Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Manuscripts on LSD

Today I found out that I would have to make an altered book instead of a visual journal for one of the assignments for this AP Studio Art class that I'm taking. I've made altered books, but I don't like to make them. Not my medium. Don't enjoy it at all.

I do love making visual journals, because I love to journal. I love the thrill of the blank page; unexplored territory; infinite possibilities; the evolution of a single mark into a whole page full of connected images and messages. Art! Love it!

But making an altered book begins with destroying someone else's work. Maybe it's because I like to read so much that I have trouble with the whole altered book process. That didn't stop me from tearing apart and rearranging two different books today in pursuit of the altered book bliss. Didn't happen. No joy. Just two destroyed books and a lot of frustration.

Never mind that I don't really understand what in the world creating this altered book has to do with learning how to teach AP Studio Art. I think the main source of my frustration is that I am really good at being prepared and following directions. Last week, in preparation for this class, I downloaded the syllabus and read it all the way through, so I knew what would be expected of me this week. One of the assignments for the class is "Journal entries: visual and textual investigations--5% of final grade." This translates in art teacher speak to "visual journal." Also, under the "Expectations of Students" section it states that "Assignments must provide evidence of knowledge of the material covered in the course."

Excellent. Now I know what to expect. That translates to: "Your visual journal must contain evidence that you learned the material covered in the course." Except.....

The instructor is not following his own syllabus. Unfortunately, he is also not giving us any guidelines as to what is expected of us. It's a "do as I say, don't do as I do" situation. He told us on the first day that it is really unfair to our students to not give them very clear guidelines and expectations and then just spring assignments on them. But of course that is exactly what is happening to us in this class. I have no idea how anyone else feels about this because I've just been grinning and bearing it, and killing books as creatively as I can all the while.

So I updated my facebook status with, "Ceilon Hall Aspensen does not enjoy making altered books. They're a FAD! But I'm doing it anyway....and I'm putting on my happy face..... :-) See? Happy face...."

This elicited a funny response from a friend who is not an artist: "I'm really out of the loop...What are altered books--manuscripts on LSD?" Altered mind states. Altered reality states. Altered book states. This gave me a pretty big chuckle, but caused me to realize that altered books are a kind of insider art for artists. It's not something that the average person would think to do if s/he is feeling creative and wants to make something.

If YOU are wondering what an altered book is, it is a regular book (any kind of book) that you change into something else. It's kind of an art book and a scrap book in one that you make from an existing book. A way to recycle books, I guess. NOT my medium. HATE making them. LOVE looking at cool ones that other people have made. My students like to make them; I do NOT.

Altered books are not something you can create and do a good job in a few days; not if the objective is to communicate a specific and clear message (i.e., evidence of what I learned in this class). Effectively connecting a message with a medium and making it art requires a bit of thought. It's not something I can just whip out overnight. Maybe other people can, but I can't do it and make anything but a big mess.

But all is not lost. Goucher's women's restroom has some of the best graffiti I've seen in a long time. This is what is on the back of the door of the first stall in the women's restroom on the first floor of Merrick Hall:

Now, that's art I can understand! ;-)

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