There was an error in this gadget

Friday, April 24, 2015

Doing time with the Post-Impressionists

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Vincent (Starry, starry night) Don McLean



After my lecture on the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, I ask the students to let me know which artist, or which piece of art, had the biggest impact on them. These artists are often labeled as boring or pedestrian as their humble scenes of domesticity and bucolic landscapes often go unnoticed. The artwork is what some consider “hotel art” or art that doesn't challenge or offend the viewer. However, once the students hear the back stories on these artists (particularly Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec), their opinions change and they view this art with new eyes and attitudes. One of the students, a quiet young man with a passion for music had this to say about Van Gogh.

The painting that I have come to enjoy more and more over the past few months is “Starry Night” by Van Gogh. I’m not a huge painting fan, so I don’t know much of his work. I know this one though and I love it with the colors, swirls, everything.
Van Gogh inspired me with this painting by reminding me of home. Being in this place, it is really easy to become “institutionalized,” or immune to reality. I’ve tried very hard to not let that happen to me and this painting, whether I see it or not, has helped me. Just thinking about it helps me to remember that there is more to all of this than just prison and someday, I’ll get to go home and experience that. That’s what keeps me going every day.
Thank you for this class.

I was humbled by this disclosure especially after a particularly challenging week dealing with the bureaucracy associated with the MDOC and teaching in this facility. I was renewed as I realized that for some, I was bringing a sense of hope into their lives, a sense of having a purpose beyond being a number in the penal system. It’s not easy work, teaching never is, but its rewards are often more than you can ever imagine.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Picture Perfect

Please meet my buddy Seth. 
Photograph by Luis Saenz
I had his mom as a student a long time ago, and he remembered me from all her rants and raves about me (we had a tumultuous student/teacher relationship). We connected a beer and beards event here in Jackson several years ago, and since then, we’ve become great friends. We share a love of photography as well as a love for family and social justice. Seth asked us if he could photograph our family and we (the attention whores that we are) eagerly said yes. He and his future bride Anyee took us out on a blustery day and photographed us all over our fair city. Anyee did a bang up job wrangling the kids and she also helped keep Anna’s hair in check with all the wind.



He didn’t care that we were a same-sex couple, he didn’t invoke the bible or Jesus to say no to us, HE SOUGHT US OUT and for that we are very appreciative. In these troubling times of homophobic pizza parlors and mechanics that will purposely reassemble your car in a dangerous manner to teach you about the gays, it’s nice to find someone like Seth and Anyee that go out of their way to support us and the LGBT community.

Michigan for Marriage picked up one of his photos from my post on Facebook and asked if they could use it for an email blast and we said yes. So our smiling family, posed in front of Louise Nevelson’s “Summer Night Tree” was sent to thousands of folks in Michigan and beyond. We received many compliments on the photo and how it presented us as just another family and not the scary gays that those homophobes are so up in arms about.

So why all this love? Seth is having his first showing of art at the Grand River Brewery this Saturday. It’s a great place and a great venue to look at art and drink some fine beer. Please consider stopping by this Saturday from 6:00 to 10:00 pm to check out Seth’s photos and the work of several other artists in the brewery’s event hall.

You can find more about the event on their Facebook invitation here: https://www.facebook.com/events/348016968730292/

You can find more about Seth and his artwork here: http://www.sethingtonscreations.com/