Monthly Archives: January 2012

Interdiscipilinary What?

So what is an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art? Good Question. I am an artist but I have resisted the urge and pressure to label myself. I wrote in my application to Goddard, I witness beauty in nature and music, in colour and texture and art, in myriad human faces and gestures, images, scents, kindness and laughter. Each separate element merges into the influences on my eclectic artistic output as a weaver, painter, photographer, mixed media artist, poet, writer, dancer, singer and thinker – there are no boundaries between my curiosity, bearing witness to daily life and creative inspiration.

I have occasionally referred to myself as a multidisciplinary artist feeling it was an adequate description of my artistic output. Is multidisciplinary the same as interdisciplinary? To me, Multi means many, while Inter feels more like an emotional response. An internal interpretation of an emotional response that results in an external action. At the Goddard conference in October 2011 – Making, Meaning And Context: a radical reconsideration of art’s work – participants were asked to consider What it means to pursue an art practice or identify as an artist and What is the potential for interdisciplinary practice to contribute research and knowledge production that will support daily lives, diverse ecosystems, and the expansive realm of human imagination?

In my own work,  something would touch me deeply or intrigue me – and my natural response to that experience was to create an art work or word work. I recently showed a series of acrylic paintings I had completed that were inspired by the paint test strips I had driven over on a stretch of highway. Those 500 white, yellow and orange strips and lines that magically appeared over the long stretch between Toronto and Montreal never ceased to please me. And I drove over them every two weeks for 18 months! It took me three more years to interpret the pleasure into an art work and once I started I completed six canvases. At other times I have been moved to create affirmation bottles, a burden jar, to paint wee stones, collect rocks and drift wood, weave scarves, photograph people, scenery, animals, objects, decorate my house, paint furniture, write poetry, journals, news stories, letters to the editor. Or it was enough to just sit before a sunset, a sun rise, the waves on the lake, the ocean, a blade of grass. So collectively, these moments, these unrelenting urges to make beauty or a statement or a thing… is that interdisciplinary art? Am I making meaning and context for my own life? And is my work any different from any other’s work, a chef say, who creates culinary masterpieces full of flavour and colour and texture and scent? Is my artistic quest a spiritual journey? Does the work I produce reflect the transformation of my soul, byproducts of aging, childbearing, health crises, emotional turmoil, contentment, love, lust, hunger, thirst?

“For the free person final answers are a form of slavery. Learning, imagining, deliberating, choosing, making mistakes – these aren’t burdens, they’re not the cost of living; they’re signs of life itself. A human being is what he or she has learned to become.” Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990)

Packing for the journey

Make peace with the universe. Take joy in it. It will turn to gold. Every moment, a new beauty. ~Rumi

How can it be? I have a full suitcase packed and have not yet packed any clothes. The email from Jackie Hayes says that there are opportunities to share and develop art works over the week. I have packed pastels, pencils, paper, white fabric and fabric paint pens, erasers, a pencil sharpener, books, watercolours. I have been pondering a prayer flag project using the fabric and paint. Perhaps others will want to join in. As suggested by Bridgette I have packed a whole host of accessories to make my eight-day stay comfortable. A power bar, a small humidifier, copies of the books that I created with my art and writing work, the beautiful pashmina given to me by my friend Abhinav.

Annie, my friend and an MFA grad suggested I bring a small rug. The dorms are modest but comfortable and having a car means I can just throw bits and pieces in. I have no health issues like Marcel Proust but I do like to work in bed so I might bring along my bed tray and big bolster pillow. My brain is percolating with ideas for my semester work and also ideas of how to structure my entire MFA experience. I am not a goal-setter and I’m not really a joiner. I like to meander about and let experience and ideas find me. But the academic model, even one as liberal and creative as Goddard College, requires some sense of direction and some tangible goal for the end. This process in itself will be very good for me and I’m looking forward to it.

The First Steps

I am undertaking an MFA in Interdisciplinary Studies at Goddard College. We start in three days and I just received the schedule. It will be a whirlwind eight days but I am grateful to an upcoming graduate who blogged her own experience going back to school. Through her wisdom and insight, I learned more about the experience I am heading in to. I am grateful to her and will be there to cheer her on next weekend when she receives her degree. You can read more about her journey at The Perpetual Learner blog

So a little about me. My name is Annis, I’m an artist/writer/worker bee living in the beautiful Eastern Townships region of Quebec. After a few years consideration, I decided to go back to school.

Most of my friends wonder what purpose school would have for a 55 year-old woman… I wonder that too sometimes. But the adventure is beckoning and the opportunity to look at my creativity in new light is intriguing. You can view some of my art and writing on my website Minerva Lake.

Minerva was the virgin goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic,” and I have always loved the way her name sounds and what she symbolizes. (Yes, she is also the goddess of war and that can come in handy on occasion!)

I am a poet, weaver, crafter and a strong believer in magic. I have not found an image of the goddess Minerva that has inspired me yet so creating an image of my own might be a good project.

I head down to Vermont for the first eight-day residency.   Bridgette, the Perpetual Learner, supplied a fabulous packing list and I’ve added a few items of my own. Fortunately the distance is not far and I have a car so I can throw in what I think I’ll want and need and if I don’t use it – no harm done.

The Heron Chronicles

The Heron Chronicles is a journey. I have always been attracted to the heron. It embodies a magnificent calm and resilience. In the animal totem world, the heron teaches “balance; the ability to progress and evolve — to walk into deeper waters without fear”.

The image of the great blue heron here inspires me and reminds me that one does not always have to chase a hope or a dream;  one can also choose to wait patiently and notice the dream coming closer over time. And when it tickles your toes or nose, you can scoop it up in your arms and embrace it. But what if you are surprised to find that what has appeared is not what you dreamed of or hoped for? Well then, as the Rolling Stones sang – “you just might find, you get what you need.” And there is lots of magic in that.