Collaboration

In my experience, there are very few artists who are NOT, at heart, essentially collaborative (I recently wrote about artist collaborations here). Certainly there is a neurosis to creative living that sometimes results in isolation and resistance to the free flow of ideas and actions. That’s a stereotype, though.

Above: Three Exquisite Corpse drawings I made with two of my daughters – Miranda and CaiQun. Graphite on paper, 11×8.5 inches, August 2017.

The truth is that we find strength in our collaborative efforts. This is true whether the collaboration is in the context of specific works of art or if it is (as it often is) in the context of making community. So many artists I know advocate for each other – that’s collaboration. So many artists I know curate shows, craft opportunities behind the scenes, and act as allies to those around them. That’s real collaboration.

They do this without expecting or needing a slap on the back.

In my own life as an artist, especially since I started teaching full time, collaboration and shared creation has been gigantic. I also think my children have played a huge role in developing my sense of receptivity and shared ownership of creative endeavors.

We aren’t islands. We don’t have to be disconnected. Connection is hard – it makes us vulnerable and awkward. It also forces us to mature, to live beyond a kind of precious singularity or purity of thought and action. It asks us to believe in other people and to believe in ourselves.

I’m posting a few of my current/recent collaborations here. Of course, my best and most central collaboration is with Alison. But in terms of art, the pieces I’m showing here are ones I’m really proud of.

img_7422Above: Collaboration with Kyle Hendrix – in progress. Ceramic, paint. Approximately 10x10x10inches. 2017.

Below: Works made with Joel T Dugan. First is Plié – Oil, acrylic, marker on shaped panel. Approximately 10.5 by 10.5 by 1.5 inches. 2016-2017. Below that is Jaunt – Oil, acrylic, marker and spray paint on shaped panel. Approximately 11 by 11 by 1.5 inches. 2016-2017.

ballou01-plie

ballou02-jaunt

The collaboration with Joel has been very important to my development, especially since my heart attack in 2016. There is a constellation of Indiana University MFA grads scattered across the US, and I feel as if we are all constantly jostling each other. It is not uncommon to see many of us working together. I think that says something about the strength of that program. I am always aware of what many of the IU people are doing. Their work motivates me and challenges me.

Another friend I’ve worked with on and off over the years is my former student Allison Reinhart. We’ve worked on a variety of projects over the years, from exhibitions to prints, but right now we are building a very special box. The mirrored box, which I am fabricating, and that Allison conceptualized and is designing the external features of, is a container of containment.

Above: views of the mirror box – approximately 14x14x14 inches, 2015-2017.

My professional work over the last half decade has included a significant curatorial component. This means building proposals, playing with ideas, working with artists, finding funding, giving talks, and really so much more. I’ve gotten the chance to work with some of my heroes – like Anne Harris and Tim Lowly – through this process.

Right now I’m coordinating with several awesome artists for a show that I hope with travel to a number of venues – our first exhibition opens at the George Caleb Bingham Gallery at the University of Missouri the last week of September 2017. In particular, it is so wonderful to have the chance to present works by Sharon Butler and Gianna Commito. These women are two of my favorite painters, and the way they challenge and nurture painting as a form is inspirational.

Perhaps the most effective art collaboration I have is the one with Deborah Huelsbergen at Mizzou. Deborah is a graphic designer, lover of mandalas, and fierce advocate for the power of teaching. She LOVES it. She LIVES it. And our university is better because she’s here. Over the last few years Deborah and I have gotten to give a number of workshops and orientations together, and I just love getting to share the room with her wisdom and passion. Whether we are leading other educators in exercises to stimulate their own creativity or helping new grads understand how to handle their classrooms, we always seem to know how to wordlessly coordinate. Deborah is awesome!

I am really looking forward to my upcoming collaborative exhibition with former student and current friend Simon Tatum. Whew – the Cayman Islands?! Colonial histories?! Cultural excavation and interrogation?! It’s going to be amazing – check back for more information.

And how could I mention collaboration without talking about my work with Marcus Miers? You Show Me Yours, I’ll Show You Mine. WOW.

marcusmatt02Above: Photographic pairing – a shared work by Matt Ballou and Marcus Miers, 2010-2011. We showed these works at the 930 Art Center in Louisville, KY once.

There are MANY more instances I could go into (like making beer with Norbz), but perhaps the best collaboration to end on is the one I have with my students. They come from all over the world. They have all sorts of different experiences and expectations. Yet, without fail, every semester we work together to build a fun, challenging, strange, stimulating learning climate that makes a difference. I couldn’t do it without them.

Making paintings, crafting shows, team-teaching… so many ways to become more than myself. I’m very grateful for that. Here’s to collaboration!

13725109_10154344363709491_3439759102298509937_o

Collaborative Online Drawing – for more information see here.

Advertisements

Museum Show!

10727750_760661254004316_310602584_n

I’ll be giving a talk today at an event for the Mizzou Interdisciplinary Center on Aging at the Museum of Art and Archeology. This talk is on the subject of mediated attention and the ways I try to teach (and learn) through the various technologies that surround us (Click HERE if you’re interested in attending the event – it’s November 4, 2014 at 4PM).

The wonderful thing about this event today is that it’s the first public viewing of an exhibition I have guest-curated at the Museum. This show, called Touching the Past: Student Drawings From the Gallery of Greek and Roman Casts, will be up throughout the month of November and into December. It features 22 artworks by my former students. Student drawings from the likes of Jacob Maurice Crook, Kate Miers, and Allison Jacqueline Reinhart feature prominently. The Museum is open 10am until 4pm Monday through Friday, so come visit the show any time!

S2012_DRW1_CastGalleryStudents working in the Cast Gallery a few semesters ago.

Working in the Gallery of Greek and Roman Casts is one of the most important experiences I can give to my students. I hope you’ll stop by and see works like the ones shown below.

drw1-2013-02Hannah Wallace, Wide Angle Study of Figures in the Cast Collection. 18 by 24 inches, graphite on paper.

DSC07052Kate Miers, Study of Artemis. 24 by 18 inches, graphite on paper.

One special guest I invited to have work in this exhibition is fellow teacher and artist Chris Fletcher. His sensitive, searching drawings from the Mizzou Casts seem deceptively simple. But having spent the last 25+ years studying drawing and painting, I can tell you that they are masterworks of human subjectivity and focused engagement. I love the little marginalia notes he leaves for himself on the edges of the works, and the inquisitive-yet-firm nature of his working. Don’t pass by this small pieces when you visit the show. Really, really great stuff.

List of artists in the Touching the Past exhibition:

Olaia Chivite Amigo

Matthew Ballou

Maggie Berg

Amanda Bradley

Jacob Maurice Crook

Chris Fletcher

Emily Gogel

Terisia Hicks

Rachael Liberty

Kate Miers

Aubrey Miller

Delia Rainey

Allison Reinhart

Tianyuan Ren

David Spear

Andi Tockstein

Duy Tran

Hannah Wallace

 ~

DSC07075Detail of Andi Tockstein’s Study of Apollo… you need to see this drawing in person!

Becoming The Student #11: Allison Jacqueline Reinhart

Allison Reinhart (go to her website here) is a former student of mine who has been pretty instrumental in my growth as an educator over the last few years. We’ve worked together on a number of projects, each one more beneficial than the last. Her last solo exhibition was fantastic, and I was able to write about it for neotericART (click here to read the piece). Allison, as a student leader and presence on campus here at Mizzou, has had a deep impact for educational accessibility, universal design, and inclusiveness in our community (you can read about some of that here).

IMG_9291The Gaze of Allison Jacqueline Reinhart, pastel on paper mounted on panel, reclaimed oak. 18 by 18 inches, 2014. (Click for enlargement)

This portrait of Allison is one of my favorite works in a long time. Not only do I feel that it captures something of her take no BS attitude and strength, I also think the drawing has a clarity and directness that Allison also possesses. The reclaimed oak frame was something I built from a very old drawing desk that had been thrown out. When I saw the desk in the dumpster I knew I could make something substantial and beautiful from it. I think the frame really completes the piece, giving it a sense of solidity and authority.

I don’t want to go on and on, but Allison (as well as Gina Ceylan, who will be a forthcoming Becoming The Student subject) has been important in helping me to grasp the reality that affording access as broadly as possible – be that educational, social, or political – is not to be an afterthought for civilized societies. It should be front and center. It is not a special service or add-on benefit to accommodate the access and needs of my students; it should be a primary focus of my work as an educator. I’m thankful for the many conversations Allison and I have had about these issues.

On Neil deGrasse Tyson Explaining Things

“Listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining things makes you realize how cool things are and could be, but also how shitty things actually are… and then I get sad. I mean, we understand all these great things about the universe but can’t even make health care affordable and universal. Makes me want to just go back to bed.”

On Her Portrait:

“Where’s my ermine?”

“That’s how I roll. This is my sitting up posture. It’s also my laying down posture.”

On the Becoming The Student Project:

“You sure know a lot of hairy men!”

On Awkwardness:

“I wish everyone understood that we’re all fucking awkward. Just go with it, people.”

To hear more from Allison – as well as other who have worked toward a better, more inclusive environment at Mizzou, watch this short film.

~

Exploring Possibility

Jill Hicks of the Columbia Daily Tribune wrote a piece titled “Exploring Possibility” that ran on Sunday, March 18, 2012. The article follows Allison Reinhart, a student who’s been a major presence in the Art Department here at Mizzou. She’s currently taking an independent study with me. We’ve worked together in the past – most notably on this film by the inimitable Keith Montgomery – and she’s one of my favorite people at MU.

Jill quoted quite a bit of my thoughts on working with Allison. It’s really nice to find that you’ve said something that really rings true and you have to work to live up to it. I feel that way about this particular passage: “…making accommodations for my students isn’t an area of ‘special’ or ‘additional’ effort — it’s the way it ought to be,” […] “All culture-making is about access. When we — as institutions or individuals — legitimize the denial of access to those who wish to participate, we’re functioning as gatekeepers and operating in illegitimate systems of refusal. As an educator and person who deeply believes in the value of university-level teaching, I don’t want to be a part of that.”

Thanks to Jill for the great article and to Allison (and Gina, and others!) for being thoughtful, dedicated students. No, I didn’t say inspirational… Allison wouldn’t like that. :)