Friday, February 26, 2010

Sonya Clark Lecture

Madam C.J. Walker

Last night Siggy had the whole class go over to see a lecture by Sonya Clark, American artist and chair of the Craft/Material Studies Department at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) in Richmond, VA.

At first I was very skeptical about going to see this lecture. Who wants to sit there and listen to an artist drone on and on about their work. Who uses high faluting words to describe something that could be broken down into smaller and easier words to understand. I LOVED IT; instead I came away from that lecture with ideas tumbling through my mind. Sonya Clark made the lecture fun and interesting. Some of her work I really enjoyed and some of the work I was like, "WHAT". I like how she uses a photograph of a little girl getting her hair braided to go through her whole lecture. Sonya talked about why she uses hair in her work. She talked about how a group of people in Africa, sorry can't remember their name, thinks that the soul is found in a persons head, and that is why hair is so important. Sorry, I could go on and on about last night, it was inspiring.

I feel like I was in a dry spell there for a bit, no new ideas were coming for my military image series. I have at least six pages of new ideas from scribbling last night before going to bed and after I went to bed (I need a flashlight next to the bed, the light from the alarm clock isn't too good).

Some of my ideas came from her talk about the tactile feelings and smells she had when she was learning how to read Braille. I know these would be hard to draw, but I started thinking about my time in the military and the smells I missed from that time. You all are going to think the smells are weird, but so am I. I really miss the smell of the range after everyone has fired their rounds; I miss the smell of vehicles just sitting around before we head out to the field; I miss the smell of "Military" men. They had a distinctive smell. I don't know if it was the Kiwi from the boots, starch from the uniform and their natural odor, but YUM (sorry, can you tell I haven't been on a date for a very, very, very long time. If you know a guy desperate to go out with a 36, in 15 days 37 year old, slightly overweight, thinks exercise is a four letter word, slightly neurotic person, I am your girl). Just kidding, maybe :)

One of the images Sonya Clark showed was called "Iterations". It was a root system of hair. She was talking about how some cultures can trace their heritage back 10 generations. I can't do that, but I was thinking about how I know my great-grandfather was in World War I, both grandfathers were in World War II, and my dad was in Vietnam and served until 1991. Then I served in the Army for almost 10 years. I was thinking I could do something like her "Iterations", maybe with dog tags.

I mean I could go on and on and on with all the ideas I had after this lecture. But you only have so much time to read and I don't want to bore you to death! So, is this what it means to be an artist? Ideas are just flowing and you have to write them down or you feel like your head is going to spin off if you don't? I am just curious because both mom and I don't consider ourselves artists; we consider ourselves craftspeople.

I finish this up with one last image Sonya Clark showed. It is based off of a childhood game, the Pinky Promise.


  1. OMG! I loved your post, but didn't realize you lived so close. I'm about 2 hours or less from Richmond ... one of my favorite cities. Sonja Clark's work is amazing and love Pinky Promise ... it gave me goosebumps. I wish I lived closer to VCU, I would be a groupie of their art studios! And, who wouldn't love a 36 y/o, slightly o/w, and neurotic. You describe about 20% of the female population!

  2. Hey Barbara,
    I actually live in Indiana. Our Visual and Performing Arts department has a lecture series that invites artists to come to Purdue to talk. That is how I was able to see her. Though I would LOVE to go to VCU. I want to take another, longer, class with Emilio Santini (I was lucky to have a class with him at Penland). I really loved her Iterations piece.


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