Friday, May 13, 2011

The Dumbo Crew

A story is only as good as its characters. At least, that is my belief. The past three weeks here in Dumbo have indeed been a story worthy of sharing. We have seen the products of history and tasted the fruits of traditional cultural cuisines. I could speak endlessly of experiences we have had, but I'm not here to tell you about the story. I am here to tell you about the characters, and believe me when I say we do indeed have some characters.

Our group hails from the far reaches of the purple and gold kingdom known as Elmira College in Elmira, NY. Elmira College is not like many other colleges, specifically in the sense that it is small. Very small. To help you get a sense, the average classroom size is fourteen students. So we are accustomed to small. Our class here in Dumbo Is 9. A remarkable 9 characters all contributing to this highly unique program. We live here together under the bridge in our cozy loft. So by now, you are thinking, "Ok, so from what I gather, you're telling me that this company of nine from a purple and gold kingdom are living under a bridge? This is starting to sound like I'm reading a post by a group of trolls." I promise you, we are nothing of the sort, but I would now like to introduce you to all of us and how I've come to know my fellow classmates over these past weeks.

Starting off with our veterans in order of appearance, two-time Dumbo returning champs Hillary Irvine, Zack Newirth, and Melissa Goodier

Hillary would be a gem of an addition to any group. The Hil is someone we can go to, and
we consistently find that she is more than happy to help us out. It's a admirable quality that I believe everyone in the group recognizes and especially for us greenhorns appreciates. She is always inquisitive, and I enjoy hearing her interpretations on the things we've seen that day. She's always making us laugh along with her. She has a quirkiness that is refreshing and honest, and it makes for this positive energy that radiates from her which, in turn, is brought to our group. On longer days of exploring the streets of NY, this is needed.

Zack has a knack for bringing life to his work. Ironically, you'll find this most evident in his sketches of the undead. Though not the most outspoken character out of the batch, he speaks loud clear through his work. Hosting a copious amount of talents from the way he composes his art to his uncanny ability to guess the cost of the check at the end of group dinners within dollars, he is a key piece of the puzzle that makes this group here in Dumbo.

The Goodier would fill the roll of the scribe in the group. Recording what seems like everything we come across, she is the "go-to" person for information on what we've seen and where we have been. With a laugh that makes you want to laugh along with her, she is a hard worker and is absorbing all the culture that is around us to the fullest. Melissa seems to grow more and more with each passing day, and I look forward to seeing her work in the studio in future terms and the impact this trip has had on it.

Now for the first timers on Dumbo, starting with Sara Holbrook:

Sara is very quiet and contemplative. When I look at her, I feel like she is always interpreting something, always thinking. I feel like she has to have such a great mind. I've always thought of the mind like a river and thoughts like the water. If the thoughts stop flowing, the water in the river becomes stagnant, but a mind filled with fresh thoughts and ideas is like a flowing river fresh and full of life. I feel like, even though she reserved and silent inside, she is radiating with life and energy waiting to come out. I see this trip as a great way for her to open up and let some of those thoughts come through her art.

Ashley Culpepper the strong silent type. She is the only non-art major on the trip, but don't be fooled; her art speaks for her. I was in a painting class with her in the previous term, and her art is full of expression and colors. I always found her style bursting with energy. Being so quiet, you would not expect the kind of art that does come out of her. She has this ability to channel all that intensity that you see in her. You can see that math major part of her come out in the way she approaches many situations that we've experienced here in Dumbo very calculative and precise, making her a very logical choice for our group.

So now that I've covered two of the most quiet people in the group, let's talk about my dear friend Kasey Tapper. She will always let you know what is on her mind. It's one of my favorite traits about Kasey. She speaks her mind, and the heck if you don't want to hear it. She will be honest and upfront, and she makes the group feel more like a family. She brings us together, whether it be through a moment of unanimous awkwardness, or through a shared laugh at her absolutely hilarious comments that seem to come out of nowhere. She is the photographer of the trip and captures our moments together through her lens rather than on paper, even when we don't know she is doing it, keeping the images she catches just as honest as her personality.

Animated is what I think of with Nicole Duperry. Though gifted with artistic abilities and techniques, I've found that her greatest interest for the future lies in Art history. So when I say animated, I mean in the sense of giving life not to a drawing or painting, but giving animation to the past. Taking the moments of the past, and all who lived during those times life again. The passion that all artists find are born from this history. I believe a person who finds that they want to take that direction in their studies has to be equally full of life and passion.

MJ Stone is a new found art major. She is a person with as much excitement and joy for what she does as anyone I know. I don't know of anything that she does that she is unable to extract joy out of it. Though new to the scene, I have seen her work, and she is bursting at the seams with potential. That happiness, she extracts from everything she implements into her art work, and it is beautiful. She is so positive and happy always. She is an absolute delight to be around, and I am happy and proud to call her my friend. I alway learn something new every time we have a conversation. I look forward to the next year and seeing her development into the art scene back in Elmira. I know she will be doing great things.

So we've had our good days...

And we've had our long long days...

But with all our diversity and wackiness, we really have enjoyed our time together here in the city. We are ready to take on one more week. The past three weeks have been an experience like no other, and though the long and busy days have worn us down, we'll return home and build ourselves up stronger and wiser. For some of us, this is the last term as Elmira College students. The end of one great adventure, and the beginning of a whole new one. To the graduating members of our group, I wish you the very very best. For the members of our group who will be back at Elmira next year, I know we'll be seeing each other around in our 14 person classrooms. I hope we all stay in touch, or at least say "Hey, what's up?" now and again. This is like no other trip out there. We are all very lucky to have shared this experience. Thank you to our Professor Marc Dennis, and thank you to our great group of characters. It wouldn't have been the story it's become without you.

- Derek

P.S. MJ here. Derek asked me to proofread this quickly before he posted it. Since this post put me in a warm and fuzzy mood, I'm taking advantage of the moment and telling you a little about him. Derek is interested in sculpture, and he is pretty amazing at it. This trip has proven him to be great at sketching as well, although he would never admit it, because he sets the bar so high and expects so much from himself. He is eager to create and very fascinated by the human form, and his curiosity has already come alive in his artwork. Derek is also an amazing character himself. He is a calming, happy, delightful person who understands how wonderful life is, and he is a true friend. Although, I'm sure you can tell all of this just by reading the thoughtful post he wrote today.

Sketching at the Museum of Natural History

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Studio Visits

One of the most unique parts of this trip is the opportunity to visits working artists in their studios. We have only gone to two this far this term, but the staple for every year must be Ray Smith's studio and there is a good reason why. We are always welcomed warmly and his studio is amazing.

Ray's studio is one enormous factory with high ceilings and plenty of space to display his work - which can range from past pieces to current projects. His current work revolves around the idea of 'exquisite corpse' and creating characters that in reality create themselves. This started as drawings but have evolved into paintings and sculptures of various mediums.

When asked about his next aim he replied that he isn't really thinking about where he is going. He is just kind of 'screwing around and seeing where it takes him' making 'seat of you pants inventions', though the idea of exquisite corpse does seem to be the underlying theme. He is looking for that 'first time you've done that' kind of look to his art - something he experienced when he went back and looked at his work.

Of course, taking in his work, process and studio was not all we took away from his visit. He did leave us with some good advice as well. He told use that one of the most fundamental parts of art is life and participating in it. Art is about life and if one can integrate it into their life then it will be a place of comfort. This is definitely a crucial idea since once we leave the course and assignment driven haven of a collegiate setting we will need our own way to motivate ourselves. Finding solace in making art and having a driving force in achieving happiness is an amazing way to achieve that.

This visit and all we saw and heard is sure to be something we all take away from the trip and hopefully there will be some more awesome visits to come!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Remembering 911

As much of the whole world knows today, Osama bin Laden has finally been discovered and ultimately killed. After hiding out for a little over nine years, we finally discovered his where abouts in Pakistan and set out to end two decades worth of evil and terrorism. I find it interesting that yesterday afternoon, possibly while the mission was being executed I visited the World Trade Center Memorial. It is a solemn experience to visit this site where almost a decade ago our country was struck with the evil plan from an evil man. Upon finding out about the death of Osama, a few of us loaded the live streaming of Obama’s speech (Since we don’t have a television). He spoke of "Justice having been done" and "Images of 9/11 seared into our national memory". It was a speech our nation has been waiting to hear for almost a decade. In my opinion today was a day of history. Thousands flocked to Ground Zero to pay their respects and shout praises of American. Many carried around flags, waiving them in the air proudly showing their patriotic love. Still others gave interviews to the dozens of camera crews stationed at various points around Ground Zero. Everywhere I looked news reporters were giving live telecasts about not only the death of Osama, but remembering those who died on 9/11. Everywhere I went it was a fight and a struggle to get through the masses. Although the NYPD were doing their best to keep foot traffic moving while being on high alert, it was impossible due to the thousands who congregated to the site. As I walked around for about an hour I saw people of every ethnicity, from all over the world paying their respects. It was one of the most touching and thoughtful moments of my life. As I was getting ready to leave I decided to walk through the cemetery at St. Paul’s. It was at this point Mayor Rudi Giuliani gave an impromptu speech to a few of us gathered. Speaking once again of justice and freedom. At the end of his speech, a woman carrying an American flag began crying; he hugged her and spoke words unheard by the rest of us gathered around him. Although unknown, it was obvious that his words touched her in a way that was emotionally needed. I left Ground Zero that day very thankful for what I have. Not only do I live in a country where I can do as I please and live the life I want, but there are men and women who are giving their lives every day for us. Just like the men and women who risked their lives to save those a decade ago on 9/11. We should all take this day and remember those who died a decade ago. It was a very humbling experience.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Not All We Do is Art Related

Sometimes it's just good to stop and smell the roses. Or in this case the cherry blossoms. Today, with its gorgeous weather and peak season for blooming, we made our way to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I will admit that this is personally one of my favorite stops, and no doubt, the others will agree. After making our way down the path, we are greeted with the fluffy pink tops of the rows of cherry blossom trees.Though it is only day eight of our four week stay in NYC, this trip to the Gardens was a worthwhile break. After going through our first gauntlet of galleries and museum visits, it was a nice break to have some time to relax amongst these beautiful trees. Of course, we all had our ideas of what that meant. There were some sketching, taking pictures and some napping in the warm sun. Even our professor got some z's in the grass.

We didn't spend forever in the cherry blossom grove. We also went forth to explore the different mini floral environments that the Botanical Gardens had to offer. From tropical to desert to marsh, we walked amongst a wide variety of plant life - just taking our time and enjoying the beautiful scenery that was around us. We eventually made a pit stop at the gift shop and slowly made our way to the exit.

That was, of course, not before stopping by the pond where we were able to see a lot of koi fish and turtles swimming around.

After spending some time there, we eventually had to make our leave, trading the beauty for the garden for the equal beauty for the treasures we saw at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. There we wandered the halls of European painting, American Art, and the special exhibit of the Tipi: Heritage of the Great Plains. We were even able to go inside one - and man, are they bigger than we expected!

Even after spending the day earlier in the week at the National Museum of the American Indian, we were amazed and drawn to the different items that this exhibit held. From the tipis to the ornamentation and apparel of this culture, there was something for each of us to look at.

Of course, the whole museum, nay the whole day was full of gems that no doubt each and every one of us will cherish and take away even after this trip has ended. We also know that this is just one more day in the fast-paced, jam-packed world that is NYC and our experience throughout the next three weeks will be just as amazing and incredible as today was. It's going to be an exciting month - let's just hope the city is ready for us...