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An unconditional acceptance of life

This time of year my mind turns, intensely, to my students. They are on my mind the entire semester. However, at this time their fruition is immense. Though they do not necessarily feel it – it is very powerful to witness.  These are the moments that make every minute of teaching the greatest joy.

Some former students become my most treasured friends and colleagues – this is not unusual in academia. I do think in a community college setting it is less often because of the nature of a student’s transience. Perhaps I have been fortunate.

Not all of my students have been brilliant. But many have. Brilliance includes: unceasing research, incessant productivity, conceptualizing, longevity and acknowledging the historical lineage that has informed you. Finally, it is about love. Yes, love. One will not be able to continue in this field without it. Love overcomes any obstacle in the creative life.

The great art educator, Tim Rollins, spoke about the various meanings of love according to Dr. Martin Luther King. When I am writing here, obviously, I am not speaking of romantic love. Romantic love can, in fact, get in the way of a studio practice. The love I am writing about is all encompassing. It is an unconditional acceptance of life, what artist Kimsooja would describe as “Our totality of life”.

The students who meet with the greatest success understand this. If not in my classes – they recognize it eventually. Life is what we live daily while engaged in profound levels of perception. My students do not often know they have arrived to that place – but I know they are there. There is a connection between committing one’s self to the practice of art making and living a creative life with excellence.

After some 30 years of teaching, I wish my students a grand exit from the spring semester. They have chosen an extraordinary field of which to be a part. If they are respectful of the magic found within this field, they will be held gently all the days of their lives. Ultimately it is about honoring the gift of perception.


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