April 14, 2018

A (Satur) Day in the Life of Professor Nordell

Driving to Springfield, Massachusetts to watch some of my American International College students compete in the Women's Rugby 7s Invitational, I listened to Amisha Ghadiali on The is Future Beautiful podcast interview Charles Eisenstein about possible responses to serious environmental issues.  How does Eisenstein stay centered in tumultuous times?  "My practice is to ask, 'what is it like to be you'?  What it is like to be the people you judge the most."

See Ya Later
The first open parking space near the rugby field was close to a tree. What is it like to be you I wondered about the tree, and thusly chose to move my car rather than park atop the roots.

What is it Like to be You? 
After the tournament, I found that others had parked right next to the tree.  In homage to friend and master tree photographer, Benjy Swett, I photographed the specimen.  Benjy comes from a family of photographers.

I thought of his sister, Evelyn Swett, when I spied some of the first glorious spring colors and chose to photograph the dandelions in black and white.

Color Burst
Evelyn had recently posted a black and white image on Instagram of salad greens, and pondered, "Am I crazy to shoot a luscious local green salad in black and white or do the subtleties of shades of green deserve a quieter palette?"

I stuck with monochrome for these tanks, inspired by the way the photographs of industrial sites by Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher teach us to see beauty and majesty in large structures.

Using the vegan Happy Cow app I discovered Pita Pockets on Main Street in Northampton.  As I sat in front and throughly enjoyed my sandwich, @postaljeff walked by delivering mail.  We chatted.

Main Street Life
I kick myself for not taking a portrait of Jeff, but the mail carrier by day and photographer the rest of the time is one of the masterminds behind @igers413, a site that connects Instagrammers in Western Massachusetts.

Figure 1                                                                                Figure 2
Up from Main Street and heading towards the Smith College Museum of Art on Elm, shapes and shadows caught my eye (Figure 1).  I then shot a three image in-camera multiple exposure of the scene (Figure 2).

Figure 3 - Crystalline Solid
I later used a filter in Photoshop to manipulate Figure 2, and in the process, created Figure 3, one of my Reality-Based Abstractions.

Sons of Joeson: Squirt Water Not Bullets!
For my Art and Culture: A Global Look course, I was searching for material that addressed the issue of whether artists need to present/promote their personal ethnic heritages or might choose a more universal, less culturally specific approach.  So I was delighted to discover Modern Images of the Body from East Asia at the Smith College Museum of Art.

Above, South Korean born Mina Cheon presented this work, "painted" by her alter ego, North Korean socialist realist painter Kim Il Soon.

The Judgement of Paris, 1992
The issue of ethnic representation remains complicated.  Chinese born American Hung Liu created this work that mixes Greek myth (a motif of 18th century Chinese art made for export to western markets) with renderings of prostitutes to entice male customers (based on archival photographs from Beijing).   "The equation is always the same: woman [as] object," says Liu.

Bowl with Scene from the Judgement of Paris, Mid-18th Century, Unknown Artist, China
Liu's work asks us to examine the portrayal of women across time and space, making connections based on gender rather than ethnicity.  Ushio Shinohara's work below, for which he covered boxing gloves in paint and punched a canvas, presents little indication of his traditional Japanese heritage.  Therefore, he may be more universally connected to others by virtue of being an artist that pushes boundaries, rather than by creating Japanese art.

Boxing Painting
I tell my students that I love going to museums because the experience helps me see the whole world as a museum.  For example, I noticed this precious single sheet of toilet paper in the men's room.

I then headed up to the Dublin School in New Hampshire to watch the Putney School Ultimate Frisbee team compete.

Airborne Focus
On my way to dinner in Keene, New Hampshire, I spotted Life is Sweet cupcake shop.  I snapped this image to send to a student in my entrepreneurs class who was developing a business plan for her mock bakery named, "The Sweet Life."

What it is Like to be Me
A full day of creating art, looking at art and enjoying connection.  Life, indeed, is sweet.

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at CreateLookEnjoy.com