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January 2016

Marks of a Teacher

NCSA.jpg
Clyde took fantastic photographs of us with his Polaroid as fodder for several self-portrait projects.

This evening as I walked down the road in to my local fruit stand in the dark, picking my way through the sludge of mud leftover from recent Cairo rains, my eyes misted. Clyde, a teacher who made a profound impression, is moving on to other worlds. He was tough. The toughest teacher I have ever had. I earned my first “C” for a careless figure drawing, a woman tipping forward into space, unbalanced. Through his tutelage, I learned to draw from memory, to draw from my gut, to find movement on the page, to articulate nuanced poses, to highlight brevity, and to slash through the page with grit, tears and angst, only to find repose as works wound their way to conclusion. Like squeezing water from a stone, poetry was found by digging through the drawn repetition of countless, mundane paper sand bags. “The weight of the sand, the restraint of the tape, the release of the paper’s edge.”

One afternoon, early in the fall, he invited myself, Liam and the two Seans to his garage, where we cracked into abstract artworks and dipped our brushes into molten wax, a formative afternoon in my young love of abstraction. He shared images of his favorite artworks, Motherwell and Rauschenberg, Kahlo and Rothko – part of a continued lesson to cultivate an acknowledgment of other artists, as holy as the artistic process itself.

I had more than one meltdown in our critiques, where I eventually found my voice and learned to step outside of my nervously high-pitched tones. To continue your traditions, Clyde, I teach gesture drawing by launching cups of water into the air, throwing sponges to waft daftly to the ground, and sending marbles to bounce their way through the eternity of scribbled lines on paper! One might think a Drawing teacher primarily teaches you to see, which Clyde did; more importantly, he taught me how to move through the world, as a gesture and a life-force, with strength, with grace, and with a bit of grit.

 

Post-script: Written in honor of the legendary Clyde Fowler, beloved teacher of many at UNCSA from 1975-2005, who passed away on Monday, February 1, 2016. He lives on in the hands, minds, and hearts of the many makers he nurtured during the vulnerable time of awakening through art.

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Tough Enough?

Ramses III Temple
Schoolgirls at Medinet Habu Temple

Before I moved to Egypt, a woman in Cairo shared:

I’ve lived here long and grown a thick skin…honestly, I know some women from overseas who become broken by harassment on the street and come home daily upset and in tears. Equally, there are others who cope.

At which point I had to ask myself, “Am I tough enough?” I have experienced enough already to develop some skin, yet I arrived in Cairo prepared to be harassed on a daily basis. Luckily, the reality has been a welcome relief – my greatest threats are potholes, car exhaust and reckless drivers. If anything, people leave me alone,regardless of  the length of my skirts and the air on my skin; 99% of the time I find it is my perception of cultural and societal norms, and not other peoples’ behaviors, which make me uncomfortable.

I am an ostrich, peeking out the sides of my hole in the sand greeting only those men who have become a familiar fixture in my journeys to and from home. This is a challenging way to live, yes: to live with closed eyes. Yet, this is part of the subtext of where I live. A man who dares look me in the eye and speak to me, culturally, is more disrespectful than a man who avoids my gaze in silence (although this changes depending on class and education, as always). Growing up I was taught to be friendly, to look people in the eye! To be ignored is counter-intuitive; here this is a sign of respect. Nicole, my blonde-headed friend with curt blue eyes and arms rich with tattoo ink, stares men straight in the eyes, daring them to judge. She faces this judgment head on daily, with a fierceness I almost envy except that I don’t believe the impact of this daily challenge washes off at the end of the day. For all the more she sees, she feels. Which way is better?

Recent events, such as my dad’s visit to Cairo, have caused me to see Egypt in new ways. One day while exploring on his own, he met a man who invited him into his shop. He requested my dad’s help with writing an English birth announcement about his twins, who were born earlier that morning. My dad enjoyed a toast of sugared mint tea in celebration with the young father.

Continue reading “Tough Enough?”

Pages

IMG_5394Rather than share a heap of photos from my holiday travels from Upper Egypt to Italy (which I may be tempted to do at a later stage) I am sharing some pages from my sketchbook. These bountiful travels could not have been better curated, although the sites selected were initially chosen for their convenience to Cairo. The histories left by the ancient Egyptians along the southern parts of the Nile, and the marks left by Romans and Alexander the Great there, formed the necessary backdrop to support further escapades through the ruins of Rome and southern Italy.

Continue reading “Pages”

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