Sunday, May 10, 2009

Personal Explorations Fueled by Coffee

One of the first things I came across this morning as I was waiting for the caffeine to kick in was the following:

"Two things are necessary for me to be able to write: music and coffee." - Aleksandar Hemon, WSJ, 4/8/09.

This quote really struck me, because last night I was listing to Janice Ian, who was a student of the Rev. Gary Davis. Before performing, Janice revealed a bit of her story. She would go into NYC on the weekends to hang out in Greenwich Village with other poets and musicians. It was there that Janice met Rev. Davis and his wife. While Rev. Davis told Janice her hands were too small for his style of guitar playing, his wife became Janice's advocate. Without Rev. Davis and his wife, Janice's life journey would have been completely different.

After Janice's performance (she was playing backup for Marie Knight - what a voice!), I began exploring her song "At Seventeen." Here are the first few lines from the song:

I learned the truth at seventeen,
That love was meant for beauty queens.
In high school, girls with clear-skin smiles,
Who married young and then retired.

This was my high school experience to the letter. In a YouTube clip, Janice describes her battle with curly, dark hair in a world of females with long, straight, blonde hair. At this point in my curly, dark haired life, I've given up the battle - I no longer dream of being a blonde; instead, I want to dye my hair red, attention-grabbing red that cascades down my back in swirls and curls.

While Janice and I shared some common characteristics, I have yet to experience similar career influences. While my main writing focus tends to center around the world of academia, I find myself more deeply moved by poetry, prose, and art. The music and the stories of individuals like Janice Ian inspire me to hone my craft and look at my body of work through different lens.

The other day I stumbled upon an article about an exhibit at the Krannert Art Museum that illustrates ways to share research with others in a creative and unique way. And unlike traditional research distribution methods (i.e., peer reviewed journals, book chapters, etc.), it is likely that a larger body of people will experience these findings. The exhibit is titled, "Grand Text Auto," which, put simply, converts blog posts into performance art. More about this exhibit is available here. Electronic literature and gaming - how cool is that!

Another exhibit worth checking out, one which combines electronic text and art, was created by the French conceptual artist/provocateur Sophie Calle. The title of the piece, "Take Care of Yourself," which reflects the last line of an email message Calle received from a boyfriend who dumped her. In response to this rejection, Calle asks 100 women to read this rejection letter and respond to the last line. What started out as therapy became a very unique look at technology, communication, and interpretation. The exhibit has a limited showing. So if you're in the vicinity of the Paul Cooper Gallery in the next 27 days, this is work worth checking out.

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