The Dirt is Red Here

Was just leafing through this book and wanted to share the poem by Stephen Meadows that the title came from:


Grass Valley


The dirt is red here

stone speckles the ground

a light snow has fallen

in the night

the room smells of matches

her husband is dying

she splits up the wood

in her bathrobe

morning by morning

releasing the days


George Nelson at Bellevue Arts Museum

Last Saturday I went and saw the George Nelson exhibit at Bellevue Arts Museum the day before it closed. Organized by the Vitra Arts Museum in Germany (who apparently also own many of the items shown), this exhibit presented a wide variety of objects. Finished furniture pieces, a wall of clocks, modular office systems, graphic design materials, original sketches. There was a lot of great stuff and I’m glad I saw it while it was still here! Nice that it was also in Bellevue so close to home.

One other thing to mention, I had been introduced to someone via e-mail last fall who is new to Seattle and was transferring up to Cornish’s Interior Design program. As she is also a member of a California Tribe, the Design Department Chair suggested she get in touch with me. We’ve exchanged e-mails, and kept making plans to go see this exhibit that we pushed out. Luckily, we did finally meet up and it was nice to talk design with someone again! Also, I was glad to hear that a Seattle firm I told her about to look into is now likely going to be working on a project for her Tribe.


Two Things Part Two: Tessie Naranjo on Western Education

To continue my post from yesterday about the two things that struck me as I was reading Nancy Marie Mithlo’s Our Indian Princess: Subverting the Stereotype, I wanted to also share a quote from an interview Mithlo had with Dr. Tessie Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo) who earned a PhD in Sociology from the University of New Mexico:

“I had a real difficulty doing it, and it’s amazing that I got as far in my education as I did. I had a real struggle with it because, you know, you need discipline. I think I had persistence, but without discipline. And other things that are very Western-like. . .playing up to the teachers or raising my hand. It was my Pueblo nature or Pueblo personality that didn’t know how to compete, so that my grades were very mediocre. I don’t value competition. I don’t value individualism. I value the communal sort of thing. I really value the communal, collective sort of thing. So I felt unsuccessful with my Western education, and very slowly I was able to. . .in my own way, I guess. . .able to work it so that I would get as far as I did.”

This quote is significant to me, although I was raised by white parents and didn’t grow up with her type of cultural emphasis on collective, communal living. However, my experiences pursuing my bachelor’s degree at Cornish reflected a similar mentality. I recall one instructor in particular who put great emphasis on competition as a driving factor in being a successful designer. And yet, the one student of hers who I saw in person who attributed his success entirely to following her teachings, struck me as callous and rude.

He came to one of our critiques and had very little, if nothing at all, positive to say about anybody’s work. I understand constructive criticism, but that particular crit stands out to me because when he talked about how influential she was and how he had followed everything she told him to do, I thought to myself, “I don’t want to be like this man.”

This doesn’t mean I didn’t value what I learned from her. She is definitely full of information and certainly helped to shape me. But I think it shows that sometimes we learn what not to do from our teachers, as well as what to do. And this can vary from person to person. I graduated with three other students in our Interior Design program in 2010 and really valued how the four of us complemented one another. We each had individual, unique perspectives. I would say we took a communal approach, especially in developing our BFA thesis projects when we successfully petitioned to be able to display our work in a small, separate gallery from the mass of Visual Communications and Motion Design students. (Apparently this was upsetting to some of the other staff and students, although I don’t really know any details. But I followed my favorite teacher’s advice to really make this show our own, and I am glad that I did.)

Naranjo’s quote relates beyond my college experiences to my current life as well. For reasons related to the state of the economy and personal events in my life when I graduated in 2010, I took the first decent job I was offered, which was not in an art or design field. I’m still working for the same company, although in a different position/department than when I had started. I’m grateful to be there, to be working, to earn a generous amount for the type of work that I do. But I also have found myself ready for more challenge. And yet, in exploring the possibility of finding work in more creative fields, I continually run into the fact that my background doesn’t align with what the employer is seeking for a position.

This is frustrating, because I know myself and my abilities. I’m a motivated, positive, and hard worker; especially when I’m working for a company or on a project that I really believe in. If there is something I don’t know how to do, I can usually pick it up really quickly. And yet… that somehow doesn’t seem to be enough. Not even with over fifteen years of work experience. Or a four year degree.

I’ll share one story to illustrate this before I stop. In my current position I interact with members of our program on a regular basis. A while back, one of them mentioned in passing that she thought I would be a good executive assistant for her husband, who is a VP at a well-known international company headquartered in Seattle. I let her know that I would be open to the opportunity if it arose. Several months later, she let me know that he was looking for someone to fill that role. I forwarded my resume and cover letter, which she sent to her husband, and he forwarded to a recruiter for the company. And I was told that, “Unfortunately, your background is not a match for this role,” which didn’t surprise me.

I know the people I interact with on a regular basis are aware of my abilities and potential. But I do feel that the status quo of the larger system I must operate in every day doesn’t recognize this. It’s frustrating, but I take heart that, like Naranjo, I may be able to, in my own way, work it out.

Two Things Part One: Sacajawea vs Miley Cyrus

Ended up waking up early this morning after a dream about my father. Had some coffee, went and got the mail from the last two days, and then finally turned to the bookshelf. I’m working on a concept for a piece I want to enter for an upcoming show that deals with women and food, and I revisited Nancy Marie Mithlo’s Our Indian Princess: Subverting the Stereotype. In the larger dialogue about Native women and how they are represented, there were two things that seemed significant to me this morning. I figured that I will write about them both in separate posts and publish one today, and one tomorrow.

Christopher A. Pardell: "Sacajawea" 2001. Bronze, 13"x21"x12". Photo by Legends Studios.

The above photo was included with selected images of artwork by Native women. This piece stuck out as it was created by a (presumably white?) man. As Mithlo says:

“It is instructive to compare the bedding-wrapped, apparently nude Sacajawea with photographer Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair photos of American teen pop star Miley Cyrus, which caused a scandal in 2008… As with so many other popular depictions of American Indian women, Sacajawea–a teenage mother and guide on the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806–is memorialized primarily as a sexually available object. The variance of interpretations for visual signifiers in twenty-first century popular American culture correlates with conventional notions of appropriate sexual behavior for young women and is informed differentially in relation to memory, history, and race.”

In the book, the image of Miley Cyrus was not shown. But let’s have a look, shall we? Compare and contrast:

Miley Cyrus as photographed by Annie Liebovitz for "Vanity Fair" in 2008. This photo caused a huge public uproar.

Living Like a Grown-Up

Over the past couple of months, Bryn and I have been making our apartment feel more like a home. This has been a nice change! For most of the time while I was in school, we were living in a tiny studio apartment, so it always felt claustrophoblic. After graduation, we moved into a two bedroom apartment, but didn’t really have much decent furniture. There was also a huge shelving unit that we used in the living room for storage and media that made the place feel like a cave.

Now, however, we have gotten rid of the giant shelf! We have moved a bookcase that separated the living/dining areas against a wall to open up the room. We have a new couch that replaced a ratty futon. People would hear that I had gone to school for interior design and say, “Oh, you must have a really beautiful home!” I would laugh and tell them that definitely wasn’t the case.

It has been a long time since I’ve had a living room that actually felt like a living room. It’s great to live like a grown-up again.

Tiny Glaciers

We had snow here in the Seattle area about two/three weeks ago now, but traces of it still remain. I live really close to work and the way I walk every day takes me along the road that runs behind the building. It had been plowed when there was snow and so there were huge heaps of snow. I took some pictures yesterday, but was suprised how long they have lasted. I imagine them to be like glaciers really, albeit on a much scaller scale. The one above is of one from far away. You can see the trail of water draining like a river in the foreground. Below is a close-up of the same pile of (dirty, old) snow. Behold the power of the lens!