First Day of School – What is the purpose of disruptive creative acts?

I arrived in Charlotte at about 4pm a couple Mondays ago. I quickly got my personal things into my condo, and headed out on a grocery expedition with my fellow resident Anne Lemanski. We bought an absurd amount of food.

Then the very next morning at 9:30am I started teaching my Print Media class at UNCC. They had already met once without me the previous Thursday so I was excited to join in the fun. I started with a quick intro of myself and then gave a presentation about artists / art collectives who make work associated with the goal of the class: to make artwork that helps increase awareness of an organization or population that is normally omitted from “the grand narrative”. In other words, we’re looking at and making art about topics that aren’t regularly covered in media or seen in our visual landscape.

This is the first in a series of posts about artists who have tried to effect change in society through creative acts. I want to share with you some of the info I’m sharing with my students.

To begin at the beginning, Ellen Dissanayakeit has hypothesized that we have retained the creative impulse throughout human evolution because it is vital to our existence, that we use creativity to bind us to each other. Community is essential to our survival and creative acts such as dance, song, poetry, stories and making object special and celebrating liminal moments together builds social bonds and strengthens them. So how do disruptive creative acts fit into this view? How does an act that upsets community norms or currents actually build bonds?

I believe that these creative acts are trying to communicate one of two things: 1) I”m angry or in pain, I need you to help or 2) I love you and I have a hard truth to share with you. Just as in a personal relationship, our relationship with our community or society can be challenged with the necessity of change. Change is difficult to approach and navigate but necessary for the health of a community. Disruptive creative acts spur this needed change. These creative acts begin conversations, calmly or aggressively, and they aid in the movement of ideas.

In a series of posts (in a kind of random order)  I’m going to show you some of the works that I share with my students. Works that throughout history have begun conversations, contributed uncomfortable truths and attempted to effect change.

First up, coming soon, Goya.

Goya, The Disasters of Way Plate 80: Si resucitará? (Will she live again?) The figure is "Truth", from plate 79. A woman is shown lying on her back, bathed in a halo of light before a gathering mob of hooded monks, while a masked figure beats the ground with a weapon.

Goya, The Disasters of Way Plate 80: Si resucitará? (Will she live again?) The figure is “Truth”, from plate 79. A woman is shown lying on her back, bathed in a halo of light before a gathering mob of hooded monks, while a masked figure beats the ground with a weapon.

Resident in Residence


Still getting moved in to my stunning 2nd floor studio here at McColl Center for Art + Innovation.

I’m excited to say that I’m in the first few days of an artist’s residency at McColl Center for Art + Innovation as their UNC Charlotte Artist in Residence. I know, it’s a mouthful. Here’s the skinny on what I’ll be doing in Charlotte for the next 2.5 months. I’ll have two projects going at the same time.

First, I’m so honored to be the UNCC artist in residence, it means that I get to team-teach a class with my dear buddy Erik Waterkotte. It’s an awesome coincidence that we’re both here attached to UNCC at the same time and it means we’ve really been able to hit the ground running with our class. Our students will be spending the semester working with organizations or populations in their community. They’ll be replicating my process of making work that is intended to raise awareness of a social justice topic. We’ll be teaching them how to work with vulnerable populations and organizations. Also, we’ll be teaching them tools for documentation and production. We’re going to focus on photo-mechanical print methods such as silkscreen and photo litho. But along the way we’ll be leaving the door open for them to create the work that best serves their message. My time with the class will culminate with an exhibition of the work we make together.

My other project will be a continuation of my larger body of work dealing with domestic violence. I’ll be documenting the efforts of Safe Alliance, a wonderful Charlotte organization that runs a domestic violence shelter and offers resources for people in crisis. I’ll be working with them to create more images. And then I’ll also be (finally) getting to print some of the images I collected in Italy, of the Florence shelter that I worked with for five months.

We’ve been working on and planning this residency since about 2012….I’m so excited, overwhelmed, thrilled, honored, generally jazzed and freaked out by all the great stuff that’s going to happen in the next ten weeks.

I’ll be posting here regularly, detailing some of the info I’m sharing with my students and the things I’m up to. So stay tuned for more info. Also! If you’re planning to be in the Charlotte area anytime soon let me know!

Thanks for reading.