Sunday, September 13, 2015

The East Chattanooga Academy of Art and Social Justice

I'll be completely truthful with you, it has been a while since I posted. That is because in the thrill of life I sort of forgot about this blog. So it was really fun to rediscover it today and read through all of William's adventures in art school. Even more meaningful since in the time since then we have moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee to create, yes create, a new Master of Fine Arts school.

When William finished his MFA at the Memphis College of Art he was applying all over the world for art positions. In doing that he discovered that there were a lot of employers looking for artists that had social justice backgrounds but there were no colleges that offered a degree that offered that type of combination degree for students. That's when he knew he was meant to combine his years of experience as a social worker with his new found love and degree to teach art and create a MFA program that would challenge students to use their art in a tangible way to make the world a better place. To learn about the East Chattanooga Academy of Art and Social Justice please visit: 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

MCA/MFA show Dec. 2, 2011

After hours and hours of hard work, tonight was William's final art show to receive his Masters of Fine Arts.  It was wonderful to see the way everything pulled together.  I enjoyed talking with so many of his professors and the students he has made this journey with.  Friends and family members from near and far came to the show.  I felt overwhelmingly blessed.  Blessed to see how far my husband has traveled since he made his first sculpture, blessed to hear other people's comments about his work, blessed to see the rewards of stepping out in faith to pursue this path he felt very led to follow.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sculptures in Progress

William is working on new sculptures for his show in December.  Each day I feel like a new forest has sprung up in my living room.  Linseed oil has become the scent of the fall. He puts so much work into these sculptures and I never know until the show is up what the final product will be, but it is fun to watch the process and know in the end, "It will be worth it."  The song on the video is by The Cardboard Casanovas.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sticks and Stones

      It amazes me how a blank room can come to life with art in it.  This week I helped William put up his self portrait show of sculptures made from wood and stone.  The show titled, "Sticks and Stones" is part of a bigger project that will be continued.  It was amazing for me to watch as all these various pieces came to life after months of him discussing them, working on them, and transporting them bit by bit back and forth from his studio.  Putting up the show was a really grueling day as the pieces are very heavy and I am not the most muscular chick around.  Mostly I pushed elevator buttons and made sure he had food and ice tea when I felt he was fading away. 
      Hearing him talk about the show in front of an audience was fascinating because there was so much unsaid, so many stories that I understood that he couldn't or didn't have time to tell.  One sculpture is a huge wooden beam with two old metal wedges that hung on the brick wall, the title of this is, "A Gap Fixed".  As he talked about this he referred to the play on words of "Fixed".  Meaning that the gap could be repaired, or that it is in place, as in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31.  Most of this show is talking about the transformation that has occurred since William went from being a social worker to becoming an artist.  If you know us and know the background story that led to that change you understand how important metal was in helping him make that jump, how it indeed "fixed" the gap.   How quickly life can change and rearrange, and how beautiful it can become when the gaps in our life are fixed. 
       The interesting thing was how quickly the audience started to see religious connections in his pieces once that door was opened.  They were seeing connections that neither one of us had really recognized before.  Certainly the connections were there, but they had not at all been his overt intentions.  He and I both agree with the statement by Madeline L'Engle, "I am not a ‘Christian writer.’ I am a writer who is a Christian. I think that you have to be the best writer that you can be. Now, if I am truly a Christian, then that will show in my work.”
     A really fun piece (but crazy to hang) was a triad of wood that was originally one piece that he had split and polished the outside of so that it was now three pieces hanging together.  Having it hang allowed the pieces to spin separately and was a neat effect so you could see both the inside and outside story.  I really liked how one of these pieces had a man figure on it that matched the man that had been etched with acid in the stone piece that was in the corner beside it.  
       He had eight sculptures in this show and another one that would have been included but it was in a show at the ServiceMaster building down the block.  As we were assembling the show, William was whistling the Sinead O'Connor song, "Thank You For Hearing Me".  I thought this song was a perfect companion song for a  show on self portraits.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Short clip of William working on a sculpture

One of my favorite things to do is watch William working on his sculptures.  I was able to shoot this short video without him realizing I was filming him-he can be very Banksy about being filmed.  The music in the background is one of our favorite songs, "If I Ever Leave This World Alive" by the group Flogging Molly.

Weekend Work

One of the things that is interesting at this point is that William's studio is about an hour and a half from where we live so he works on his sculptures at home a lot. This weekend was no exception, except that he was doing more work than usual inside the house.  Usually our yard is his preferred area to work but the weather required more indoor work.  Our weekends usually begin with a coffee date at Bessos, where we discuss what he is working on, how he feels about it, and where he is thinking about going next.

I didn't get as many pictures as I would have liked because I was busy but he was working on several pieces at once, both with wood and with stone.  He puts an immense amount of time into getting each piece exactly like he wants it.  I do my best to stay out of his way, I have discovered that the creative process is fragile and he does not need my input, my main task is to enjoy it from a distance and take photographs only when he doesn't realize I am taking them.  I am glad that I have started photo documenting though because the sculptures are like children, growing and changing rapidly as he moves them through the process of where he wants them to eventually go. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sticks and Stones-In Progress

Is it just me or is there something provocative about this one?

Sticks and Stones (In Progress)

       William has been working on a self portrait series in wood and stone.  Do these mediums seem unlikely since he is an abstract artist?  I think they are perfect.  William was willing to do what so few of us are, he upset the norm by leaving his chosen career path in his mid 40's and choosing to go in a completely different direction.
        His path seemed as unchangeable as stone, as solid as the large tree in my front lawn, but by exposing himself to the dramatic "weathering" process of art school-his life has been changed forever.
       These pictures are of him working on these pieces.  Splitting into his very soul, this step of allowing himself to be transformed by this experience has been an interesting journey for both of us.
         I love watching him as he engages in this process.  He is not a writer and he doesn't sketch his work before he begins, but I am allowed intimate glimpses into his thought process as he talks about it every Saturday morning during our weekly "coffee date".  I realize that he has chosen me to be his living sketch book.  My ears and heart take in his ideas as he expounds on things he wants to tweak, wants to create, wants to bring into being from his spirit into the world.   If you were to watch him, you might think his work is completely intuitive but I am aware that he may talk out his ideas for months before he actually touches a piece, so the pace of the work seems very rapid, and sometimes is but the pre-planning is frequently a long process.

The Art of Science

Monday, February 21, 2011

William's Studio

Below are pictures of William's current studio.  It is located on Main Street in Downtown Memphis, right on the trolley line.  From the big picture windows you can look across the street and see The Lorraine Motel, which is now the Civil Rights Museum.  In some of the pictures you can see current projects that he is working on, most of them centering around the topic, "What does it mean to me to be an artist".   After these pictures is a short experimental film that he made.

William's Studio

The Science of Art, a short experimental film by William J. Smith