Remote teaching has reminded me of what I know about communicating with the discarnate, and other beings in alternate dimensions (please interpret that the way that makes sense to you). You know others are there, yet you are not with them, and seek communication and validation. It’s not exactly the same but teaching art class from my kitchen makes me dig inside and hope my inner experiences can help and inspire someone. I get less feedback than when I am really in the same room, so I do my best and leave the results in the ether sometimes.
Since my students have significant disabilities of all kinds, most of them are remote learning in the company of family members or caretakers who I cannot see. This adds to the mystery. I have tried to appeal to all ages and make things interesting.
In the absence of my rusty metal art cart and its thrifty, non-toxic, and eclectic contents, I have tried new things. I rarely have read books to my students in person. Honestly, I dislike the idea of possibly reading aloud with a book in my hands when others are not listening. That seems like it would be embarrassing. For remote class, I discovered some wonderfully poetic picture books about famous artists. I streamed read aloud books from YouTube with full screen pictures.
These are some of my favorites. I felt stirred by them. I felt the things I felt as a young person looking for meaning in my life. My life has been rich so far, but after all these months of isolation I want more. I hope everyone else does too. More art, more authentic living, more dreams realized, more connections that run deeper. I hope so. These are my highly personalized impressions of the books. They are beautiful, awesome books. Please try them for yourself.
When I was in my twenties, I had a dream visit with Georgia O’Keeffe. She was climbing a desert mountain by putting one foot at a time on small, ascending ledges. I was following close behind her. I realized how high we were and asked how I would get back down, and she turned around and telepathically answered with the obvious. I was not going back down.
Back to the book, my synopsis. Georgia discovered she wanted to paint her own ideas beyond what was happening in art school. Georgia had awesome late 19th and early 20th century style, practical prairie dresses with boots, black hats, and capes. For some reason, she was followed by three crows. She drove far into the desert, “the Faraway’ and used her model A jalopy as a studio. She claimed the Pedernal Mountain as her own, she believed God promised it to her because she painted it so many times. Georgia climbed a high ladder to the roof of her adobe house, and slept under the stars, waiting to watch the sun come up. She said, “Kiss the sky for me”, and slipped into eternity.
This is the video I like best:
When I first moved to New York twenty something years ago, I worked in the poster section of the bookstore at the Museum of Modern Art. I had very little money, but I would eye the sale books table and calculate the employee discount sometimes. I bought this poster for a song. It hung in a few of my rented rooms in Park Slope, Brooklyn. (My own poster was slightly tattered, I do not have it anymore.)
My synopsis of the book: Yayoi found solace in her family gardens, looking at pebbles, and drawing dots in her sketch book. Like Georgia, she did not feel like she fit in. (How great it is when people can channel their alienation into art). She flew a long, long way to New York from Japan, with dollar bills stuffed in her shoes. I sensed her anxiety and air sickness. I related to wandering around New York, new and alone, I am someone who did this too. She went to the top of the Empire State building, and looked down on people who looked like dots. We were able to see her dot paintings in her apartment and the city skyline outside of the windows. She constructed mirrors that made the dots go on, infinity. We saw her make friends and become successful. We saw what she looks like now in photos at the end. Red wig with bangs, wearing dots.
This is the read aloud video:
One day, when I still lived in Connecticut and commuted to art school in New York, I saw Louise Bourgeois in front of her apartment. I recognized her because I had seen photos, and also, I was captivated by her face when she looked at me. Intense.
The synopsis: Louise grew up in a family of textile weavers, along a river in France which has since been filled in and disappeared. She studied math and science in college, but when her mother died suddenly, she turned to art to express herself. She likened her mother to a spider, in the manner of how spiders are amazing weavers throughout the ages, hence those huge spider sculptures. Louise created using the actual fabric of her life. This book is so good. The title, Cloth Lullaby, makes me want to sleep by a French river in a blanket fort, like Louise.
I could not find a read aloud video, so I read it myself and made a PowerPoint recording with the book pages. I did not want to read it five times a day all week.
Jean-Michel Basquiat rests eternally in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, the same as my daughter Susanna, and not far from her. When I go there, I try to locate his voice. I feel like I know him a little from the other side because of this. I have no idea what he was really like while living, but in my imagination, he is warm on the other side and calls me “Mama”.
If you are interested in this book, I suggest listening to it read by its author/illustrator, Javaka Steptoe, in his lovely speaking voice, here:
Synopsis: When Jean-Michel was a child, he drew all the time. We saw the colorful skeletons of his future work in his sketches, hanging all over his family’s Brooklyn home. Not made within the lines, “but still somehow beautiful”. Jean-Michel suffered his own injury and the stress of seeing his beloved mother, Matilda, ill, and he kept drawing, drawing, and drawing. Jean-Michel became successful and famous, as he desired. His mother was very proud of him. This is what is most important about his story.
I’s a beautiful world out there, in spite of everything. Let’s all create something. Peace.