange of ideas between groups without judgement allows perceptions to be transmorphed and enlightened. Thought processes are altered. Understanding that we all really don’t understand what it’s like to be embraced with insight of what life is like for most people should be more of a common thought. It’s a mountainous endeavor to consider; so many nations, cultures, languages, colloquialisms. Each person is so distinctly unique. For one scary second, consider who we are on the cosmological scale. Unravel on your trip back down how many possibilities there are. For everything. Confining oneself in a set mind seems like a silly punishment in comparison.

None of us really have a full grasp on the human condition. If I haven’t convinced you yet, then maybe Du Bois can. Even he, a renowned intellectual, acknowledged, internally processed, admitted, and corrected himself when he was wrong. Bornstein gave us insight on Du Bois’ intellectual humility when his opinion on Jews changed with time. He saw the similarities in suppression between the Black and Jewish communities and had sympathy for them. He knew he made a mistake having the echo of Antisemitism ring throughout his lyrical liberation of “The Souls of Black Folk.” He showed that “the willingness to openly change his mind shines through with similar sanity.” We should all be on some type of sanity hunt (but aren’t all college students anyways?) within ourselves. Do we know that we are probably wrong? Do we even accept that we could be wrong? Or that our knowledge is fairly limited due to sticking inside one discipline?

I want to allow others to understand where they may have communication mishaps with, say, mathematicians or those in affiliated work due to different points of view.  This already stands in theory as a very daunting idea because personally I feel spiritually inferior to those who hold the knowledge of history, literature, art, and culture, and I generally don’t tend to vibe with people who do. I see processes, underlying structures and foundations, and organized groups before I see groups of people with emotions and complicated personal experiences. I tend to think of engraved neurological pathways when I think about another’s personality, and I’m not noticing their ability to thoughtlessly just be kind, conscientious, or empathetic. I may be quite stubborn given a set of equations, but in terms of living life with flamboyancy, I admit the lacking nature of it with humility. My math brain is hardwired in, but I’m currently searching for an expansion pack to add full of art, diversity, and free-flowing thought.

My brain works as follows:

  • The Kinetic Gallery.
  • The Gallery of Movement.
  • The Movement of: our artist; the charcoal on the walls; the trio; thoughts and ideas; the students, professors, and professionals filling the room.
  • The Movement of crossing the room from one side to the other. From uprooted to uplifted.
  • Thought movement from being hidden, to a current issue, to resolved, and then gone. As we ascend and rise spiritually and consciously, so did the thought.

I’m sure this is not what any other person would think of upon hearing “The Kinetic Gallery.” That’s okay. Every single person’s impression is contrasting. That’s what makes this interesting.

Listening to everyone discuss the lines during class struck me the most thus far. I was astounded at the amount of people that could not accept that a line goes on indefinitely. This was my immediate thought, even before class glancing over (and halfway smirking at) the definition of a line. My mind exploded into pictures of different lines, shapes, dimensions, number universes, and line equations. If I were asked for a secondary definition of a line, I’d suggest the checkout line, something I consider to be finite.

We broke down our thoughts about the line, but did we really take that tool we were given, or was it left with the lines? Can we, as a cohesive whole, break down and truly think about each thing that really sparks joy (!) in us as we learn more about Steve? or even something that sparks a deep interest in us as we learn more about the past and current socio-economical/ political/ cultural/ etc world that we will explore? An immense amount of thought was put into Steve’s work, thus it’s worth pondering.

I want to understand how others see the world. This was merely a glimpse at how something so simple is conceived so differently by others compared to myself. My goal for this semester, and forever, is to be open and listening to other’s ideas about anything, and develop a better understanding of how different perceptions overlap or never cross and the reason why.

But this is just the beginning. We all get to choose which line of thought we stay on (or in, if you prefer).

ThinkING Aloud

Last week, Dr. Beth McCoy asked our class to share our first impressions of the course in small groups. I said that initially, I was just astounded that Steve Prince was coming to Geneseo at all, because I didn’t think that an up-and-comer artist would have the time to come to our school or the interest in teaching us. I suppose I wondered what our school, one that doesn’t even specialize in art, had to offer someone as talented as Steve Prince. I was very pleasantly surprised when I met Steve! I didn’t expect him to be so down-to-earth. He was so passionate about his art and involving all of us students in the process. I was really nervous about contributing to the Urban Garden, but the way Steve talked about the project to all of the students, he made us feel like no contribution to the project would be a “mistake” (there is no such thing), and his general attitude gave me and my peers the confidence to join in on the project! Continue reading “ThinkING Aloud”

Crossing Boundaries

When Dr. McCoy first announced she would be teaching “The Art of Steve Prince” back in the fall of 2018, I was immediately intrigued. I was not only struck by the powerful image that graced the flyer advertising the course but also by the impressive, and long, list of supporting faculty that would partake in it. I was perhaps most surprised to find Dr. Nicodemi’s name on the flyer since she is a professor of mathematics.

I asked myself why I felt so shocked to find her name there and thought back to my high school biology class, where my teacher taught us about the right brain vs. left brain theory. Since then, I have seen countless computer cases, posters, etc. that bear designs depicting the divisions between right brained and left brained individuals.

According to Healthline, the right-brain vs. left-brain theory maintains that one half of an individual’s brain is dominant over the other. Individuals who are said to be left-brained are alleged to be analytical, methodical, and particularly skilled in mathematics. On the other hand, individuals who are right-brained are said to be creative, artistic and to have a proclivity for art and music.

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