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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

island of the dolls

When I read about The Island of the Dolls in a Mexico tour guidebook, I knew it was a must-see for me. I thought it would be cool and creepy. I was really wrong.

To get to the island, you take a boat through the canals of Xochimico (which is near Mexico City). The canals are strikingly beautiful; lush plants attract all sorts of birds and the water is completely silent. People live along the canals and though poverty is obvious, I was jealous of their lifestyle along the water. Eventually, the small shacks and sounds of radio fade away as the canals continue. Up ahead, one of the small islands seems strange.

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Don Julian Santana was this island’s only resident. Sadly, over half a century ago he came across the body of young girl floating in the canal. Understandable traumatized, he hung from a tree a discard doll he found in the canals as a tribute to the little girl and in hopes of appeasing her spirit and protecting it from evil. Either because a single doll was not enough or Santana found comfort in the act, he continued to collect dolls, doll parts, and other toys he found throughout the canal’s waters. Apparently, as his obsession grew Santana began digging in the tow’s trash for toys and accepting dolls in exchange for his garden’s vegetables.

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Santana died in 2001. Some say he drowned in the canal and others that he had a heart attack (maybe then fell in the canal?). The official website goes with drowning. His family maintains the island, his shrine to the little girl who haunted him.

Many people consider The Island of the Dolls undeniably creepy or terrifying. It isn’t (though I wouldn’t go after dark).

Instead I felt embarrassingly sad. Sad that a little girl lost her life so unexpectedly and sad that a quiet, lonely man had to discover her body. I was sad to witness Santana’s obsessive mourning. I was sad that all these toys once belonged to children, many of whom are as poor and lonely as Santana.

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It was a silent boat ride back to Xochimico.

coronal mass ejection

Though I had never been to the Mattress Factory or viewed any of Scott Hocking‘s work before, when I first encountered Coronal Mass Ejection I panicked a little. I already knew the artwork without ever having known it existed.

The focal piece of Ejection is based on a hot-metal train car that transported molten iron. It’s nicknamed the torpedo car because of it’s shape. In the Factory’s statement about the installation, it says the train car is “both masculine and feminine, industrial yet organic” and awakens our collective memory of the industrial era.

Behind the crash-landed train car is a gathering of strange, life-size figures. Hocking found them at an abandoned Bible theme-park and their worship? fear? regret? of the machine in front of them is reminiscent of end times sci-fi fan fiction. Or cold war reality.

In the statement Hocking suggests that “art can be mysterious, humorous, frightening and confusing in the same moment.” He’s certainly succeed with Ejection.

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carnegie international 2013

For the first time ever I was able to visit the Carnegie International held at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh (also first time in the city!). The 2013 International is an exhibit of 35 artists from 19 countries. About half the artists are women, which already makes the International unique among prominent museum exhibitions.

Olowska, Cake (2010)
Olowska, Cake (2010)

Paulina Olowska is a Polish artist who had paintings that appealed to my textile background. Cake, shown here, is from her series Applied Fantastic, based on images of home-knitting patterns from the 1980s. One of the artist collectives in the exhibition is the Bidoun Library. As an librarian, I was intrigued by the collection – printed materials, without regard for quality or intended audience, that depict the Middle East. For this exhibit, the

Bidoun Library installation
Bidoun Library installation

library selected materials around three themes: Home Theatre (pulp fiction, comics, romance), The Natural Order (corporate works), and Margin of Error (Cold War propaganda, Egyptian revolution ephemera). Check out the Library’s website to find out more about the collection, their magazine, and publishing initiatives.

Pedro Reyes, Disarm (2013)
Pedro Reyes, Disarm (2013)

Pedro Reyes is a Mexican artist who exhibited works made from weapons confiscated during Juarez’s drug war. Shown here is one of the pieces in Disarm (Double Psaltery), an instrument made of the weapons.   Though I love Joel Sternfeld‘s work, I’m going to go with Zanele Muholi as my favorite photographer for this exhibit. She is a South African artist who is an activist for the black LGBTI community. The portraits are well-executed, refreshingly honest in their simplicity.

installation view of Muholi's photography
installation view of Muholi’s photography

My favorite piece in the show was by Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Le. In Light and Belief: Sketches of Life from the Vietnam War, Le arranged 100 drawings and paintings made by Vietnamese who served as artist-soldiers during the war. They are sketches, brief moments that, from a distance, could read as landscapes or family photos. But in the brevity is the exhaustion, anxiety, and fragility of war.

Le's Light and Belief (2012)
Le’s Light and Belief (2012)
installation views of Le’s Light and Belief (2012)
Light and Belief (2012)

trace of memory

Chiharu Shiota‘s 2013 installation Trace of Memory at the Mattress Factory is as tender and sad as it is impressive. All three floors of 516 Sampsonia Way are a network of black thread.

According to the press release, when Shiota visited the site, “she was struck by the visible traces left by the people” who once lived there. It’s like that apartment where the previous tenants left behind a few pieces of furniture, pots and pans, and curtains. When you move out, you leave another chair or two, some well-worn books, and a lamp. Pretty soon the place is furnished through both nostalgia and unwanted memories.

In Traces, Shiota used found objects – desks, books, a bed, a wedding dress – to contain the memories of 516 Samsonia’s past inhabitants. Then she wove black thread, encasing the objects and the walls; encasing and preserving memories while also making them inaccessible.

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zoot suits, wonder woman, and abortion: what i learned at nwsa

In early November I attended the National Women’s Studies Association’s annual conference in Cincinnati. As the new liaison librarian to Women’s Studies and Queer Studies, attending the conference allowed me to learn more about the current scholarship in both disciplines. I also met many librarians who are now part of my professional network (and enjoy Indian food as much as I do).

As an art librarian, I attended sessions that focused on the visual and performing arts.

In Plain Sight: The (In)Visibility of Political Discourse in the Embodied Practices of Vernacular Dance Forms – Sonja Thomas described how her teaching of tap dance in higher education was considered unprofessional by colleagues. Even within dance, tap is not studied in postmodern curriculums. Thomas argued that tap has one of the most intersectional histories, including art, race, gender, and class. Kendra Unruh and Anais Lei Sekine both gave papers on the Lindy Hop. Unruh discussed the zoot suit as a means of resistance. Sekine compared the historical dance to the new trend of swing dancing and how an African American, low class tradition has transferred to a middle class, white (and heterosexual) phenomenon.

Body Politics in Mainstream Culture – Doctoral students from Texas Women’s University provided a very interesting session on the body in new media. Sheila Bustillos-Reynolds addressed ESPN’s magazine The Body Issue. In the annual issue, men and women athletes pose nude and are artfully photographed. The women athletes who participate are often battered by the media and sport culture for exposing themselves. Michelle Slaughter discussed the onslaught of criticism gymnast Gabby Douglas faced as she became an Olympic star. Douglas’  hair became the focus on social media, rather than her athleticism and grace. Audrey Lundahl examined rockabilly culture and the craze for fifties fashion that rose from the popularity of the television show Mad Men. She focuses on women wearing retro clothing while covered in tattoos, concluding that the liberation of male (power) association with tattoos counters the traditional gendering of the clothing.

 Beyond Betty and Veronica: Gender, Politics, and Comic Books – Mauricio Fernando Castro and Kara Kvaran both read papers about DC Comics’ Wonder Woman. Castro examined a single issue for instances of militarization in both the narrative and advertising. Kvaran gave highlights of the comic’s history and how the character’s change through time represents a new understanding of feminism. Samantha Meier discussed two all-women underground comics from the 1970s and addressed the larger comic culture’s discrimination of women.

Feminist Archival Sensibility – This entire panel session was about the new Judy Chicago Art Education Collection at Penn State University. As a feminist artist and teacher, Chicago donated her teaching project materials in 2011. The materials are beginning to be digitized and there has been a tremendous amount of interest and use of the in-house collection. Chicago’s work can be the catalyst for new scholarship on feminist pedagogy, historical art movements, and art activism.

Guerilla Girls waiting to present
Guerilla Girls waiting to present

Abortion, Art, and Activism: Visual Artists on the Reproductive Justice Landscape – Artist Heather Ault talked about her work 4000 Years for Choice. She uses graphic design and printmaking to create a new, positive campaign for pro-choice activists. Meg Roberts is a potter and founder of Plants for Patients (P4P). At an abortion clinic in Fargo, North Dakota, P4P provides each patient with a plant in a hand-made pottery piece to take home with her. Included with the plant is a handwritten note from a member of the community offering support for the patient as she begins the healing process. Guerrilla Girls Broadband is a brand of the Guerrilla Girls currently working on an interactive map that explores the political, legal, and anecdotal histories of abortion in the United States.

I also attended the librarian’s task force business meeting and their sponsored roundtable Transformative Collaborations for Research and Action. We discussed outreach to student groups, office hours, and zine collections.

Attending the NWSA meeting as an artist and librarian was an excellent opportunity for me to gain an understanding of how other disciplines view the arts.

science & art at denison

Last Friday I co-presented Embracing the STEM to STEAM Initiative: The Library as Bridge Between Science and Art. This was the second time the Natural Sciences Librarian, Moriana Garcia, and I presented about science and art. Part of the presentation centers on what we are doing at Denison University to encourage and support cross-disciplinary conversation.

The STEM acronym has been around since the 1990s and stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Government bodies like the National Science Foundation and educational institutions believe that these disciplines hold the answers to many of our global issues. STEM careers are promising for students growing up in a troubled economy.

However, as K-12 and higher education started pushing STEM learning, many people were concerned about the disregard for the arts and the humanities. STEAM developed from this backlash, adding Arts (and design) to STEM. The Rhode Island School of Design is a strong proponent of the STEM to STEAM movement. One of the primary objectives of the STEAM movement is to “influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation.”

The emphasis in that quote is mine. STEAM recognizes that arts education teaches creativity and critical thinking, key components of innovation. The government is taking notice. The National Science Foundation has supported workshops on STEM to STEAM. There is also a Congressional STEAM caucus that “aims to change the vocabulary of education to recognize the benefits of both the arts and sciences and how these intersections will benefit our country’s future generations.”

So, what are we doing at Denison to support STEAM? As librarians, we are excellently positioned to foster cross-disciplinary dialogue. While we work independently as subject specialists in the sciences and the arts, we come together as librarians. The library is a neutral space – outside the studio and the lab – for scientists and artists to gather.

We’ve started small. Before I arrived at Denison, Moriana began creating library displays about science in the arts and vice versa. And, for science displays she’s always included works of art that echo the theme (i.e. a sculpture of a lizard for a display on reptiles). It’s simple and subtle, but it’s a start. Moriana has been on the committee that creates displays for many years. I have just joined…so who knows what’s to come!

Purchasing books and media that have an interdisciplinary approach is also easy. There are beautiful books on art and science; a few recent additions:

Bio Design: Nature, Science, Creativity (William Myers, 2012)
Artists in Labs: Networking in the Margins (editor, Jill Scott, 2010)
Imagining Science: Art, Science, and Social Change (editors Sean Caulfield & Timothy Caulfield, 2008)
Laboratorium (editors, Hans Ulrich Obrist & Barbara Vanderlinden)

And for those librarians wondering, Science and Art is a subject heading! Moriana is purchasing image-heavy science books. Moriana also started a Science@Dension blog and Visualization Gallery.

Like all good librarians, we created a subject guide on science and art. It’s geared toward faculty and provides resources on STEM to STEAM and the latest collaborations between scientists and artists. As part of this guide, I have a Scoop.it! page on Science and Art.

Last winter we initiated a Science and Art Interest Group at Denison. The group is made up of any faculty interested in the relationship and collaborative possibilities between the two disciplines. Our initial meeting had about 30 people. We have decided to take the group in two directions. There is a reading group for faculty who are interested in STEAM pedagogy and methods of teaching creativity. We hope to start an immersion group this year – where we hold hands-on workshops in studios and labs, learning how artists and scientists work in their spaces.

Our current project is an artwork proposal for the Green Revolution exhibition to be hosted at the Denison Museum in the spring. Green Revolution is a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition that provides “education and inspiration for protecting our planet through sustainable living.” Six of us from the Science and Art group proposed (and had accepted!) and “eco-zibit” about fracking in Ohio. Stay tuned for more on that ambitious project.

Overall it’s been an interesting experience to work collaboratively with another librarian on fostering interdisciplinary conversation. The process is slow but the connections I’ve made with faculty have been wonderful. We are planning a November meeting with the Science and Art group to discuss 3D printing, a topic that is trending in science, art, and libraries!

bodies of subversion

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 10.52.54 AMBodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo by Margot Mifflin (New York: Powerhouse Books)

Having read the 1997 print, I want you to know that this 2013 third edition is much, much better. There is more material in the historical chapters and a whole new section on contemporary tattoo artists. The printing is better too; this edition is printed on stock photo paper. This means the historical black-and-white images have more variation and detail. Full color images are used when available.

If you haven’t read the earlier editions of Mifflin’s text, it’s worth taking the time. It’s an easy read that introduces the best women tattoo artists and collectors, from the beautiful Maud Stevens Wagner to the infamous Kat Von D (whether you like her not, she is the most famous tattoo artist of all time). Mifflin doesn’t shy away from discussing the discrimination many women encountered as they tried to learn the trade. In the more contemporary chapters, she highlights the sexuality associated with women tattoo collectors.

Many women have faced discrimination or sexual aggression because of their tattoos. For those women, this books will act as a quiet welcome into the subculture while giving a feminist history of the art. It’s a must read for any woman with a tattoo.