Jun 27, 2012

Artist Talk and an Introduction

We have a <3 Heartland: Artist Talk video. SCORE! This has been kindly edited to just my portion of speaking, but as you'll soon see, many others chimed in so it was more of a discussion, in the end. More than half of this video is in reference to the recent Art That Circles The Earth Exhibition at MICA PLACE.

I would also like to introduce you to Paula, who was one of the artists that showed with us, but whom I have not yet introduced to you. I was trying to figure out an appropriate way to do it without having an image of her personal art. But you know what? Paula has been my mentor for the past two years and if I know her at all, I know her through her speech, her conversation, her patterns of communication. SO, when you watch the video, Paula will pop in at some point and speak for awhile. There, whew, I feel so much better about sharing "Paula" before I share our mandala with you....which should be my next post, coming up soon.

Until then, please enjoy this video of me talking about art...the first half is the ATCTE exhibition and the second is my personal work, The Psychology of One. 

Please enjoy and SHARE!  And let me know what you think!

(it's technically unlisted, so you'll need this link to share) http://youtu.be/LFwVwW0g7UQ

May 23, 2012

Turning the Tables with Alexis and Richard

Hello again, I have something very awesome that I have been saving for a short time. Within the last few months, I asked Alexis Iammarino and her father, Richard Iammarino some questions. Here they are in all their interesting glory...

Knowing that you and your father are both practicing artists, had you ever worked with him on a visual art piece before? (If so, can you describe or link it for us?)

We used to play a game of I draw you draw when I was a kid. Dad says, "Sometimes we'd just start with a mark on the paper and take from there. See what it would become." I have a few journal pages from when I'm 5 years old or so and you can see that we often drew together. But we have not worked together in this way, through the mail and with the intent of making a collaborative art piece as adults. We spend a lot of our weekly phone calls discussing and checking up on what each other are up to. We talk about art a lot. But as far as executing a piece together, this is our first time.

*Side note: We have worked together on decorative painting projects in private residences. We once did a HUGE floor painting, it was faux marquetry to restore this massive Russian medallion (Geometrically a massive mandala in a way! HA!). That was a beast of a project and what I remember most about that process was how seamless our problem solving was. We figured it out with more or less total confidence in each other we pulled it off. It was such a feat in it's scale.

What is the difference between working with your father, side-by-side and working by yourself in the studio on these mandala pieces (I know that you worked in both ways)?

Certainly it's a big surprise when it comes through the mail...Dad never knew what to expect. And he knows me well, so I guess he could expect that he would be surprised. I'd handle the progression in bolder less incremental ways. I'm more spontaneous and he's a bit of thinker about it. We're sitting here thinking this over and we're saying that he'd unpack them and think for days about what to do next, whereas I'd open and take a look and respond pretty immediately.

The difference between working on it side-by-side, which was just a week when he's been visiting, from working on it in our own space for months. The difference is, we can field each others opinions and collaborate when we're together in the same room. Dad just said that maybe we're responding and doing what we want when it arrives in the mail, sorta like the balls in your court, you respond and do what you want. Then I asked, do you think we're not collaborating when we're apart?  He answers, "Of course we're collaborating, but it's not the same - we're trying to pull the different approaches. We certainly have different approaches. We come from entirely different background in terms of our age, simply and also information/training and influences. But the same time we understand what we're doing, our thought process is very similar." 

Process wise for me, it was different in that I was working more slowly on our piece when Dad and I were working together in the same space. We've just exchanged thoughts about how he can be more critical about the minute decisions (self critical in terms of what would effect what, BUT this really has not so much to with this piece it self, but instead it has to do with how he's been tackling his current paintings in E. Cambridge) and I was just playful and felt that whatever we did could be figured out, or resolvable. He's just reminded me that this was all a very playful process between us and that it wasn't as natural to work such boldly with colors. He thinks that was a challenge in unifying the composition and the wholeness of it because our color sensibilities differ so much.

He became very invested in 'tying it all together' to create a 'unified design'. And towards the end the last few days he made a bold suggestion to pick up some colored vellum/acetate to introduce color to the black and white areas. He thought of it as a glaze from his own painting practices....neat-O huh?

You tend to work very collaboratively being a community artist and arts/dance facilitator, but do you have any new insights into the collaborative process, in working with him?

Shana, this could be a shocker - wait for it, wait for it......
We're sitting here and we're asking ourselves did we do a mandala? Oh my. We've been sharing drawings in the mail and responding to one another. We've both introduced circles, spherical motifs, but in the sense that we've not been working from a center and building out concentrically. Shana, this actually feeling sorta wild, he just said to me "Oooo, making a mandala would have been fun!". I mentioned that other folks were making mandalas with the ATCTE, but now as we sit here, I have this feeling if only initially like I've misguided us in a way, at least in that we didn't make this piece as a Mandala.

Actually feel a little flabbergasted - anyway we're gonna finish what we've been working on and see if it seems to resonate with the work you've been collecting. I'll have to write back to you. Tell me, is it possible that we did this wrong? I don't think we've being playing my the rules here...seems silly, like a curve ball to throw your way. Wow.

Meanwhile, dad wants to do a Mandala with me.

I always think of you foremost as a dancer because of your physical energy. and constant movement. If you were tasked to 'illustrate' the concept of the mandala with the human body as your medium, what do you think it would look like? Is it possible to describe it or sketch it? 

The strongest example from my personal experience that would best illustrate a the concept of a mandala is this excerpt of a piece I collaborated on with my dearest and nearest dance collaborator Lindsay Levesque.  I am in the pink and she wears the white shirt.

Why I share this is that what you see here is a choreographic structure based on our own respective movement phrases, done with no counts and phrased only using the similarities of our body's frames - literally the length of our legs and so on. We are proportionately similar and we allowed our timing to be determinant of the speed and ease that we both have moving in and out of the floor or from low to high - The material you see here is material we've rehearsed and rehearsed countless times for each other witnessing the differences and making minute changes to make the material meld into a seamless set of movements that have been sequenced in such a way that we always realign in perfect unison even when we can't see each other.

This is like the collaborative mandala in that sense that the participants/performers seek a certain unity even as they pursue separate formal trajectories in the same space and time. Also our choice of how to integrate the sound for this piece was mandala-like.
We both selected pieces of music and they were played simultaneously as a single track in stereo, from their own speakers to create a unique piece unintended by the composers. One was an instrumental composed by Arvo Part and the chant was early European/Georgian a cappella chants. The length, the finality of the piece was determined by playing both songs on repeat until they ended on the same note...that was over 15 mins. 

There are two more dancers in this section. Although there were four performers we really conceived of each pair as a solo because of the level of specificity and how the unison was achieved by deep team work and physical listening. For instance in the sections of the piece when all four of us were out there we were a duet.

This piece was the final section in an evening length work that she and I set for our senior project at Goucher College. It was the first and most profound and most instructive of any collaboration I've participated in to date. Really.

Wow right? This of course comes to mind. 
I am not familiar with this company or their cause, I came across it watching other whirling dervish footage on youtube. What I observe here also relates to the idea of mandala: there is centered focal point/individual that generates energy or engine for peripheral agents that feed back and compliment it with minute, coordinated gestures and subtle shifts of weight.

Turning the Tables: Now it's your turn to ask me a question! Anything you like, and you'll find my answer on the blog, along with your interview...Alexis asks...

What is the most pervasive self-reflexive observation participants make about their role as a collaborator in this project?

Hmm, like meta-art? You know, I don't think I would have been able to answer this question until I curated the actual show and saw them all together in one cohesive group....and it really was surprisingly cohesive. But I think I've found that the references within the pieces are all very elemental. True, everyone brought their own meaning to the mandala, and it seems to tie in with where their interest are as artists and human beings. 

Heather is part Native American, so she referenced birds and wings in both of her pieces with me. There were quite a few other natural elements involved with animals and or myth: a turtle, snake, eagle, spider, scarab beetle, raven, nymph. Danielle and Brian both do math based art, so a bit of "sacred geometry" was reflected...there were also a few pieces that involved the idea of space/the universe/galaxies. One that stunned me when I opened it was Wes and his two year old daughter's piece. What they created bore a striking resemblance to the "tree of life", it actually took my breath away upon first glance...she created something so elemental. Stunning.
We had some flower motifs, quite a few sticks and branches, which were collected by me and Elbee, and Paula mentioned drawing with a pecan branch into the earth when she was young. Her statement actually encapsulated a lot for me, and when I read it aloud at the artist talk I had a hard time of it...just because it meant everything and it was so powerful for me to read to others. I thought, "This is what the project is all about." It was so simple and gorgeous, it got to the heart of creating...so I think it speaks to some universal principles about the mandala and my hopes for the project.

“I can remember making art at three years old. My first paintbrush was a twig from my grandfather’s pecan tree; my first canvas was the earth itself. I remember being five year old, swinging by my knees from a low-hung, makeshift trapeze, etching into the soil spirals and circles that had meaning only for me. The act of drawing was beautiful to me and gave me peace of mind. It still does..."
-Paula Phillips

So yeah, the short answer is: people used what they knew and were familiar with, they leaned on and borrowed from their natural environment, myth, science, math, dreams and the universe. PERFECTLY self reflexive, if you ask me.

May 20, 2012

Updates on ATCTE

If anyone has not seen the ATCTE Exhibition photos, I have some here of the artist talk: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artinshanaty/sets/72157629567942768/
AND a few images of the reception as well as some really good photos of the layout of the exhibition here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artinshanaty/sets/72157629932165777/

There are some finished pieces in this project that you may not have seen yet...and I will be going through those for you throughout this summer. In the meantime, there has been a new collaboration (with Paula Phillips and me), and I realize that many of you in the exhibition may have thought...."who is that?" I was hesitant to blog about it until she gave me a statement about herself. Well, I do have her statement now, so I'll be going through that soon enough, as well. Look for more postings soon!

Happy, happy summer everyone!

Mar 16, 2012

Ah, Whitney-Anne

How much did I love working with her? SO MUCH. And she's cheeky, just like a "proper" English woman, in my mind, should be. I loved reading her updates and conversing with her on facebook throughout these months. Little things here and there, the time we had the mail sent and received and no photos to speak of between the two of us. That was an episode of dimmed excitement for me, as both of our cameras were not working.

All this is to say, that I was thinking earlier about how I actually converse the most with my fellow artists in ATCTE. And you know, the vast majority is on facebook or on their various blogs, where I try to keep up, and at least read about them when I see them pop up on my google reader. I had an idea in regards to that, and it may show up in the final exhibition as the literature / statement aspect. The idea just floated in but it's still formulating.

Anyway, you should check out Whitney's Weird Stuff where she wrote the nicest recap on her end, of what transpired this year with the one mandala. I loved reading it and looking at the photos, and you will too. Go there now and see what happened to the piece I started!


Just after I wrote the above passage, I got up from where I was sitting...I was having this nagging feeling yesterday that my portion of the other mandala wasn't finished, even though I had acted like it was finished, shot and edited the photos, saved them in the appropriate desktop folder....but no, it wasn't finished...So I just got up, and walked past an unopened box of Sweethearts candy from this Valentine's Day. They're not my favorite candies, but I always liked the little stamped words. So I walked by the box, and then promptly reversed my walk, picked up the candy and went to work immediately finishing the mandala, just now. Yep, it's done now. I felt like this was such a "sweet" little piece. I always loved the markings in the background, the stitching, the texture; it has a whimsical and eccentric quality to it. I can only imagine that it was a bit of Whitney-Anne's personality sneaking through. This finished product is bright and very fun!

So here us our little mandala, from start to finish, Cycle 7, Round 4:

Round 1:

 Whitney-Anne Baker to Shana R. Goetsch
Brixham, Devon, England/UK to Baltimore, MD, USA

Shana R. Goetsch to Whitney-Anne Baker 
 Baltimore, MD, USA to Brixham, Devon, England/UK

Whitney-Anne Baker to Shana R. Goetsch
Brixham, Devon, England/UK to Baltimore, MD, USA

 And now for the final mandala!

Mandala (with candy) finished by Whitney-Anne Baker and Shana R. Goetsch in Baltimore, MD, U.S.A.

Layers - One on Top of Another

I have updates from Alexis and her father, Richard Iammarino. They are working on an interview that I submitted to them a few weeks ago as well, so look for that coming soon. In the meantime, we can look at this layered triptych imagery that they sent to me, and I received just a few days ago. It's always very exciting to see what Alexis has been up to, and this was no exception. I can see definite elements of both Alexis and her father in these three pieces. Their two styles merged together really seamlessly and effortlessly, in my opinion. I am very excited to see these go up on the wall for the exhibition!

Here they are:

Mar 14, 2012

Within the Family II

I received the mandala back from my dad, Robert Goetsch, just this week. If you'll remember, he insists he is not an artist. Oh why are the non-artists always so creative and artistic then? He has typified this very symptom in his portion of this piece, and I'm not entirely surprised. He created a very "Wisconsin" themed mandala for me to work on. He depicted the cow jumping over the moon from the nursery rhyme, The Cat and the Fiddle (or Hey, Diddle Diddle as it is often known)...

Perhaps I'll make some dishes and spoons to go along with this cheese wedge...?

Mar 10, 2012

The ATCTE Exhibition

Hey, hey. Guess what time it is...it's exhibition time! Here is the poster image I created for our first ever event...

If you are in the Baltimore area, please join us! It will take place in conjunction with the 2012 MFA in Community Arts Thesis Exhibition, "Heartland". This exhibition will run April 25 - May 16, 2012 with a reception open to the public on May 12 from 5 - 7 pm. Be there, or be square, Bmore (and really, who needs squares when we have all of these lovely circles).

Hope to see you!

Mar 3, 2012

Within the Family

Hey all, a few things...
I am getting us all ready in the ATCTE project for our first exhibition, this spring (more information on that to follow)! I have also started a mandala with my father, a "non-artist". He couldn't escape me though, because I used to see his doodling when I was younger. Very accurate, tiny doodling involving three point perspective. Not an artist, my foot. Those with talent always say that, don't they?

Here is the start of it, I began with something small that wouldn't overwhelm him. This is a pre-fabbed cardboard something or other that I believe came with some sort of dishes. The outside had a shiny coating on it, so I thought it might create a nice texture if I sanded it down with sandpaper. I then put several aqua blue watercolor coats over it, which then clung to the sanded marks. The inside is acrylic, because it had no shiny coating, and it was therefor easier to paint over and soak in. I used several shades of blue because it's both my dad's and my favorite color...

I know that he at least has glue, scissors, pencils and pens and markers at his house, so we'll see what transpires. I sent it in the mail yesterday along with my third round with Brian Sylvester. Stay tuned for the update on that cycle, as I'm just waiting for his to get to me first. I am working on a "Turning the Tables" post with Alexis, I will be generating the questions for her this weekend. So, keep an eye out, more exciting updates are coming soon!

Jan 26, 2012

Stitching it Together

We have an update (Whitney-Anne and me). It took us what seemed like forever to get this round together. And it was me holding things up, she's very prompt. But between the two of us, two cameras were dropped and one computer crashed. So they were both finished at a certain point last week, but I was unable to make a post with the results until now - no photos.

Cycle 7, Round 3:

What Whitney-Anne did here was to paint the outside edge with a nice cherry red color. Then she did some very fine stitching, with (I'm guessing) embroidery floss. She has given me a great geometric pattern to work with in the last round, in addition to the chaotic/loose background. I enjoy the juxtaposition.

Whitney-Anne Baker to Shana R. Goetsch
Brixham, Devon, England/UK to Baltimore, MD, USA

What I did here was to take the movable center portion and attach it to a different "base". This was something that was previously made that I had lying around because I had no idea what to do with it, so I saved it and used it here. I originally created this base, quasi-mosaic piece with magazine papers. However, I did paint a wash of China Orange over the whole thing before I attached it to the movable portion. I also selectively painted over some of the gold in the center that Whitney-Anne had laid down in the last round. A little extra *pop*.

Shana R. Goetsch to Whitney-Anne Baker 
 Baltimore, MD, USA to Brixham, Devon, England/UK 
So there ya have it! (so far)

Jan 23, 2012

From the Artistic Iammarino Family...

I just received a few updates from Alexis on the progress of the mandala created with her father. She says, "Both my dad and I are appreciating this process so much. It's exciting to see what has evolved since the other had it last!" Alexis and Richard are working on three pieces total, that's right three. Here are some images she sent me of their progress so far...



I am really enjoying all of these, especially the colored piece at the top.
ETA: Alexis just told me in an email that the materials they used so far are: pen and ink and colored pencil!

The next update from Whitney-Anne and me will be coming soon!

Jan 6, 2012

"Monad", by Guest Blogger, D. Garzelloni

Our own D. Garzelloni will be taking us through a few interesting concepts with her first guest blog post for ATCTE! Thanks so much, D!


“One principle must make the universe a single complex living creature, one from all.” - Plotinus

When I was a kid, my neighborhood friend Vicki and I invented a game. Separated from most of the neighborhood by age and gender, Vicki and I compensated by creating our own unique activities. One afternoon, while drawing in the dirt with sticks, we came up with the circle game and it quickly became our go-to game for filling time and space. First, we would draw a huge circle in the dirt and then we took turns drawing circles within the circle. We could make them any size we wanted, anywhere within the circle we wanted, eventually filling all the of the space and the game would be done. No winner, no loser. There was only one rule: in the process of drawing our circle, we could not upset any of the other circles or the main circle. Making our own marks, while maintaining the integrity of the whole; we were becoming individuals separate from each other, but still connected, connected to each other and the whole of nature.  

"There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres" -Pythagoras

Math is a difficult subject for most people to discuss even casually. Most of us struggle with math and the realization that we suck at it was, for most of us, a watershed event in our childhood. It was the first concrete limit placed on our potential and intelligence, it changed the way we were taught in school and the way we looked at the future. The few kids fortunate enough to excel at math were rewarded by being shouldered with additional academic responsibilities, the unrealistic expectations of parents and teachers and the prospect of a formal education that never ends. The math we were expected to master in school had little to do with real mathematics, and good or bad at it, we all had math ruined for us at an early age.

Imagine a time in human history when mathematics were regarded with awe, steeped in magic and mystery, rendering the secrets of the universe equally knowable to all mankind and then consider how our modern world is structured to create a sense of dread and inferiority at the mere mention of math.  Most of us would claim not to know or understand mathematics and yet, we are captivated by its principles clearly visible in nature in flowers, shells, crystals, plants, and insects. Our fear of math is a facet of our alienation from nature and ourselves, the Monad promises us reconciliation by reconnecting us with the language of the universe; Mathematics.

The ancient Greek mathematician, philosopher, and mystic, Pythagoras (c.570 - c.495BC), believed mathematical principles were the principles of all things and that all things can be known through numbers. Pythagoras, a mysterious figure who inspired messianic-like awe in his followers including Plato, was hugely influential in Western thought and philosophy as well as esoteric traditions such as Alchemy, Numerology, Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry.

Symbolizing perfection, unity, wholeness, divine nature, and design excellence, Monad is the Greek term for the principles represented by the circle. From the root word ‘menein’ which means ‘to be stable’ and monas or ‘oneness’ we get ‘Monad’. The Monad was known to the Pythagoreans as The First, the Seed, the Essence, the Builder, the Foundation, the Immutable Truth and Destiny.

Assigning a numerical value to the circle takes it out of the realm of the symbolic and brings it into the material world, where we can see concrete examples of how it works. The mathematical meaning simply reiterates the symbolic meaning. The circle symbolizes wholeness and, as wholeness preserves the identity of all it encounters, the philosophers gave it a numerical value of 1. The number one, sometimes referred to as ‘unity’, preserves wholeness, any number multiplied or divided by 1 equals the number. As a result, 1 is its own factorial, its own square, its own cube and so on.

5 ÷ 1 = 5   (5 remains itself)
5 × 1 = 5   (5 remains itself)

The circle is, quite literally, the mother of all geometric shapes. As all subsequent numbers proceed in single increments from the number one, all geometric shapes are inscribed within the Monad. All pattern and symmetry proceed from one shape. 

The circle is the cradle of our symbolic and mathematical universe, it embodies the characteristics of unity, everywhere the same and all circles are equal. It is the womb of our creative universe as well. The circle makes a mate for itself by contemplating itself, reflecting itself, casting its own shadow, by dividing and therefore multiplying itself. This process is mirrored though geometry in an ancient geometric construction called the vesica piscis, the Birth of the Other.  

"Life is born only of the spark of opposites." - Carl Jung

The ancients called the principal of ‘two-ness’ or ‘otherness’ the Dyad. They considered it with suspicion as it seemed to revolt from unity, distancing itself from the Monad. They referred to it as ‘audacity’ for its boldness and ‘anguish’ because of its separation from the whole. The Dyad is polarity; it is at the root of our notion of separateness, separateness from each other and from nature. The paradox of the Dyad is that while it appears to be separate, its opposite poles remember, and attract one another, which is why the ancients also called the Dyad ‘illusion’. The Dyad is at the basis for every creative process, as creativity allows us to discover and return to ourselves, in our deepest selves, we are beyond all polarity.

Discovery of the Circle is the discovery of the Self separate from the Other, an inside separate and distinct from the outside. It is our first glimpse into the perfection, polarity, unity and order inborn in ourselves and Nature. Everywhere wholeness and unity exist, yet remain unapparent, as in a seemingly simple yet profound children’s game.

Dec 11, 2011

Fathers and Daughters

I have some new pieces...with a twist! A few of my artist friends have taken this collaboration to a new level. It all started with Wes Way and his young daughter, they worked on a few mandalas together. This was such a delightful idea, that I decided to expand on it and ask my artist friend, Alexis Iammarino to join the project with her artist father, Richard. I will also be joining with my non-artist father in making a mandala soon! This is adding another dimension of community that I had not considered before. So, thanks Wes, truly, for your art of being a good father, and to all fathers involved for encouraging creativity and independence in your daughters.

On with the show. Wes's daughter is a very young artist, around 2 years of age. Daddy and daughter worked on two pieces, but he was not happy with the first...the separation between the two-the imagery was too vast. So for the second piece (below) they worked together at the same time and in the same space...

I think it looks like the Tree of Life.
Leave it to a two year old to subconsciously pick up that bit of universal, archetypal brilliance.

The next piece is courtesy of Richard and Alexis Iammarino. They are both prolific artists, Alexis works in many mediums, including dance, painting, film and all types of community and participatory arts, and she has quite the extensive journaling and reading practice. Richard Iammarino makes crow-quill pen and silver point drawings, he is also a painter, and a sculpture. The two started working on a piece together and I have images of their first round!

Here is Alexis showing me the piece her father started in pen and ink

This piece promises to be very intricate, I can't wait for them to work on it more, AND I can't wait to start a piece with my dad over winter break from school. Happily, community comes in many forms, my friends!

Nov 22, 2011

Turning the Tables with Elbee

Very insightful! A great new artist interview with Elbee from Tallahassee, Florida y'all!

1. Thinking back, I might have pressured you into it, that being said, what interested you in joining this collaboration?

I'm not easily pressured into doing things I don't want to do, the pressure I felt was more of an artistic, loving nudge from someone who has faith in me, my talents and potentials; things I typically underestimate about myself. What interested me was tapping into that silent side of myself and watching what came to pass!

2. You've described yourself in the past as a "non-artist", but I was wondering what being an "artist" really means to you.

To me, an artist is someone who has, for a better lack of understanding, found their innerchild. When we are children, we are not afraid of our creativity; we shine in it, we thrive in it. When we become adults, that child tends to become muted and hidden and many times locked away forever. A true artist is someone who not only feels that innerchild, but embraces it and reflects it back to the world.

3. Was the artmaking more of an intimidating process for you, or did you enjoy yourself?

As a non-artist, many times the process felt intimidating, usually when I would question how my piece would compare to the other participants. I would find myself wondering if they would ask just what the heck this ridiculous piece of glued items was doing in an art series. However with that being said, I would remind myself to hush and let the art speak for itself.

4. Is there a specific part of this project, beyond your direct involvement, that is interesting to you?

I am very excited to see the series completed, displayed and presented to the art world. I am honored to be a part of such amazing creations.

5. What does the mandala mean to you in your life? Does it apply?

The mandala means a few things to me--it sparked some real creative juices for me so in a sense, it was a rebirth. I have been making collages since the series started and came to the conclusion that even a non-artist can create something thought-provoking and beautiful.

***Now we'll turn the tables, wherein you may also ask me a question. I'll post my answer on the blog with your interview...it can be whatever you want!

What was the most satisfying part of the series? Most frustrating?
Why are you so smart?

...I think the most satisfying part of the series has been getting mail/packages, honestly.  I do enjoy making things work and marrying two divergent styles together. That gives me a certain sense of "thinking" satisfaction. But I really like getting mail. I don't get enough packages or mail that aren't bills, I rarely get presents, and if I do they are usually not wrapped, so I love opening packages! It's more of an inner child response I suppose, but my gut still tells me that I LOVE GETTING MAIL.

If I am smart at all, it is because I have phenomenally intelligent parents and their genes naturally elevated my mediocrity a teensy bit. ;) Thanks for being open and willing to take a chance on this project with me!

Nov 13, 2011


I have another update from Whitney-Anne Baker. Whitney, much like Heather Gordy, works fast. I am used to holding onto these things for months...but not with Whitney-Anne. She receives it, works on it and sends it...and then lets me know it's sent. My reaction is always akin to, "Oh crap, better get moving!" So, I did send hers out, and she received it again. The mail (or "the post" as Whitney-Anne says) seems to work pretty fast between here and there, which is fantastic. Now onto the show!

Cycle 7, Round 2:

Whitney made the mandala movable! How awesome is that? It looks like she took the mandala, cut out the center, sparingly applied some gold paint, mounted it all on some bright, aqua painted cardboard, and then made it move by clipping it to the back. Genius! I would never, in a million years, think of that, but it seems to be the most natural state for a mandala - changeable.

Whitney-Anne Baker to Shana R. Goetsch
Brixham, Devon, England/UK to Baltimore, MD, USA

Here I am moving it around with the tabs provided. Right now, it reminds me of a compass.

For my round, I again utilized some recyclables. I had been saving the playing card I used (for the red/white portion) for quite a few years. I originally saved it because it has cute little winged creatures on the back. Beyond that, I ripped some of the cloth off of the mandala that Whitney-Anne sent to me. I did this because I knew that the glue she used would leave a nice residue and create another pattern. Then I literally just covered the whole thing in my dirty watercolor water. The remnants of my watercoloring were a nice purpley-red color this time. 

 Shana R. Goetsch to Whitney-Anne Baker 
 Baltimore, MD, USA to Brixham, Devon, England/UK

 Sssshhh, don't tell anyone my watercolor water is that dirty. I am the worst about using actual clean water.

BTW, Whitney-Anne also sent along this postcard which gives us a visual of the town she lives in...

Now we all know about how quaint Brixham is, thanks Whitney-Anne!

Mayans and Crop Circles

I found and watched another film about crop circles. I must admit that this is one of the most fascinating phenomena for me. Our class recently took a trip to the American Visionary Art Museum here in Baltimore to see, "All Things Round", and included in that amazing exhibition were some photos of crop circles as well. I think crop circles are beautiful, very mysterious and exciting. Not so secretly, I'm hoping their creation is due to aliens. Anyway, this film really made a lot of sense to me, judge me if you must, but it really did...

Free on Hulu right now: Mayan Prophecies and Crop Circles

Oct 28, 2011


I had to laugh when I opened the package from Whitney-Anne, just because it was the very antithesis of what I had expected from her. Never underestimate...her note even said she had some tricks up her sleeve. I believe it. Based on her past work, what I expected was something digital, with high color. What I got was paper, fabric and stitching, in a cream on white color scheme!

This brings me to a little anecdote about my philosophy and pedagogy class--it's a class about teaching art in college--we have to design a curriculum for two classes, complete with sources and references, and reading material for them, whatever we want. One book I chose to have as required reading for the students in my class, "Not Your Grandma's Watercolor" (for real, I named the class that) is Chromophobia by David Batchelor. "Chromophobia" is "a fear of corruption or contamination through color". It just makes me laugh when things are so topical and linked together; real life and art life. The Universe is such a trickster.

So needless to say, I'm going to get craaaazy with this, because I ain't afraid of color...watch out Whitney-Anne! This is her stitched canvas and paper piece...

Cycle 7, Round 1

 Whitney-Anne Baker to Shana R. Goetsch
Brixham, Devon, England/UK to Baltimore, MD, USA

I liked the stitching on the back as well as the front, so if I decide to use the back I will have to take a photo of it first (mental note). On to me and what I sent to England, which was something very colorful and simple, it's made of yarn on cardboard! I made quite a few of these during the months of August and September and this is one of them. This was used as a technique in an art workshop I facilitated with the kids and adults at the domestic violence shelter. It's somewhat about concentration and creating order, subconsciously. That aside, I hope Whitney-Anne rips this thing apart!

 Shana R. Goetsch to Whitney-Anne Baker 
 Baltimore, MD, USA to Brixham, Devon, England/UK

Next up, Artist Paula Phillips, also from Baltimore (I'm mixing it up).

Oct 25, 2011


Recently, I was invited by my friend Jessica Wyatt to be a guest artist in her GTI class, Elements of Visual Thinking. Jessica is the GTI or Graduate Teaching Intern for one for these classes at MICA. I was graciously welcomed by the professor of the class, Colette Veasey-Cullors and all of the freshman students. The theme of the class was, you guessed it, mandalas!

Jessica and I essentially created a two day curriculum. We utilized the knowledge of one of our MFACA professors, Cinder Hypki, who gave a presentation on the background and symbology of mandala the first day. The second day, after a short, for lack of a better phrase, "artist talk" from me, Jess and I broke the class into pairs/groups. We then asked them to work together to create a finished mandala during class time. This was a workshop that was designed to get them in touch with other ways of working, and a way of managing an archetypal symbol.

Since the mandala is such a broad, universal topic, we really used a "top-down" approach to the lesson. Cinder's presentation revealed the universal - macro to micro - use of the mandala. Jess and I then brought it into the collective realm of this very blog project. We recreated a variation of the Art That Circles The Earth Project, the catch being, that the participants had to decide amongst themselves, HOW to work together.

Many of the students worked in tandem on the mandala, but several pairs took a different approach by taking turns, working on the collective mandala piece separately. Two of the students were quite radical, in that they used coding for the project. They created code on their computers for sound and the mandala. Their manner of working was interesting to me, in that they sat right next to each other, and worked on separate parts of the whole, while focusing almost exclusively on their respective computers. Their efforts came together well for their critique, in the form of a participatory piece, which we all had a hand in.

Since I consider the mandalas more of a "sacred space" and we really wanted them to inevitably create personal art, their assignment (working on a personal mandala piece) was not critiqued, but the group work was. After the collaborative mandala critique, one of the students rightly noted that it was difficult to critique the collaborative pieces, which I completely understood.

But this lesson was really to make them understand that artmaking, critique, being an artist, might take many different forms throughout their career. Their role as artist may be expanded, or conversely, contracted, depending on the manner in which they work, the challenges they meet, or their own intent for each piece of art. So, we presented them with a challenge or two, and they made it through their collaborations with flying colors, and not much grumbling.

Some of their personal work was shown, but the students were not pushed to show it or speak about it. Everything was voluntary as far as their personal mandala assignment was concerned. I am glad that many still took this assignment to heart, even though they were not obligated to speak about it or expected to share it with the class. My time with them showed me that they are willing to try new things, are thoughtful about their artmaking, and really "got" the idea of "personal art" through these explorations with the mandala.

More photos of the students working together in class are below...


The mandala that Jess and I made together...

On the day of the critique there were a few unique surprises. A piece that glowed...

And a piece that was generated by participants...

Although this is a screen capture (below), it does not, in fact, "capture" what was going on here, nor the movement of the whole when it was finished. Both of these pieces, along with an audio piece generated from the sounds of us all talking in the workshop session, were very transitory. They existed only under certain conditions; in the dark, or upon audience participation. 

"The idea of mandala seems extraordinarily abstract. We see it as a metaphysical or philosophical principle. We cannot learn anything about it unless we see how the mandala principle is connected with a learning process or a practicing process. The Sanksrit word mandala literally means “association” or “society.” The Tibetan word khilkhor means “center and fringe.” Mandala is a way of looking at situations in terms of relativity: if that exists, this exists. If this exists, that exists."   
-“The Razor’s Edge,” in Orderly Chaos: The Mandala Principle, Chogyan Trungpa

Thanks again to Jessica, Colette and the students in "Elements" for letting me share the mandala with you, it has really informed my own thought process regarding my ensuing thesis work, as well.