Sunday, March 02, 2008

Beyond FINESSE: 2007-2008 RMWI Associates

I went to my final meeting with other current Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute associates yesterday. As fickle Colorado weather would dictate this time of the year, we met outdoors to enjoy a beautiful seventy-degree afternoon...that was followed this morning by a snow storm which continues to rattle ’round the rooftops as I type. Crazy!

As self-appointed (compulsive) secretary of our associate group, I usually follow each meeting with an e-mail noting what was discussed and what associates’ action items remain as we prepare for our Associate Showcase, “Lines, Lineage and Lore” in April. (That’s Wednesday, April 9, 6pm at the Space Gallery on Santa Fe for all you Denverites!!). But yesterday’s meeting took a creative turn that tied in with Lisa’s recent discussion of the artistic process, a turn I’d like to document here:

Margarita Blush, a puppeteer from Bulgaria, holds a masters degree in directing for puppet and alternative theatre from the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria. Yes, she’s as impressive as that sounds! While working on a performance based on a Bulgarian folktale for her showcase presentation (which I can’t wait to see), she’s run across a number of challenges she’s faced with an optimistic attitude that’s contagious. Calling the creative process an incredible leap of faith, she joked yesterday about the feeling of throwing oneself onto the mercy of fate, arms widespread, leaping and praying that one learns to fly along the way. As you can see from the link, the end results of her constant leaps of faith are stunning.

Kate Aspinall, an artist from Scotland, holds a degree in Art History from the historic (we’re talking six CENTURIES worth of historic!) University of St. Andrews in Scotland. A dedicated creator of large pencil drawings, Kate is in the process of creating a series of large portraits for the associate showcase. (She jokes that she works on the floor of her home, usually with her cat as her audience.) Kate was recently awarded a spot in a graduate degree program back in Scotland and will return there later this year. Despite illness and the recent travel to interview for a spot in this program, Kate always displays a tremendous amount of insight into the complexities of line and perspective and their impact on identity as viewed and portrayed in her art.

Joy Roulier Sawyer teaches creative writing at the University of Denver. As a performance poet, she’s in the process of producing a theatrical presentation of a sonnet crown called “Following the Piper.” Joy holds a masters degree from the NYU Gallatin Division, where she received the Herbert Rubin Award for Outstanding Creative Writing. Joy’s spirited discussion of her impressive RMWI project (which will feature a number of performers and participants, including Denver poet laureate Chris Ransick)—and her current quest for the perfect props—made us realize yesterday that her performance piece will be something unexpected and very special.

Deanna Lowman holds a degree in photography from the University Colorado. Her life work has led her to photograph a wide variety of subjects, including the wealthy and the poor of Ghana, a complex country she was honored to visit as a student. Deanna uses her photography not only to capture incredibly eloquent images but to tell stories from the present and the past. Her current project relates stories of women of African descent who have inspired and healed her life. Yesterday Deanna noted the importance not only of what she creates as a photographer, but of what others “get out of her work”—the inspiration and healing her art can provide as well as celebrate.

Li Hardison, a portrait artist and figurative sculptor, also explores the dignity and strength of women, and African American women in particular, through her art. Her current series of work honors the achievements of black women artists in all genres of artistic endeavor in hopes of not only manifesting their hopes and dreams but of speaking to young artists. By emphasizing the critical role the creation of art plays in the contribution to a person’s wholeness, Li creates art infused with tremendous emotion and grace. Her work-in-progress for display at the RMWI Associate Showcase is a tribute to legendary dancer and choreographer Judith Jameson. Li said yesterday she had envisioned this piece for a long while before realizing the tremendous flowing skirt of Jameson’s dress would measure nearly three feet across.

Reneé Fajardo is a teacher, poet, author, event organizer, and storyteller (and mother of seven!) whose enthusiasm for her art, community, family, ancestors, and the stories that remind us all of our vibrant connections inspires everyone she meets. Her work-in-progress has taken her to reservations throughout the Southwest as she’s photographed and documented the tremendous stories of women who otherwise would never have their stories told. In addition to reading from her work, Reneé will display select photographs from these visits at the RMWI Associate Showcase.

At our first meeting, Kate discussed her work from the perspective of exploring “the significance/symbolism of line to identity.” This discussion as well as the influence of folklore on Margarita’s work, the lines of poetry and prose in all the writers’ works, and the immense, heartfelt ties to the past—most notably in the faces and figures and stories of strong women who’ve come before us—in Reneé’s, Li’s and Deanna’s work led to the ultimate naming of the 2008 RMWI Associate Showcase. “Lines, Lineage and Lore” will celebrate not only a wide range of works-in-progress, but our time together as associates, the opportunities we’ve enjoyed to get to know each other as fellow artists who happen to have lived in the Denver/Boulder area during this period, and the support and well wishes we’ll send along with each other as our time together ends.

If you’re in the Denver area but can’t make the April 9 RMWI Associate Showcase, consider visiting the preview during the monthly First Friday Art Walk on Friday April 4 from 6-9pm. Within a six-block section of Santa Fe Drive from 5th Ave to 10th Ave., you can visit more than 30 galleries and artist studios. An added bonus at the April 4th First Friday Art Walk: Denver poet laureate Chris Ransick has assigned 20 poets (including RMWI Associate Joy Sawyer, who’ll be stationed outside the Space Gallery) to various corners of the multi-block Santa Fe Drive art district. In honor of National Poetry Month, the poets will recite their work to passersby as part of this notable drive to bring poetry to the public.

I find it fitting that this post immediately follows the post about Carleen’s signing featuring the photo of Carleen and Lisa. The past nine months have resulted in a life-changing influx of strong creative women into my secluded suburban reality thanks to my simple pursuit of a more writerly life. My meetings and discussions with so many talented women have led me to step up to the challenge of once more participating in Lighthouse Writers workshops, which I can’t wait to start again in a few weeks. While my first class will advance my study of the short story, my workshop wish list includes master classes in writing the novel and producing a poetry manuscript.

If my time with the women involved in this year’s RMWI program—including its former director, artist and professor Elizabeth Braden—has taught me anything, it’s to keep pursuing those dreams of making art in whatever way, shape, or form they present themselves. I love that women artists so willingly share the awesome possibilities of what can be achieved when one devotes one’s life not only to art but to the sharing of the many challenges faced throughout the creative process.

For women especially, making and teaching art mean much more than any finished product. Margarita joked yesterday that a friend of hers has said heaven for artists is a place where a work of art imagined suddenly becomes reality. That, of course, was followed by a discussion of the joys of the creative process, but any artist under a deadline knows how heavenly it would indeed be to have that perfect creation appear magically, fuelled only by the love and creative spark that ignited its conception. The reality of it all is that art takes love and spark and creativity and much, much more. As Lisa reveals in her amazing tribute to her beloved artist-in-residence, Scott Mattlin, a little support along the way makes the journey a lot less daunting, and a lot more fun. That’s what I’ll be celebrating in April, with many thanks to the growing number of creative women who bless me with their constant support and friendship.

I love this photo! From l-r back row: Kate, Margarita, Li, Joy, and yours truly; Front row: Deanna and Reneé.


Blogger Carleen Brice said...

Here's to strong, creative women and men and those who love and support us!! If I can, I'll be at the showcase!

11:12 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Terrific, Carleen! I just finished tweaking this post and man, it was a doozy! But well worth the effort. K.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Moanna said...

Such an inspiring post. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

What a beautiful post and an inspiring tribute. My experience mirrors yours, K and I have been so nourished by the relationships I've established with creative women around the world and here in my own suburban back yard this year. I'm so glad you brought up the art walk -- our neighbor across the street is part owner of one of the galleries on the walk and the combined poetry and visual arts will provide a night out where both Scott and I are both in our elements. Can't wait to hear about your upcoming workshops. I got an email from a former novel writing work shop student who is starting a critique group and I hear the calling and am anxious to get back to a group myself. Thank you for this great post.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Ooooh, Lisa, I may bug you for details on that critique group...! Thanks to you and Moanna for stopping by and letting me know what you think of this post. I thought you and Scott might enjoy that First Friday Art Walk in April! I'm certainly looking forward to it! K.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Thank you so much for visiting and bringing me here to your site. What a fantastic place you have. I am putting the April date on my calendar and really hope to be able to make it down!

10:02 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Great to hear, Stephanie! I'm looking forward to meeting you, another creative Colorado artist! K.

7:09 AM  
Blogger John Elder Robison said...

My apologies for barging in and changing the subject, but my brother and I are doing an appearance and q&a at the University of Colorado Boulder week after next. I have a ticket link on my blog. I think it's free for students, $7 for non students.

Anyway, I hope you can come say hi.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

You're welcome to barge by any time, John! I know I won't be able to make your Boulder appearance but I'm glad you mentioned it here for others in the area. Have a great time in Houston, too! K.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Amber Lough said...

Wow---you've got such amazing friends! It's nice that you can all get together.

You'll stick out this Colorado weather, and soon enough it'll be consistently 90 degrees with full sun. ;-)

9:22 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Don't I know it, Amber! Then I'll be ready for fall, lol. LOVE that photo of Elizabeth! :)

10:02 AM  
Blogger Jen P said...

That is a great picture!!

4:32 PM  
Blogger Shauna Roberts said...

Isn't it wonderful how women artists nurture each other? Glad you found a group to support you and your efforts.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Thanks, Shauna. They really are wonderful. As I move on from the RMWI next month, I'll have already embarked on my first writing workshop in a long while. Looking forward to meeting even more like-minded souls along the way. And yes, Carleen's right, creative men rock, too. :)

8:13 PM  

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