Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Water Was Red

Joint Lab - November 25, 2014 by Susan Weinberg

During the joint session of the Artists' Lab, we gathered at the Katherine Nash Gallery where we had an opportunity to view the current show thinking making living, a show that explores the intersections between art, life and social engagement. Consistent with that focus we met with artist David Feinberg and Dr. Ellen Kennedy of World Without Genocide to view a DVD of Voice to Vision V titled Caught Between a Alligator and a Tiger.

The DVD explores the genocide in Cambodia through the artwork and experiences of Bunkean and Bhounna Chhun. Both Bunkean and Bounna lost many members of their family. They met after Cambodia and ultimately married and settled in Minneapolis.

In the film Bunkean and Bounna shared their stories as they painted. Water is a central image in the work of Burkean. He began his story with circles of blue water, later painting the water red because of all of the bodies that were dumped within it. Imagery such as a broken wagon wheel was used metaphorically to reflect his experience while Bounna worked with the image of a tiger in her work. Bunkean joined us after the film and answered questions from the group.

We then moved into the gallery where we broke into groups of four using a process termed The Continuous Line to reflect our response to genocide. We were asked to each draw a line on a sheet of paper and then pass it around our group, each person adding to it. The line was to express our response to the film. Lines represented such imagery as anger, weights, black holes and separation.

We then selected two of the images. We could cut out elements from other drawings ultimately consolidating our efforts into one drawing and adding to it as necessary. We gathered as a larger group and shared our effort and the response which led to its creation.

We were soon engaged in both the exercise and discussion of our response to genocide. It proved to be a successful exercise in processing and reinforcing our response to deeply emotional content.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Words and Pictures

Lab 2.0 - November 18, 2014  by Susan Weinberg

Today a small group of Lab 2.0 participants gathered to watch a film, Words and Pictures, that Robyn and Anat had discovered together. Starring Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen, the film addresses a subject that we had explored in last year's lab. Which is more powerful, word or image? As our lab includes both visual artists and writers and poets, we each bring an understanding of the strengths and limitations of our own respective medium.

Now as someone who relies on both word and visuals in her work, it was clear to me from the outset that the two complement and amplify each other. The two protagonists took a little longer to come to that conclusion, hence we have a movie.

Each of the two characters is disabled in different ways, Owens plays Jack Marcus, an alcoholic and rather arrogant English teacher at a private school. Binoche plays Dina Delsanto, an accomplished artist struggling with rheumatoid arthritis and its impact on her ability to paint. Romantic interest plays out against a competition in the school where both teach. Each seeks to prove which has greater impact, word or image. Along the way there are some great quotes and some fabulous artwork, done by Binoche who is a long-time artist.

Some of the most interesting scenes were those with Binoche as she sought creative ways to apply paint to compensate for her disability. Huge suspended brushes, a kitchen chair on wheels and a brace to hold the brush enabled the creation of the beautiful artwork in the film. Some of the inspiration for these approaches was based on the work of Fabienne Verdier. We sat silently watching the credits at the end of the film wanting to learn who was the artist. Knowing Binoche created the work certainly gave the film greater resonance.

For further information on the work of Fabienne Verdier.

Keeping Warm on a Cold Night

Nov 11-Lab 1.0  by Robyn Awend

Guest presenter and dancer Emily Jarrett Hughes joined our recent Lab, keeping us warm on a cold night. Emily is a dancer, teacher, performer, and activist. To begin the evening, Emily had us moving, swaying, and dancing to the sound of water, creating a synergy of flowing movement in the room. 

Building on this we were each given a jar of fresh water to hold, feeling its fluidity along with our movements, leaving droplets of water on the ground beneath our feet. We were invited to take a large refreshing drink of the water before we added our jars to the table in the middle of the space.

Once we were warmed up, Emily shared with us the great work that she does with The Culture of Water Leadership Summit which brings together a wide variety of culturally-based music and dance groups to deepen the work being done in the community for water.

From there, Liba led us in a collaborative process painting exercise keeping the connection to water. We partnered up and each group of two painted on a large sheet of white paper, keeping in mind, "what does water say to me." We respectfully painted on our own part of the paper, then on top of each other’s work using images and words.

We reflected on the topic as a large group and then were given a circle cut from watercolor paper to personally reflect on, "what would I say to water." For this particular project we used the jars of water that we danced with earlier to create our individual circles, using paint and markers. We then brought our jars to the table to see what colors were represented as a result of our final creations.We quietly studied each of these colors contained in the clear glass jars creating a mosaic of sorts, and feeling complete.