Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Little More About Me and Art

I am teaching an online art appreciation course for the next month or so. One of my students asked me about my degree in anthropology and how it connected to art. This was my answer:

"I actually have been an artist since before I was five-- back then I specialized in drawing lions and cyclops, and I loved the art of Dr. Seuss! My interest in other cultures, mythology, and art has been with me all my life.

You know in grade school and high school, you have "the nerd," "the jock," etc., and "the artist." I was one of the kids people knew as "the artist" (we didn't even have the word "nerd" way back here in Helena then!) But I was also interested in different world cultures and my tribal roots. I also won a prize for my drawing in Electrum back then, and would rather draw in my notebook than do math smile I thought I'd be a professional artist one day. I drew American Indian stuff, dinosaurs, animals, monsters, sci-fi stuff, etc.

When I went to Missoula in the fall of 1978 (I graduated Helena High in 1978 spring), I took a bunch of different classes, including studio arts. The big thing at the time was modern art there, which I really disliked, as I wanted to do wildlife art, western art, science fiction-fantasy, and religious art. But the art department was unfriendly to realistic art at the time, so after fighting the teachers, I bailed on that idea. The next year (1979-80), I stayed home in Helena, I went to Carroll, tried a few things, didn't like it, and mainly devoted my time to painting and drawing.

I am part American Indian and was interested in studying the Native American tribes, culture and history at the time, including the arts. There was an old gent named Eddie Barbeau here in Helena back then. He owned the property where the Town Pump is now, over by Costco. He had a barn, house, and other stuff there, and he also set up tipis. He was a friend of the family, and we used to help him with Indian projects, like painting the tipis. So for me, Indian stuff and art stuff has always been connected.

In 1980-81 I attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mainly I studied painting there, but also did some sculpture, ceramics, and jewelry. But they didn't have a BA so I went to U of Montana in Missoula, and finally got my BA in Anthropology as that allowed me to study both culture and the arts, without being dragged into the abstract art stuff in the art department there. It wasn't my cup of tea.

But fashions change in art. That was thirty years ago, and realism has returned in fashion. I also have learned to appreciate the abstract (or better-said, "nonrepresentational" art) forms more, so I very well understand others when they say "Is THAT art?? I could do THAT! A little kid could do THAT!" But I have learned myself since my twenties more about that kind of art, and so that is some of what I will share with you.

I have two Masters graduate degrees, one in Anthropology/Archaeology, specializing in material culture and art, and a separate Masters in Landscape Architecture, specializing in landscape history. Landscape Architecture is a design degree, and having a graduate degree in a design field is what enables me to teach a design/art course. I am still an artist too. I will be painting a mural downtown here in Helena this summer for example. You can also see some of my art at my art blog."

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