ohio outsider artist ben hartman

Ben Hartman was a molder for the Springfield (Ohio) Machine Tool Company. He and his wife, Mary, lived with their three children on the corner of Russell and McCain Avenues.

During the Great Depression, Ben lost his job at the tool company. Struggling to keep active, he built a cement fishing pond in the backyard. This was just the beginning. Over the next 12 years, Ben kept building a variety of small houses, walls, and figures, all deriving from religious and American historical subjects.

By 1939, Ben was back working at the tool company and spent less time perfecting his stone garden. He died in 1944 of silicosis, likely from his molding work at the company. Mary maintained the garden for the next 53 years. After her death in 1997, the garden went in to neglect. In 2008, the Kohler Foundation purchased the lot and restored the backyard. A year later they transferred ownership to the Friends of the Hartman Rock Garden.

Ben’s backyard is a visionary environment, a work by a self-taught artist that was primarily created for his own joy. Like many Outsider Artists, Ben’s artwork is highly religious (Christian). The work is monumental, not only in its physical scope. A visitor to his garden is left feeling an intimate connection to Ben, a soul laid bare in a rural suburb’s backyard.

(biographical content from hartmanrockgarden.org and the brochure available at the garden)

Springfield Central Fire Station (concrete, red brick, dolostone, and stream gravel)

Springfield Central Fire Station (concrete, red brick, dolostone, and stream gravel)

detail of one of the many houses

detail of one of the many houses

detail near the Liberty Bell; below the Bell is WWI's Flanders Field with crosses and fallen soliders

detail near the Liberty Bell; below the Bell is WWI’s Flanders Field with crosses and fallen soldiers

detail of the Cathedral, a 14' tall structure; this niche is The Last Supper

detail of the Cathedral, a 14′ tall structure; this niche is The Last Supper

another detail from the Cathedral; Ben wasn't Catholic but there are many Virgin Mary statutes in the yard

another detail from the Cathedral; Ben wasn’t Catholic but there are many Virgin Mary statutes in the yard

The 12' tall Castle had a moat, drawbridge, and over 100 windows

The 12′ tall Castle had a moat, drawbridge, and over 100 windows

Fort Dearborn

Fort Dearborn

an overview of the yard; in the back right is the Tree of Life (country, school, and church)

an overview of the yard; in the back right is the Tree of Life (country, school, and church)

I’ll post more photos on my Tumblr and Instagram @artistlibrarian

 

 

student art in the library

A theatre professor developed a very creative project for her Acting I class. Students select a character from a play and, through research and inventiveness, develop a full biography of the person. Usually students write the biography; the past few semesters the professor has allowed them to respond through artwork.

The professor used our artists’ books from Special Collections to inspire the students to think differently about writing and presenting a character bio. Here are some of the interpretations from last semester’s students.

Boy Gets Girl by Rebecca Gilman

According to the student’s statement, the play is about stalking. The main character is Edward, a magazine editor, who is divorced yet always thinking about his ex-wife. The student wrote letters from Edward to the ex, Claudia, that verge on stalking. However, as Edward grows, he realizes how is letters may be perceived. In the end we learn he never sent the letters.

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

The student of this project said, “Trying to describe the story of Septimus…through an essay seemed unjust and partial.” Instead, he created a mixed CD with 12 songs. Each song represents moments in Septimus’ life.

Brainpeople by Jose Rivera

Brainpeople by Jose Rivera

This work is based on the character Rosemary who has multiple personalities.

The Unwanted by Walter Wykes

The Unwanted by Walter Wykes

This is the psychiatric file of Dan. He’s trying to initiate a relationship but the suicide of his girlfriend weighs on his consciousness.

Ballad of Yachiyo by Philip Kan Gotanda

Ballad of Yachiyo by Philip Kan Gotanda

Based on real life events in Gotanda’s family, the play is about young Yachiyo falling in love with her older relative, Okusan. This artist book is the diary of Yachiyo.

The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman

The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman

Based on life and death of Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student who was the victim of a homophobic hate crime in 1998. This collage is covered in a black veil to represent mourning.

Doubt by John Patrick Shanley

Doubt by John Patrick Shanley

Throughout the play, we are never sure if Father Flynn is guilty of pedophila. Here, the student created a hidden compartment in a book. In it, Flynn has kept mementos from a high school basketball team, children’s drawings, and more. Viewing the work, we are still left in doubt.

seward johnson

Seward Johnson is a New Jersey native known for his life-like and life-size sculptures. Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey has a retrospective of his work through September. I recently attended the (very crowded) exhibition.

Johnson, an heir to his grandfather’s medical company, Johnson & Johnson, started his art career as painter. If the quality of his painted trays in the retrospective are any indication, he was terrible. However, his first cast sculpture won an award and Johnson, now in his 80s, hasn’t looked back.

Johnson started Grounds for Sculpture with the construction of the foundry, Johnson Atelier, in 1974. In a recent interview, Johnson described it as “an art school that would service the needs of people who were not academically proficient in the arts.” The grounds now permanently exhibits works by local and international artists including Magdalena Abakanowicz, Peter Voulkos, and Kiki Smith.

Many criticize Johnson’s sculptures as “kitsch.” I’d call it that too, but without negativity. Johnson has created artwork that welcomes those uninitiated into The Art World to enjoy art. You can get up close to the work, touch it, take selfies with it. The imagery is vaguely familiar – Impressionist paintings, mythology, and everyday moments cast in bronze.

The work is amusing – a gigantic Marilyn Monroe with her skirt aflutter – but it’s also alarmingly confrontational. Turn a corner and see a father and son fishing; I can’t recall the last time I saw a real parent and child quietly bonding. Tucked into the trees is Johnson’s interpretation of Manet’s Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe. As visitors crouch next to the nude woman and well-dressed men, it suddenly becomes very silent and serious. In contrast, you can hear children shouting with laughter and Halloween fright at The Three Fates (a boy peering into the cauldron asks, “is that an eyeball?”).

Below are some highlights from the retrospective. I’ll be posting more on my Tumblr, Nostalgia for Mud.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

Unconditional Surrender

Unconditional Surrender

one of Johnson's painted trays showing George Segal's sculpture

one of Johnson’s painted trays showing George Segal’s sculpture

The Awakening

The Awakening

Double Take

Double Take

invisible beasts

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 8.12.08 PMInvisible Beasts by Sharona Muir (Bellevue Literary Press, 2014)

This is a collection of short stories centered on Sophie, an amateur naturalist who sees invisible creatures. These aren’t creatures of her imagination, but rather a secondary kingdom of animals that wander among us (including the human-like Keen-Ears).

Though the stories are imaginative, it’s hard to call them fictional. Muir’s tales are full of philosophy, morality, and environmental activism. Some of the essays are much stronger than others; many have been published before and perhaps it’s growth in Muir’s storytelling that makes some stories more interesting than others. The best ones are those that actively involve Sophie as she moves between the seen and unseen, rather than her merely describing the creatures as if writing laboratory notes.

This is the second book by Bellevue Literary Press I’ve reviewed. I reviewed The Odditorium in 2012. When Bellevue sent me my LibraryThing copy of Invisible Beasts, they also sent Widow by Michelle Latiolais. I’m reading Widow now and will have another good review coming soon!

Bellevue publishes “books at the intersection of the arts and sciences.” More from their mission:

“We believe that science and the humanities are natural companions for understanding the human experience. With each book we publish, our goal is to foster a rich, interdisciplinary dialogue that will forge new tools for thinking and engaging with the world.”

I’m really happy a publisher like Bellevue exists. They are producing great work and promoting cross-disciplinary conversation. Librarians, if your collections support literary fiction, please support Bellevue authors!

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.)

alao instruction interest group workshop, part 2

Michelle Millet’s presentation was our morning exercise. In the afternoon we had presentations on one-shot instruction and I’ll highlight two.

Vera Lux presented on multiple literacies in library instruction. She mentioned visual, digital, media, data, and meta literacies and mentioned that they began with a need to address subject-specific (discipline) literacies. All of these literacies, including the new standards from ACRL, include elements about finding, interpreting, evaluating, using, and creating.

Vera then detailed two instruction activities. In one, she gives students popular articles of studies on science research. The students use the popular article to find the original study discussed in the popular article. They then do a visual analysis of both articles – just on visual facts, get the gist of the article (popular versus original scholarly). Students also find what the popular article is saying about the science research and then find the discussion component of the scholarly article to compare the two articles Did the popular article do justice to the original study? I think this could work well for the CRAP test (currency, reliability, authority, and purpose) and teaches them to maximize their research time.

In her second example of multiple literacy instruction, Vera tells students “You used this photograph of a track & field athlete crossing the finish line in a web project. You just learned that it would be unethical and likely even illegal to use the image without permission if it is copyrighted. You don’t remember how you found the image and the project is due tomorrow.”

Students then find the image (need to determine keywords from image) and trace it back to original source to see if they can use it. If it’s copyrighted, they need to find a suitable replacement that is ok to use (i.e.: athletes crossing finish line – winning, victory, successful – find one with similar idea but no sports). This makes students think about ethics and copyright as well as use images meaningfully.

Melissa Bauer talked about using problem-based learning (PBL) in the one shot session. Problem-based learning is a constructivist approach. This means that knowledge isn’t something that can be given. Rather, students need to actively discover knowledge and reflect on it, constructing knowledge from one’s own experiences. It is student centered and inquiry based; the problem drives the learning/solution.

Melissa sets up a problem based on student learning outcomes for the class, either from real world current events or course content. This way it is relevant to the student. In developing the problem, Melissa must make it authentic, collaborative (comprehensive – takes time to answer; controversial problem makes them choose sides), and reflective (resources support solution).

She has students work in small groups with a limited amount of time to accomplish solution. She breaks up the typical one-shot 50 minutes:

5 minutes – review and analyze

10 minutes – librarian instruction

25 minutes – find & evaluate

10 minutes – class debriefing

The librarian’s role in problem-based learning is as facilitator, guiding students through the learning process, asking probing questions, limiting direct instruction, and coaching students.

PBL makes the connection between search terms, resources, and quality of information because students are finding and applying information in a short amount of time.

alao instruction interest group workshop, part 1

I attend ALAO’s Instruction Interest Group‘s annual workshop the other week. I attended last year and this year was also fantastic. The keynote speak was Michelle Millet, the Immersion Faculty & Director at John Carroll University Library. Michelle mentioned she is on the committee for the ACRL information literacy standards updates. She talked about her experience in Backwards Design for instruction.

Michelle mention an experiment where Teaching Assistants in History (or English, I don’t recall the subject) taught half the instruction sessions for the discipline while librarians taught the other half. At the end of the semester, assessment found that retention of the skills taught in the library sessions was better with the TAs than the librarians.

This was a reminder that information literacy is not a library issue and doesn’t always need to be taught by librarians.

Michelle said “embracing student learning means letting go of some of your teaching.” She talked about how we need to stop teaching one shots. She pointed out that there is no other learning happening on your campus that only happens once!

It’s a good point; agreeing to teach information literacy as “one and done” subtly suggests that we don’t value what we do. Of course, many of us feel we are left with no other option. There was a lot of conversation about negotiating with faculty and trying to get buy-in from library administrators.

We need to learn to say no to one-shots (especially first week of the semester and those babysitting jobs) and provide other ways of learning. How can you get faculty to something other than a one shot? Some ideas were holding shorter classes more often or giving homework assignments that you grade with feedback.

Backwards Design is meant for K-12 and is explained in Understanding By Design by Wiggins and McTighe. I first heard about this book at ALA in 2013 from Megan Oakleaf (mentioned by Michelle).

In Backwards Design, you start by asking “What do you want the student to be able to do? What is the understanding?” This is not “how” or “what tools” but simply “what.” What do students need from you, the librarian, versus what they need from the faculty member?

Of course, our “what” list will be longer than the time you have (since really, one-shots aren’t on the way out any time soon). So, you need to decide:

What is “worth being familiar with?” Those things, LET THEM GO.

What is “important to know and do?” Sure, cover in class, IF YOU HAVE TIME.

What will lead to “enduring understanding?” This is WHAT MUST THEY LEARN FROM YOU as opposed to the faculty member, on their own, etc. And honestly, this list is probably a lot smaller than you think it is.

Michelle also talked about assessment. If the student can do Skill A, what will you see? How will you know? You need to look for evidence in activity-based learning. Sometimes, the faculty member might see the evidence, after class. So think, how will you get that evidence from the faculty member? Again, negotiation is key.

Now that you’ve answered those questions, you can start designing your instruction (yup, we haven’t even started that yet):

What will you need to teach them in order to see what you just identified as the evidence?

1. Identify desired results.

~ established goals and big ideas that you want students to understand

~ essential questions that will stimulate inquiry

~ knowledge and skills that need to be acquired given the understanding and related content standards

2. Determine acceptable evidence.

~ keeping the goals in mind, what performance tasks should anchor and focus the unit

~ criteria that will be used to assess the work; will the assessment reveal and distinguish those who really understand versus those who only seem to understand?

3. Plan learning experience and instruction

Michelle refers to this as an AUTHENTIC assessment cycle . You plan, implement, assess, and then report and revise.

student art in the library

This spring, studio art professor Ron Abram (Tyler School of Art alumn and all-round cool dude) taught a course on portraits. For one project, he brought the class into the library to view the president’s portraits. Our President’s Room (which houses the scores), has a formal painting of each president. Ron asked students to choose a Denison president, research the person and the school during his/her term, and create a new portrait.

Students were able to view the president’s papers in our archives, which often included handwritten documents and photographs. Many students returned to the archives after the initial visit to spend more time examining the papers. As usual, when students get into an archive or special collection, they don’t want to leave!

Unfortunately, I was attending ARLIS/NA when this exhibit was installed and missed the reception. Luckily, the artwork will be staying in the President’s Room throughout the summer. I’m sure it will be a big attraction during Alumni Weekend in June!

Here are some of the works (some weird angles to account for horrible overhead lighting with the works under glass):

John Pratt

John Pratt (1831 – 1837) by Jason Gonzalez

Pratt was Denison’s first president. Jason writes that Pratt was a hard worker, helping his family on the farm at a very early age. But, because he loved to learn, Pratt stayed up late teaching himself math. In 1814 he was baptized and became very religious. At Denison he taught Greek and Latin as well as preached.

tablot

Samson Talbot (1863-1873) by Hollie Davis

Hollie says she chose “a president whose place in history perpetuated the disempowerment of people like me.” In her research, Hollie could not find evidence to place Talbot on one side or the other of the slavery issue. So, she portrays both free African Americans (on the left) and the colorless picking cotton with Talbot front and center.

Anderson

Anderson2

 

 

 

 

 

Galusha Anderson (1887 – 1889) by Miaja St. Martin

Anderson served the shortest presidential term; he resigned after two years. Miaja says that “Anderson was against slavery and was passionate in his opinion that African Americans should be allowed an education in the north as free people.” According to Miaja, Denison University was a stop on the Underground Railroad and this is why she uses quilting in her portrait.

Hunt

Emory Hunt (1901-1912) by Adam Rice

Adam notes that Hunt is credited with building Cleveland Hall, which is now Bryant Arts Center. He also “turned the school away from PhD programs towards the idea of an undergraduate liberal arts college.” Adam’s work notes the physical changes Hunt created on campus, but “the goal of the work is to drive curiosity” about the president.

Shaw

Avery Shaw (1927-1940) by Kristie King

Henry Henson

Henry Henson

Isabelle Smock

Isabelle Smock

Kristie chose to research Shaw because he was president when her great-grandparents, Henry Henson (1929) and Isabelle Smock (1928) were students. Kristie actually found a photo of her great-grandfather in the archives! Kristie says the project allowed her to reflect on her personal legacy at Denison (she just graduated) and reconnect with her family’s history.

Good

Good2Robert Good (1976-1983) by Janie Hall

During his term, Good was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He hid his illness until the cancer forced him to resign and he died soon after. Janie represents Good through white cloth that “encases the ragged, diseased plastic sewn underneath.” The whole piece (not seen here) is over six feet, the height of Good.

Myers

Michele Myers (1989-1998) by Melissa Weinsz

Myers has been Denison’s only female president and she is still highly admired on campus. Melissa says Myers had dual citizenship, the US and France, and was bilingual. Her presidency was about “the promotion of racial and ethnic diversity on campus.” There was some tension during her term, with students protesting both racial inequality on campus and questioning the tenure procedures. Myers focused on “cutting the discrimination and division” on campus and made greek life non-residential.

Knobel

Dale Knobel (1998 – 2013) by Jasmine Hwang

Jasmine interviewed Knobel by phone. During the conversation, Knobel said he wanted the portrait to suggest “how he contributed to the diversity of the campus and the improvement of campus facilities.” In this sculpture, each piece has information about Knobel’s presidency. The pieces can be re-formed to create various architectural shapes.

Weinberg

Adam Weinberg (2013 – present) by Katie Smith

Because Weinberg is our current president, he doesn’t yet have a formal portrait in the President’s Room of the library. Katie spoke with Weinberg and he told her that “one of his most important goals for his presidency was to create a better sense of community and school spirit on Denison’s campus.” Because of this, Katie wanted his portrait to reflect the community. The mirrored part of the portrait is surrounded by chalk paint so viewers can add their own reflections to the work.

digital humanities as quilting

Last week, Dean Rehberger, Director of MATRIX at Michigan State University was on campus to talk about digital humanities. Though I’m a librarian interested in new technology, I hadn’t yet jumped on the digital humanities bandwagon.

This is mostly because there is a lack of definition for digital humanities (sometimes broadened to digital scholarship or digital pedagogy) or how it’s fundamentally different from humanities (is it new because now we have computers?).

As an artist, I didn’t see a place for me within the trend. I don’t relate to historians or religion scholars. I don’t get excited about text mining. But, in his lunchtime lecture, Rehberger provided an analogy that is making me think twice about digital humanities.

He said the digital humanities is a lot like quilt making. The only art practice closer to my heart than quilt making is weaving, so he had my attention. Digital humanities and quilt making both:

~ require many hands (the quilting bee is similar to the MATRIX collaborative model)

~ foster making & building (small pieces joined together to create a whole)

~ are devalued (quilting is women’s work and still isn’t appreciated as art; technology in the humanities seems to confront traditional scholarship)

~ can be remixed (in quilting, recycling old clothing and linens is common; technology remixes history)

~ are both an art and a science (if my math skills were better, I’d be a better quilter; the humanities are an art, but the lens of technology to examine the humanities requires a scientific eye)

~ are public, transformative projects (if quilting wasn’t devalued, the social history would be well-known as transformative)

This was the first time digital humanities had been presented to me without talk of metadata or software or scanning archival papers. Comparing digital humanities to one of the fiber arts that grounded my art graduate practice was the exact entrance I needed into the DH scholarship. I may just find a second home there.

striving to be a better teacher, ending up a better person

One of my summer goals is to examine my information literacy instruction. In preparation, I’m starting some reading (what librarian wouldn’t?). While I feel comfortable with my current classroom techniques, I have never set aside time to reflect on my teaching. I’ve started reading Char Booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators.

In her introduction, Booth outlines four elements of information literacy:

~ reflective practice: more than just assessment; revising your skill set as you teach and learn from that teaching

~ educational theory: learning theory, instructional theory, and curriculum theory

~ teaching technologies: getting comfortable teaching with technologies in the classroom, online, and blended

~ instructional design: integrating reflection, theory, and technology into teaching (xvii)

She also suggests the USER method to help prepare, instruct, and evaluate:

~ understand: identify problem, analyze scenario

~ structure: create targets, involve & extend

~ engage: develop materials, deliver instruction

~ reflect: assess impact, revise & reuse (xviii)

While I don’t feel knowledgable about educational theory, information literacy and the USER method seem very much like what I already do in the classroom.

So why do I feel like it isn’t enough?

A few pages later, in chapter 1, Booth lists some challenges to library instruction including “teaching librarians tend to have more limited interactions with learners, meaning that it can be difficult to see immediate or long-term evidence of our interventions” and “materials and lessons are often repeated, which can generate a sense of redundancy or malaise.” (5)

I can see these challenges keeping me from enthusiastically examining my instruction while simultaneously feel I need to improve my classroom skill set.

I also find a personal dilemma in one of the first exercises of the book. Booth asks the reader to list three strong instructors or presenters and identify three characteristics that made them personally effective.

I’ve been staring into the distance at a total loss. The teachers and presenters that immediately come to mind are very much unlike me personally – loud, animated, energetic. If I were to be even one of these three characteristics I’d frighten people who know me well. So how did my ideal teacher become someone who is not my ideal self?

Yet, when asked about the characteristics of my worst teachers, as Booth does, I’d list the same three. But there is a key difference between the two and that is where I need to focus: authenticity.

A common characteristic among successful teachers is authenticity. (9) Booth refers to authenticity through the image of the soapbox and “the infectious interest you can create by communicating with conviction.” (10)

I think students notice my “intensity of expression” when I’m working with them and become absorbed in the content. (10) But it isn’t central to my teaching and perhaps reworking this for full impact could improve my instruction. She says “half of your soapbox consists of sharing your expertise, but the other half consists of sharing your self.” (11) I have probably held back a little bit of both – expertise and self – in my teaching because I’ve strived to maintain authority without becoming authoritative.

Booth has elected to be more informal and more personal because it works for her and she acknowledges “sacrificing a modicum of my ‘authority’ in order to create a more accessible tone is a risk.” (11)

I’m willing to risk authority to be authentic. It will make me a better teacher, and a better person too.

books2eat

Yesterday Denison University Libraries participated in the Books2Eat. Books2Eat is formally called the International Edible Books Festival with over 20 countries participating in a day of literally eating your words. According to the official website, the festival takes place every year to honor the birthday of French foodie Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (there’s a mouthful) and take advantage of April Foolery.

Here are a few of my favorites from this year. To see more, check out my Books2Eat post from 2013.

the sandworm from Dune by Frank Herbert

the sandworm from Dune by Frank Herbert

The Pale of Settlement by Margot Singer (who is a professor here at Denison!)

The Pale of Settlement by Margot Singer (who is a professor here at Denison!)

James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl

James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (even the book cover was classy)

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (even the book cover was classy)

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin (won for humor, I think)

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin (won for humor, I think)

and Best in Show went to The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

and Best in Show went to The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien