Fall Back, Spring Forward

Entry begun on Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 7:30 am

We switch our clocks back from Daylight Savings Time this Sunday, and the shorthand phrase, “Fall Back / Spring Forward,” fits what’s happening with my projects this week  Again I’ve got back in touch with some great Moby alums.  I had not seen Thomas Foltz, a Political Science major, since my Spring 2010 class in Douglass and Melville, when he had drawn a powerful bull-eye view of the Pequod as it was about to be stove in by Moby Dick.  Thomas was a new job selling cars for a local Buick dealer after having worked for a time as a gravedigger.  Nancy Vagedes was the Studio Arts major in my American Short Story class in 1997 who had mesmerized her classmates at the end of the semester by unveiling the ceramic sculpture she called Captain Ahab’s Worst Nightmare, the glorious White Whale looming high above the small captain in his whaleboat.  Some time after taking the class, Nancy had been partially paralyzed from cracking her neck when diving into a swimming pool.  I had worried about her ever since, and was delighted to hear that the metal plates have helped her to heal fully and that she is teaching ceramics courses at Cincinnati State.

Nancy Vagedes presenting her final project in the American Short Story course in 1997

Nancy Vagedes presenting her final project in the American Short Story course in 1997

Storing all the works that I have borrowed or purchased from my former students has been a real challenge in advance of our Moby show in Covington in April.  Last week I was very happy to get back from the framer the most recently created work in our forthcoming exhibition, the charcoal drawing that Stephen Wheeler did as a freshman in my Honors Composition class during the 2013 Fall Semester.  Stephen was inspired by the same scene in the novel that had inspired Nancy sixteen years earlier, but he created his response in charcoal on paper.  He called this drawing The Worsting of Captain Ahab, and it looks great in its new frame.  I have found a good place for it next to our entry hall at home, displacing my poster of J. M. W. Turner’s The Whale Ship from the New York Metropolitan Museum, now behind a living room couch.

Stephen Wheeler’s The Worsting of Captain Ahab, newly framed, across from the stairs in my hallway

Stephen Wheeler’s The Worsting of Captain Ahab, newly framed, across from the stairs in my hallway

Thomas, Nancy, and Stephen were all happy with Emma Rose’s catalog layout for their work.  Now that that catalog is being finalized, we are working hard on the Dickinson catalog for February.  I had already sent Emma Rose the ingredients for about two-thirds of the catalog, with images and text for those students who had created works in these categories:  Quilts and Fabric Art (4) , Portraits and the Human Figure (12), and Landscape and Nature Scenes (9). The ingredients I have begun assembling this week fall into these categories: Vintage Assemblages (3), Artist  Books (6), Film and Video (3), Public Art and Individual Blog (2), and Inclusive Websites (2).  Revisiting all of these classroom creations, organizing the catalog in which to present them, and writing a short bio of each student is a very enjoyable “Fall Back” to the past as we “Spring Forward” toward the Spring Semester exhibition.

Yesterday was quite a day.  Just after assembling all of the ingredients for the mural Sarah Kellam had painted on a floodwall in Covington as her final project in Dickinson and the Arts last Spring, I checked the website for NKU Athletics and found that Sarah had won the Charles Braun Jr. Intercollegiate Golf Tournament in Evanston, Indiana.  Her round of 73 had beat more 90 individual competitors, and led our team to second place out of fifteen teams in only our third year as a D-I program.  It is such a pleasure to have true student athletes in our classes.  Two athletes from my recent classes in Freshman Honors Composition, Taylor Snyder and Sami Rutowski, have been helped our current volleyball and soccer teams qualify for the A-Sun Conference tournament during the first year in which we are eligible.

Sarah Kellam painting part of her floodwall mural in late April, 2014

Sarah Kellam painting part of her floodwall mural in early May, 2014

My most sustained engagement with student athletes came when I wrote a book, Thirteen Women Strong, about the 2006-07 season of our women’s basketball team.  That team lost in the firt round of the Great Lakes Regional Tournament, leaving to the next year’s team to win the Division II National Championship in Kearney, Nebraska (which made a wonderful Epilogue for my book).  I had not planned to, but I ended up using a poetic phrase from Emily Dickinson as the epigraph for almost every chapter, including “I took my Power in my Hand,” the title poem for Sarah Kellam’s 2014 floodwall mural and our 2015 Dickinson exhibition.

Cover of womens basketball book, with chapter epigraphs from Emily Dickinson poems

Cover of womens basketball book, with chapter epigraphs from Emily Dickinson poems

Just after seeing that Sarah had won the golf tournament in Indiana, I got an email notifying me that Emma Rose has won a Zalla Award from the Honors Program for $1,329 to help us produce enough copies of the Dickinson catalog to be able to give one to each student artist.  This an especially timely boost as we are now getting deeply into the layout and fine tuning of that catalog.  Early this week I wrote the first draft of my catalog essay, whose working title combines three of Dickinson’s images for the creative process:  “Cocoons Tighten and Fingers Stir as Brains Blossom.”

One other fine thing happened yesterday for our Dickinson Valentine’s festivities.  I have been searching for funds by which our library might acquire a copy of Claire Illouz’s forthcoming artist book, Summer boughs, inspired by Dickinson’s poetry.  I have found some funds, but when Illouz came in 2011 to lecture about her book The Whiteness inspired by Moby-Dick, we had considerable difficulty paying her as a citizen of France.  I wanted to be sure that this would not happen again when she comes to lecture on Summer boughs on February 12.  After consulting with our purchasing office, I emailed her to see if our current methods of payment will work this time, and she assured me that they will.  She also had this to say about the status of her forthcoming book:  “Summer boughs is not born yet. . . . For the time being, it makes me feel like having a difficult pregnancy – but the huge mess now in the studio can testify that I  keep doing all I can for the baby to come out strong and healthy.”

I asked in response if she could send me a photo of that “mess” in her studio, since I can’t walk across the lane to her house in Chérence to take a look.  She sent me instead an image of “the studio this summer.”  It’s very exciting to get even a quick glimpse of the ingredients by which Claire is creating an artist book to be “born” just in time for the Valentine’s weekend at which we will present each of our student artists with one copy of our catalog I took my Power in my Hand.

Ingredients for Claire Illouz’s Summer boughs in her studio in the summer of 2014

Ingredients for Claire Illouz’s Summer boughs in her studio in the summer of 2014


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