“A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart.
One hundred years from now the world may be different because you were important in the life of a child. Teachers are the heart of learning.”
~ early 1900’s sentiment
With September upon us and back to school for many, I wanted to take a few moments to thank a teacher who has had a lasting effect on my adult life. To understand the impact of my experiences, it might help to know that college was an off and on thing for me. Marriage and children came early and my twenties were a whirlwind of family responsibilities. When I rediscovered college in my thirties, I first began taking one night class a semester picking courses that inspired me. Later the goal of a degree took hold and when windows of opportunity opened, I took more classes. What I was learning: “Believing that I had the ability. Believing I could accomplish this goal. Believing in self-discipline.”
Enter Professor Judith Bell. The school year was 1994-95 and I had finally transferred to the State University as an upper division Junior, Art Major, and during this year I took two Painting Critique classes and one Independent Study Art Teaching course with Professor Bell. Writing about art – content, context and purpose – was the focus of her critique classes. Writing an opening statement, closing statement, three reports on my work, reflective comments on other students work, guest speakers work, field trip artists and gallery reports. We only painted in class the first two weeks and then we were expected to work at home and bring in fresh, new work for critique sessions.
During this year, my mind was like a sponge, soaking up new ideas, digging deeper into my imagination, emotions, and I produced some of my best, most socially charged, most intellectual art during this fertile time in my life. The environment was fertile. And I needed to grow.
FYI: Most of this art, I have not shared on Wings Of Wonder, but that’s a different story.
Professor Bell said, “Write your own history. Write about your work: the who, what, when, where and why. Write your philosophy, issues, goals, methods, problems, references, motivations, contemporary and historical context.” She encouraged with words: expand your imagination, go beyond the obvious. She asked questions and expected us to ask our own questions. “What is strong and positive about your work? Are you intellectualizing or letting your emotions out? Did you push beyond the limits of your materials, subject, techniques? What are your intentions?” And, Professor Bell talked about the continuous process of reinventing yourself…let it fall apart, pick up the pieces…a painful process as you put it back together but your work will be stronger.
I did dig deep into my life experiences and I produced a painting which, at that time, I titled 16 Weeks. Some of Professor Bell’s comments included: “powerful, technically successful, political arena, emotional, dancing around issue, be careful, this art could be manipulated by someone’s agenda which could be different than yours, know your reasons.”
Thank you Professor Judith Bell. My eyes were opened to a much broader world. My work took on deeper depth. And I developed the habit of keeping Artist’s Notes and began a memoir outline of my creative journey. Someday I may pull this material together and write the book.
This year, 1994-95 was only a chapter of that journey. At the end of the year, the window of opportunity closed and I had to take a leave from college. Work and family and medical challenges again were at the forefront of my life. The next window, to come back and finish my senior year, did not open up until 2001 but that’s a different story. But, the seeds for that burst of educational energy were planted during the year of Professor Bell.