25 November 2008

Thomas Kinkade is rather stupid

I just read (via the Chronicle's Arts & Letters Daily) a Vanity Fair article about some really banal movie that Thomas Kinkade has made/painted...

What babble- the movie, not the article. The article was sort of interesting – especially Kinkade's 16 Guidelines for making the movie have the "Kincade Look". Gag. Gag. Gag.

If the article is factual, it seems that Mr. Kinkade is another religious person solely focused on the external, on appearances. I find that disingenuous in an artist - but right on course for people who parade their religious views as models of charity and love, but use them for profit. As an artist I find Kinkade pitiful. The aesthetic of his work is puerile romantic meaningless drivel. The aggravating thing is that people buy this crap.

We live in a Kinkade world where the mundane is worshiped as being "for the people," where anti-intellectualism runs rampant, where people see technical ability as artistic ability. Thomas Kinkade's work is the embodiment of all that is mundane. The places in Thomas Kinkade paintings have never existed outside of someone's mind and I suppose that is why he is popular. People love to pretend that things are different than they really are. We tell ourselves lies whenever possible, and believe them as gospel truth.

Oh, and I also hate the tendency for cover artists who do movie covers/posters to have photos of people with other people's names above them. What's the matter with them?

20 November 2008

Further Thoughts on a Priority

On the priority of attracting and retaining a diverse and qualified student body-(see taking a stand in a town hall meeting)-most people spoke to the diversity aspect of this priority. A few spoke on educational standards for college entrance. Others talked about disadvantaged students and their needs.

I think that one thing that was not mentioned was that even though we would all love to attract "qualified" students, the most important thing is not their qualifications when they arrive, but their qualifications when they leave.

How to take the less prepared students and get them "qualified" before they leave WITHOUT degrading the education and experience for the exemplary students is an important thing to consider.

And perhaps one of the more difficult things to do.

Taking a Stand in a Town Hall Meeting

Today, in a "town hall" meeting, we discussed a group of priorities for moving the university forward. We have a new president and he is reaching out to everyone in a number of ways, looking for input on where each group, each person, thinks the university needs to focus efforts and energy.

I did not bring home my notes, but there were eight priorities laid out for discussion. I think I can remember them: the university's Catholic, Lasallian heritage/identity; an excellent teaching and learning environment; a diverse and qualified student body; financial vigor and viability of the university; the well-being of all; internal & external communication; preparing students for an increasingly "global" world. I am forgetting one of them. Perhaps it will come to me as I pull my thoughts together here. Oh yeah, enhancing technology to support learning. That was number five I think.

The president, after taking perhaps 15 or 20 minutes to introduce the priorities, simply stood as moderator, pointing out members of the audience/gathering so that they could speak their thoughts on these priorities.

For the most part people brought up ideas that would either support or question the feasibility of a given priority. Concerns were voiced that we should respect the financial health of the university, but not let economics strangle its essence. Several faculty members mentioned a deficit in the teaching of foreign languages bringing up the idea that we need more language instructors. I think I would take it even further - we need to teach more languages. Simply offering French and Spanish isn't good enough anymore. Yes I know we also have Latin and Greek, and we also offer the occasional Arabic course, but I am thinking we need to offer Chinese. We need to have a fully established program in Arabic.

At one point someone made mention of the vocational vs. liberal arts education models, claiming that we need to decide which we will be and what it means to be one or the other, as well as a few other points that I have to admit did not really stick in my mind.

The idea that education - higher education everywhere, not just at our university - is sorely lacking in its ability to engage students in intellectual discourse (that heady, inspiring dialogue that leaves you reeling, that pushes you right up against the abyss, leaving you tottering on the edge of all of your prejudices, your assumptions, your ignorance, while you strain for a transcendent moment, a crystal clarity, that moment when you realize a tiny particle of truth, the moment that makes you feel truly alive and vibrant) was a point that many voiced. Faculty and students alike mentioned that they missed the challenge that this kind of thinking, this kind of being embodies, they missed, whether or not they even knew it existed, the high brought on by intense mental engagement.

I found much to agree with in the discussion of creating intellectual dialogue. I believe that college, without this experience, is just advanced high school.

I was impressed by the solidarity expressed by those who chose to speak and those who listened with total concentration. For the most part it was a very civil and respectful discussion.

The students that came and spoke were probably mostly seminarians - although one female student also spoke. One student spoke several times. One of my co-workers mentioned that she thought he did very well with the first point he brought up. She thought he perhaps came with that statement prepared ahead of time. I think she may be correct. He definitely did not do as well on the second, third or fourth time he spoke.

I think it was the second time he spoke, maybe the third, when he joined in on the discussion of the "intellectual life" at the university. He used those moments to praise the merits of taking logic courses, taking philosophy courses. I would have been fine with what he said, except he implied that philosophy courses are more important than other courses. He said something along the lines of why would anyone want/need to take a ceramics course - why would a university worth its salt offer a ceramics course but not make logic (a philosophy course we offer) required for every student - what possible good could someone get from taking ceramics, etc.

I admit that I sort of got fired up about this statement (and the implied lesser worthiness in vocational education that a faculty member stated earlier). It wasn't soley that he was a bit arrogant. It wasn't solely that he was getting great pleasure from hearing himself speak. It wasn't that he dismissed art as having any value - at least not entirely.

What I cannot get past is the elitism, expressed here as my course/major/department/program has more worth, is more essential to what is that defines intellectual discourse, than your course/major/department/program. It was the implication that as a philosopher he was worth more than someone who took art classes.

And that is just plain wrongheadedness. So I had to say something.

You cannot build intellectual discourse without passion. Not everyone has the same passions. The real work of a university is to engage the student from within the context of his or her passion. An art course, a business course, a philosophy course or a language course - any course can inspire passion which can then lay the foundation for intellectual dialogue.

I absolutely, totally, passionately(!) believe that lasting , meaningful learning, that true expansion of one's awareness comes from discovering a passion and exploring it.

I hope I was more eloquent when I spoke than I have been here. I need to think about this more.

18 November 2008

Mosaic - The Flock

The Flock, 14" x 39", vitreous glass tiles.

The Flock (this piece's current title, which may change) is almost finished. All the tesserae have been placed and glued to the fiberglass mesh. I've turned it upside down (with the help of Abelisto) so that the back side can dry.

Once it's dried overnight I will attach the mosaic to a substrate using thinset (a concrete-based adhesive). When that dries I will grout the mosaic. I have bags of medium gray, dark gray and black grout. I still need to do a grout study. Part of me wants to just go ahead and grout the mosaics, guessing which grout would give the best results. But this time, for once, I am going to be patient and test the grout colors. I am too happy with this mosaic (and The Lion Roars) to mess it up with a bad grout choice.

Waiting is always the hardest part of any project.

In the meanwhile, I've started another mosaic.

12 November 2008


I've been very passionately working on the mosaic, which has become two-soon-to-be-three mosaics.

Here is The Lion Roars. It still needs to be grouted and framed, but you can get a good idea of what it is going to look like now. It (I really want to call it He) is around 11" tall and 14" wide. It is a mixture of opus palladium, opus tessellatum, opus vermiculatum, and a rough approximation of opus regulatum. That's likely too many types of andamento in one small mosaic - probably a common beginner's mistake.

The major thing I learned from this piece is that I want to break my glass tesserae into fourths. They come as 20mm (aprox. 3/4") square tiles that are very regular in size and shape. When I did the background for The Lion Roars I realized that I was going to be doing a considerable amount of cutting to outline the lion. I decided to quarter the tiles, again probably not the best combination (some full, some chipped and some quartered), but for this it seems to work okay. Anyway, what I discovered along the way is that I REALLY like the lack of uniformity in the quartered tesserae. I love the less regimented, more organic feel.

While I was waiting for Lion to finish drying I started another mosaic. This one doesn't have a name yet. I've called it The Birds as a working title, but I'm not locked into that for the actual title.

I'm quartering all the tiles for it and using primarily opus tessellatum.

This first image shows the cartoon and some initial color selections for the eyes.

A close up of two of the birds' eyes, which also shows the cartoon in detail.

Second try at the first bird's head. I peeled the first attempt up after it dried. It was too chaotic and undefined. This is when I decided to use opus tessellatum instead of opus palladium. I like the way it defines the bird's head.

Bird one is done. I particularly liked the way that the beak edge came out. I had done the birds as an encaustic painting and never could get the divide between the upper and lower beak defined like I wanted.

Bird two, partially done. this was a stopping point on the second night of working on this project.

Here is how The Birds currently looks. I hope to finish the piece by the weekend so that I can grout both mosaics at the same time. I will need to do a tile sample to test the grout color, but right now I'm thinking of a dark grey or black - have to see how that tests out with the beak colors.

Meanwhile, mosaic three is rattling around inside my head.