Monday, June 4, 2012

June 4th - 1st day of Summer Art Camp is now behind me and it was WOW-erful!  When I came home from teaching 25 beautiful, creative young artists, I felt compelled to create myself!  I completed my 1st draft summer research paper for my UGA Summer Course with Dr. Cahnmann-Taylor AND created my next summer installation in our MemoiART blog - "Brighten My Day"!

So tonight I worked on my next summer visual journal spread: "Brighten My Day".  It was interesting how this piece worked itself out.  As most of my visual artworks end up, I had a completely different vision in mind.  As I started to add my art materials to my spread, my media, my imagery, my text, I was overcome with thoughtful reflections of what actually DOES brighten my day?  I usually spend most days happy - seriously happy!  As in, if you wake up breathing, you're having a pretty damn good day!  As in, one of my favorite mottos that I stole from Neila Conner, "TGIT: Thank God It's Today!"  but thinking back, my really truly remarkably BRIGHT days were back when my family was right there next to me, beside me, tucked in at night.  So my collage of text and imagery began and I found myself layering papers to create "secret hiding" places within my pages.  Within each "hiding" space, I would insert more ripped text from my memoirs and even a piece of a ripped crossword puzzle that I worked on one morning years ago.  This ripped piece of crossword reminded me of my mornings when I have "shushed" my children while sipping on my tea, acting as if that puzzle was more important than the children I brought into this world! 
Shame on me! 
Shame on US! 
We all do it! 
We live in a society where we are keeping up and busy as ever, and suddenly, before our eyes, we see your babies as teenagers, no longer needing us.  So as I searched for images in my cabinets of holiday cards gone by showcasing our together family, I thought of the fruit that was once my baby/babies and I long for those days for those are my BRIGHT days, my BLESSED days - but I should hold tight to my "tucked away memories of brighter days" and that is what my final collaged piece ultimately became tonight. 

dewestudio Visual Journal Spread - "Brighten My Day" - June 2012

Enjoy this art - enjoy this blog but more importantly, ENJOY your family, your life and LIVE BIG!  Tuck away your memories and build new ones daily!

Here is the beginning of what ended up being a 33 page 1st attempt research draft - can't wait to get some feedback and keep on learning!

Context and Introduction
In January of 2012, I took a Translingual Memoir course at the University of Georgia where I wrote several stories about experiences in my life that I considered to be important and life changing.  This type of writing became a heuristic, experimental arts-based self-study which I took as an opportunity to take an in-depth look at the personal process of learning by using my primary instruments needed to fully understand my personal “lived experience” consisting of family, students, and the visual arts.  The original intent of this paper was to explore and develop my gesture at a synthesis of the Translingual Memoir course expanding on how I saw the relationships between research methods and making and teaching art, but it turned into something much bigger and self-reflexive.  During a conversation with my major professor, we discussed the following:
·         Your paper should be your gesture (act) at a synthesis (mixture/blend/production) of the Translingual Memoir (biography, account, history, chronicle record, journal, log, report) course (plus what you have already written about a/r/tography, arts-based research, etc…) to expand upon how you see the relationship between research methods and the making and teaching of art. 
·         How do scholars articulate the theory and practice of arts-informed research methodologies (practices, procedures, methods, styles)?
·         What constitutes (establishes, comprises, represents) "data" (facts, documents, files)?
·         How is one's personal life story a part of the research "data"?
·         How are relationships between "researcher" and "participants" (teacher, students) defined in such an arts-based approach to data in education?
·         Who are your models for such study?
·         What did you find in memoir-based research and creative writing that inspires your approach
                                                                  (Personal Communication, 2012)

I started the whole process of trying to answer these questions from a personal perspective sensing a need to work on my personal art making on a regular basis. My attempts to become reconnected to my visual art making became a process for me to utilize the visual arts as a cathartic tool to help me heal after the death of my son.  Specifically, I wanted to create visual collages of the stories and poetry that I had written over the past few years and particularly during my Translingual Memoir course.  Through this course, I discovered that there was something very important happening, I was becoming reconnected with a deep understanding of how my life truly does inform my daily curriculum as an arts educator and that arts-based research “challenges us to think creatively about what constitutes research, forcing us to explore even more varied and creative ways to engage in empirical processes and to share our questions and findings in more penetrating and widely accessible ways” (Cahnmann-Taylor, 2008, p. 3).  A/r/tography calls on the researcher to aesthetically create in the process of research as a critical dimension of rigorous inquiry (Irwin & Springgay, 2008; Sameshima, 2007).  I wanted to better understand these concepts.

The overall purpose of this paper is to provide theories describing how to continue to interact with data in an artistic and authentic way. My hope is to provide a theoretical background, beginning with a brief summary describing heuristic and arts-based research methods, how I recently used them, and how their synthesis helped me to better define “arts-based reflexivity”.  I also hope to illustrate how the final result or meta-reflection of my project relates to the continued development of this arts-based reflexivity method.  Next I will provide a template describing the processes involved in arts-based reflexivity for researchers to explore and springboard from in their own research.  And finally, I will reflect upon the implications of this method and where I hope to take the data to achieve an even greater sense of authenticity and credibility, in this case, a better understanding of why service learning in the visual art classroom is so important.  There are various extracts from this project but I am most interested in the heuristic research approach and how that fits in with memoir and a/r/tography.  Thinking about my art making and art teaching as research tools, I found that I needed to put it into a context of an actual research project.  Upon investigating and reflecting on several service learning lessons taught to my students through the years, I selected the International Memory Project (IMP) to conduct a pre-study for this paper. 

More on the IMP later - very, very good stuff for sure!

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