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Field Notes - 3/2/16

smalina's picture

Work at the center on Wednesday involved a lot of sanding. We got there late, so the artists had already begun their snack break, and those of us from Bryn Mawr and Haverford gathered in the woodshop to talk to the teacher about the next steps of the project. When the artists returned, we got in our pairs, selected the wood that would serve as the sides of our boxes, and began our sanding rotation. We used a number of tools, including hand sanders (attached to gloves that we put on), the sander powered by the stationary bike, and a tool that smoothed the corners of the wood pieces. When we were done with all of these processes, we sat with our partners and worked on drawing bodies and body parts on the outside sides of the wood pieces. This took up the entire time, and when we were done, we taped our wood together, labeled the tape with our names, and left the space so the artists could go to lunch.

My partner was Carl, who has so far been very quiet. Carl is quick to say "yes" to everything, so I found that I was very careful about the way I posed questions during our work together--I didn't want to just ask him if he wanted to do something that I wanted to do, because I knew he would say yes. Instead, I observed the activities he enjoyed, and asked him throughout the process if he wanted to be in charge of those things--this way, when he said yes, I knew that it would be something that could actually be enjoyable to him. I didn't want to take advantage of Carl's eagerness to please or willingness to help out. I was excited to realize, too, that I already had a sense of his style as an artist. Carl draws a lot of people, and uses a similar style with large, cartoonish features and particularly large facial features and feet. He seemed very comfortable drawing on the wood, and completed his art in a matter of seconds--I took more time on mine, and engaged Carl by asking if the drawing I had done of a person resembled me.

I've been thinking a lot since Wednesday about the privilege that comes from my ability to communicate in a normative way, and the power this gives me in these circumstances--particularly in contrast to Carl's mode of communication, which relies on affirmative language. My responsibility seems all the greater; I must have a better sense of how to ask Carl questions that will elicit his honest reactions, as he deserves to be doing the work he wants to be doing. While we are working together, I view my role as someone accompanying an artist, and in this sense I think that in order to support him in his self-empowerment, I have a responsibility to ask fewer leading quesitons, or questions that, when responded to with "yes," would just give me less or easier work to do. 

The next step in the process is to draw over these drawings with wax--this way, when we paint the wood with the rust/vinegar/black tea solution, the drawing we have done will remain when we scrape off the wax. We can then begin putting together the wood.