I began my Masters of Arts in Art Education from Boston University in August of 2016. When I began the online master’s course one year ago, I knew I wanted to attend the optional Summer Studio Session where I would attend intensive studio courses on the BU campus alongside other art educators completing the same program.
From devoting nine consecutive days to the practice of my own art making to collaborating, learning, and being inspired by other artists and art educators, my experience at BU Summer Studio Session 2017 garnered the realization that I am not just an art teacher, I am an artist.
‘You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.’ – Glinda, The Good Witch
The two Summer Studios I elected were Storytelling Through Ceramic Hand-Built Structures and Relief Printmaking. Having not actively nor seriously created my own art since my undergraduate degree or having spent much time in the US since moving to China in 2009, I felt confused by my identity as an expatriated American, overwhelmed by the courses expectations, anxious about my capabilities and intimated by the abilities of others on the course. To help me remain focused and confident, on the eve of the studio sessions I decided to pull from prior experiences, stories, and inspiration I had used before when experiencing similar feelings. I was Dorothy Gail, swept up into a twister, dropped in a strange and complicated land destined to find her way home through brains, heart, and courage.
In my junior year of high school, I was cast as Dorothy in the 2002 Spring musical of The Wizard of Oz. Having tried out for the part of the Cowardly Lion, I was surprised, alongside the rest of the student body and staff, that I had received the role of Dorothy. Having a slight resemblance to Judy Garland certainly helped me obtain the lead. Although intimated, overwhelmed and anxious about the leading role, I delivered a respectable portrayal of Dorothy Gail through hard work, perseverance and a strong set of lungs.
15 years later, in Boston, I was once again Dorothy, searching for home, feeling meek and insignificant and relying on the help and teachings of others to find my way. My body of artwork created this summer in both clay and print revolved around these ideas, the iconic imagery of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz motion picture, China as my current home and big brother and the exploration of my identity, strengths, and weaknesses.
From woodblock prints and drypoint on plexi to pronto plates and oil paint monoprints, I developed my skills in printmaking to create artwork that told a story, generated discussion and pulled upon popular culture and current events.
In ceramic, I referenced and played with the dichotomy of Glinda’s floating orb and the floating head of The Wizard of Oz to represent different faces, phases, and sides of myself in three slab and coil relief hangings. The floating head of The Wizard can also be seen in several prints represented as Chinese children.
A large landscape vessel also created in terra cotta clay represents the different places I have called ‘home’. Grand Rapids, where I was born and raised, is represented at the bottom of the vessel depicting the Grand River and the Sixth Street Bridge, Shanghai by The Pearl Tower, The Shanghai World Financial Center and Shanghai Tower, Hong Kong by The Bank of China Tower and Peak Tower and The Emerald City which represents Boston, my future and the hopes in the horizon.
Glinda said that ‘Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart and knowing your courage. If we know ourselves we are always home, anywhere.’ My time at Boston University Summer Studio Sessions has helped me find my way home as an educator, artist, and adult. I will continue to look East, at the invisible glowing green horizon wondering whats next but now better knowing that as long as I know myself, I am always home.
I want to thank the characters I met along the way who helped me follow the cobblestone road. Thank you to Joshua Brennan, Technical Associate Printmaker, Instructor and Lecturer at Boston University, and Megan Samson, Ceramics Instructor and Adjunct Lecturer at Boston University, for their patience and exemplary teaching. To my roommates, classmates and now friends, thank you for inspiring me to push, pull, play, plan and persevere. Like Good Glinda also said, ‘It’s not where you go, but who you meet along the way…’