Posts Tagged 'Writer-in-Residence'

Leaves of Light with Writer Kendra Greene

 

Kendra Greene, the DMA's current Writer-in-Residence

Kendra Greene, the DMA’s current Writer-in-Residence

Since July 2014, the Center for Creative Connections (C3) has worked closely with printer and essayist Kendra Greene. As our Writer-in-Residence, Kendra is assisting in the evaluation and re-purposing of thousands of visitor responses received in relation to a recent C3 installation.

Images (left to right): A Panel Depicting the Tuba Tree, with the 99 Names of God on its Leaves, c. 1900, watercolor on paper, The James and Ana Melikian Collection; Visitors leaving responses at the C3's Tree of "LIGHT" interactive

Images (left to right): A Panel Depicting the Tuba Tree, with the 99 Names of God on its Leaves, c. 1900, watercolor on paper, The James and Ana Melikian Collection; Visitors leaving responses at the C3’s Tree of “LIGHT” interactive

In the spring of 2014, in connection with Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World, C3 asked visitors to respond to a painting of a Tuba tree with the 99 names of God written on its leaves. Nur is the Arabic word for “light,” so we asked visitors to write a characteristic of light on a gold leaf and hang it on our tree. Over three months, we received 4,394 contributions.

Uncrated sat down with Kendra and asked her a few questions:

Tell us a little about your background with museums.
In my first job, as a preparator, I used to put text on the museum wall—one vinyl letter at a time. As a curatorial assistant, I started writing those texts. I was managing a contemporary photography collection when I discovered the best day I could have was introducing a visitor to some remarkable thing they could never have known to ask for, which may or may not have led to volunteering at a natural history museum to costume their giant ground sloth.

What interested you in working with the Dallas Museum of Art?
Museums are storytelling institutions, and yet so many of those stories go unheard. There’s never enough room on the labels to say everything worth saying, and then there’s the internal stories, the fragile oral history of what it is to live with a museum, that almost never get recorded in the first place. I wanted to capture stories that might otherwise be lost, and I wanted to give voice to surprising things well worth hearing.

Describe your process of unpacking and making sense of the information in the leaves.
The prospect of coming to grips with thousands of discrete words and phrases was overwhelming. I started alphabetizing to organize the leaves, and doing so I found not just patterns of meaning but rhythms of language. I got really interested in the effect of proportion in the responses: the power of “Love” being repeated 242 times, and the power of “Flowers & Weeds” being said just once.

Kendra’s notebook documenting the Tuba tree responses

Kendra’s notebook documenting the Tuba tree responses

What are some of your favorite poems that you generated from the leaf responses?

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How does this kind of creative re-purposing support the process of meaning making?
I’m a writer and a maker essentially because I believe in conversation. It’s exciting whenever creating something generates a response, but when that response generates more making, the whole exchange grows that much richer. It was really important to me to listen to everything this collection of visitors chose to say, and then think about what those writings had to say both individually and en masse. I see a lot of my questions and interpretations in my compositions from the leaves, but mostly I see a portrait of a community that can only happen through collaboration.

Join Kendra Greene for an evening of discovering the galleries through language, unlocking the power of art to spark poetry and prose, Thursday, February 12, from 6:00 to 8:50 p.m., and experience Kendra’s assembled poetry at the February Late Night on Friday, February 20, in the C3 Theater at 8:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

Jessica Fuentes is the Center for Creative Connections Gallery Coordinator at the DMA.

Community Connection: Shay Youngblood

We are excited to introduce Shay Youngblood as the first Writer-in-Residence at the DMA.  It’s easy to sit down and talk to Shay for a few minutes, and somehow it turns into a few hours.  She is a great listener, but she is also a great storyteller.

In Houston, February 2013

In Houston, February 2013

Name five things that you love.
Art, books, peace, love, food.

Tell me about your work with the DMA.
I am currently a Writer-in-Residence at the DMA. What I would like to do in that role is create an art project based on visitors’ art experiences. It’s an experiment for me. My belief is that encounters with art or engaging with art can change the way we see the sky, a flower, a face, a body, ourselves. Art that stirs up our senses makes us think and wonder and makes us feel more alive. I contacted Susan (Director of the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA) because I want to visit the Museum regularly, as if I’m visiting another country to learn a new language.

Shay Youngblood and Susan Diachisin, on Shay's first day as Writer-in-Residence

Shay Youngblood and Susan Diachisin, on Shay’s first day as Writer-in-Residence

You are both a writer and a painter. How would you describe your creative process?
In different genres, I start differently. My process comes out of being a storyteller. Whether I’m working on a play, or a novel, or a short story, or a painting, it’s really about telling a good story. With writing, it starts with a character. I get to know the character as well as I can, from their shoe size to their favorite color. I’m interested in a lot of different things – art, food, social justice, politics, race, class – all kinds of things. The work comes out of my interests. But all of my work involves telling a good story.

You recently travelled to Japan through the U.S./Japan Creative Artists Program, which seeks to “promote cultural understanding between the United States and Japan.” How would you say cultural understanding occurred during your time abroad?
My work in Japan was about my wanting to understand the culture through its people. I conducted interviews with artists and architects, but I also met strangers on the street. The most interesting thing to come out of that whole time was that I met two women separately in Tokyo, a city of millions of people. One Japanese woman went to SMU in Dallas. The other, I met while I was trying to get food and was having a hard time – I looked lost. On the last day of my time in Japan, these two realized they knew each other from college thirty-seven years ago; they hadn’t seen each other since then.

I felt not only did I learn about Japanese culture, I think I was also able to share a lot of American culture with the people I met there. A lot of people had not been to the U.S. or ever interacted with an African American person.

In a Tokyo art gallery during U.S./Japan Friendship Commission Creative Artist Fellowship

In a Tokyo art gallery during her U.S./Japan Friendship Commission Creative Artists Fellowship

Through books I have read and films I have seen about Japan, I get the impression that this is a place that appeals to all of the senses. Tell me something that comes to mind for each of the following:

  •  Sight – When I think about Japan, I think about beauty – there is beauty everywhere. One of the most memorable sights was sitting on a beach in Takamatsu and looking out at the water. There is beauty everywhere, and quiet beauty in nature. On the street there were little flowers. There was a general aesthetic of beauty in the simplest things.
  • Sound – Temple bells in the afternoon. That sound was wonderful to me. I felt like I was inside the temple in my hotel room. It was like a moment of meditation every day.
    In the evening, when the children get out of school, you hear a little song playing through speakers around the city. The music essentially says “time to go home now” and plays at the same time every day. This song permeates the whole city.
  • Touch – The traditional way of greeting someone or showing respect in Japan is to bow. My American self would sometimes forget that, and when I was moved by a kindness sometimes I would hug people. I have to say I missed touch. So when a Japanese person would give me a hug because they knew that was in my culture, that was a really special moment for me.
  • Taste – Japanese food is so amazing! It attends to all of the senses.  It is beautiful to look at, some tastes are unusual, and the food in general is some of the best I’ve had in my life. And, the best Mexican restaurant in Tokyo was down the street from my hotel.
  • Smell – There are so many gardens that I visited all over the city, beautiful traditional Japanese gardens. Just the smell of the flowers and the trees and the earth in these gardens was really quite stimulating for me.

Shay will be interviewing visitors about their experiences with art tomorrow during Late Night. Look for her friendly face in the galleries!

Melissa Gonzales
C3 Gallery Manager


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