Jade Chiu

Fashion designer, Jade Chiu, (pictured top left) recently completed a line of stylish and innovative belts based on the Zodiac. Each of her twelve belts corresponds to an animal in Chinese astrology and she even cast her runway models according to each of their animal signs. 

"Surprisingly, they match their own character so well," she told me in a recent interview, there's "monkey-girl, piggy-girl, rabbit-girl... and each girl feels... bonded to their own zodiac belt."  The qualities expressed in each belt vary according to the different animal motifs Jade uses. Themes such as fur, skin, shape & color blended with the alchemy of Jade's fashion sense create a metamorphosis of materials that express human qualities like "elegant, humorous, funky, kinky, and punk." 

She says,"people who are interested in what I do are usually artistic... my work provokes their thought." If her work is provocative that's because it is intricate and complex; multi-layered in meaning and dramatic in the way she combines materials. In some instances she has used "metallic[s]combined with short irregular fur, and pearls in glass." Of this she says, "I found their impossibility contradicted yet, a harmony."

"People who see my works they see my life."  Memories in each of us make certain materials meaningful. That's how something like a belt can spark emotion in the creator and wearer. "I carry my memories and emotion in to my works like a ritual." Drawing is another artistic ritual for her; a form of self-reflection. "Every time I feel down and frustrated in life I go back to my illustration." Through drawing, she says, she can "release frustration, through color, stroke and distortion."  When she is finally satisfied with a piece, she "can forget and forgive what [she]was frustrated about."

Artistic ability is in her family as well. On her website Jade reports:  "My grandfather was a photographer and an art teacher. He followed Chaing Kei Shek's fleet to Taiwan to start a family. I feel that so much of me is inherited from him. Although he never saw my work, I hope that he looks down upon me and is proud."

Photographer. Alex Zhang

Models: (Middle Left) L to R, Cass Cheng as snake; Marie Thibault as rabbit; Charmaine Waldrop as rat  (Bottom Left) Lei Zhang as tiger.


Great Reckonings in Little Rooms by Bert O. States

Great Reckonings in Little Rooms: On the Phenomenology of Theater by Bert O. States, begins with the chapter: The World On Stage, wherein States establishes the dynamic of audience to the stage by examples of the child actor, the animal on stage, and the clock. He also discusses a conundrum of Moliéres. Let me summarize the first three examples. First, the child actor typically creates in the mind of the audience a reaction such as "look how well the child is acting..." thus taking an audience member out of the play. The problem here is not with the child but how theater requires the things of the world to represent the very things they are, whenever they are placed on stage. Or in the words of Peter Handke, on stage, a chair is a chair pretending to be another chair. Children, being generally naive to this gimmick, when they are placed on stage, break the semiotic spell because we have a hard time believing they can pretend to be anything other than themselves. Second, animals have the same limitations and States's example of Launce's dog is perfect because the natural reactions of any dog remain in sync with Launce's bit where he asks the dog questions and interprets the arbitrary reactions conveniently within the framework of the script. Works every time. But so do magic eight balls. Why animals take us out of the play typically rests upon their unpredictability. (My father has a great story about a goat relieving himself in the footlights during a performance of Tea House of the August Moon.) Was this tension of the child on stage or the animal what caused W.C. Fields to recommended never working with either? Third, the clock is inanimate and mechanical yet it takes us out of the play because it is asynchronous to the perceived temporal flow of the narrative. And Finally, in the case of "Moliére playing Moliére in the Impromtu at Versailles... Moliére is not Moliére rather Moliére plus a Moliére text or rather Moliére minus the freedom to "be himself."" (35) This seriously complicates the notion that "all the world is a stage." Or does it? 

Image: Moliére's Chair,  Robert Wilson Collection Photo: Antoine Bootz


Metapatterns by Tyler Volk

Metapatterns by Tyler Volk 

Reads like the hypothetical correspondence between Lewis Thomas and Buckminster Fuller. Contains the designer's must-know list of 16 metapatterns: sheets, spheres, tubes, borders, webs/networks, binary, centers, layers, gradients, holons & clonons, emergence, clusters, breaks, triggers, cycles, & arrows.


Why Make Art?

'In the universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person's soul. However, this "soul" does not exist ab initio as orthodox Christianity teaches; it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved owing to man's unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.'

Meaning of Life, Monty Python 1983

My task at hand is to try to get 81 design students jazzed about making art and I'm adamant about avoiding a vocational education approach involving the stick of learning that supports the carrot of future employment. I'm also wary of sparking a religious debate but still I want to pay tribute to where there is either a spirit, or a bunch of neurons, piecing together the patterns before us, there is something fundamentally freaky and magical about the revelation of existence, period. 

Searching for deeper reasons for art making I'm tempted to describe to my students characteristics of the ethical foundation on which on to base artistic action; a foundation that will also serve as the student's path of self development within a humanities educational framework and within the framework of society as well. 

This search uncovered a quote from Monty Python's "Meaning of Life" about which there have been some really great things written that revealed much about my own path. Additionally, the quote serves as a good general description of the art process and how the process itself helps both the artist and audience to grow.  The quote implies we don't start with all our spiritual/intellectual marbles, so to speak, but that we must pick them up along the way, by means of living our lives cognizant of the profound and subtle meanings our varied lives hold for each and every one of us, day after day. The means by which we become cognizant vary from person to person but observation, reflection, articulation is the common result. 

In art making as well as in life this process of self guided observation is a profound and sanctimonious endeavor that arguably each and every individual is born with the right to undertake. Granted this process doesn't always result in art, but in this quote is the implication that "self guided observation" is a self-evaluated process of development from initiate to adept; a process that is hopefully vetted by some group that can add to the individual some measure of accountability, whether it be an institution, a club or just some common sense folks. 

In one sense one never becomes fully adept but remains suspended in a sophomoric state that could be described as being both green and salty at the same time.  To the developing soul or spreading neural net, what is within our reach intellectually and spiritually on one level of observation/revelation is beyond our grasp on another more complicated level of observation/revelation. Unfortunately within our own lives we tend to run out of time for solving big questions but we at least we do get to pass the torch along by leaving a record of our observations, reflections and articulation.

This benefits the art student only as long as he is aware of his own development and can have the freedom to choose its course. Otherwise he will have spent his school years merely learning how to please others. In effect he will be postponing his own enlightenment.  The role of the teacher then is to engage the student in the process of observation, reflection, and articulation and provide known heuristics by which the student can explore and as they become more adept go on to invent their own. 

Essays in Aesthetic Education by David Swanger

In this book UCSC poetry professor David Swanger uncovers misconceptions in the philosophical underpinnings of today's current art education. Swanger reveals that a perversion of Plato's Republic by Dewey and Read causes art education to adhere to an impossibly democratic aesthetic experience. He counters that art education should be advocating not accommodating. His main argument for this is that art presents multiple points of view in the mind of the viewer who then must apply ethics to resolve all the contradictions of the aesthetic experience. Art's value in education is not that beauty teaches morality through ordered reckoning but that art is a kind of calculated disorder that must be resolved in the mind of the viewer through problem solving. 

Take that Jesse Helms supporters.

yesterday is here