Sunday, July 2, 2017

Spring 2017 Updates from Earth Systems Journey


http://earthsystemsjourney.com/spring-2017-news/

Most of Full Spring Studio's Spring activity is related to Earth Systems Journey work. See this blog post from the Earth System's Journey website to see what I've been up to.


http://earthsystemsjourney.com/spring-2017-news/

Thursday, April 20, 2017

River Journey Exhibit at MWMO

 


The exhibit:
We Watch the Stream:
Impressions from River Journey

by Jonee Kulman Brigham
with River's Edge Academy
will be on display
April 10, 2017 - June 29, 2017
at the MWMO Stormwater Park and Learning Center
Reception: Friday May 12 from 4-6 with presentation at 5pm.

Please see the exhibit page for more details

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tenth Year Reflection 2: Embodied Childhood


This post is second in a series of reflections during the tenth year of Full Spring Studio. 

Lake Johanna, site of childhood immersion

From March 21: “The hero’s journey starts in the ordinary world where we find the protagonist in their ordinary environment and learn about their character. In that spirit I’ll write the next post as a kind of autobiographical artists profile of how I found myself ten years ago reincarnating a dormant call to art.”

So how did I find myself ten years ago? Who was I? And how did I get there? Any story is part of a larger, longer story. Since last week, I’ve realized it’s going to take more than one post- maybe a prologue of a half dozen before I get to the specific art adventures that led to starting Full Spring Studio. The protagonist is grown from her prior travels and the quest for connection and flow has deep and hidden roots to find. While this is not meant as a life story, I’m going to include those things that intuitively feel like they are related -the tips of roots for my current work, even if I don’t know yet how or if they matter. I’m collecting artifacts.

A Personal Art and Nature History:
Part 1. Embodied Childhood and the Fall from Innocence

From Card:
Jonee
sweet angel, how thankful, we
for moments of joy, unaffected
alas, one brief glimpse
where all the world
has not its gloomy fingers, fashioned

Island of Innocence:
At birth, I tried to come out sideways. I made it out and all was well.

It was July 1964 in Virginia. First child. All the tumult of the 60s in the background. I was placed on the skin of a black bear for a photograph used in a “baby’s first Christmas” greeting with a poem written by my dad. I imagine that I grasped the bear’s silky black fur, the way babies hold onto things tightly.

1967: Now living in Minnesota. Younger brother born. I am passionate about mud pies, opening the outdoor hose faucet without permission so I can mix water with dirt and create a perfect substance that barely holds its form, hinting at its semi-liquid nature.
Jonee, age 4, with mud and mother


As I grew in age, my travels expanded. Sneaking west to the lake to swim unsupervised (naked so wet clothes were not evidence.) And east to the grove of sumac trees to break off pinnate leafy stems and make a fort. With my first good friend I buried a metal box in the woods in which we placed special rocks for a secret club. (Our secret club names were encoded, based on plants, but since they are secret, I can't tell you what they were.)

In this island of innocence I could explore boundaries.
One night, during a dinner party, I discovered wonderful art supplies in the bathroom garbage: cardboard tubes from my mom’s used “femine hygiene products .” I created a rudimentary sculpture on the floor. Stepping away from the party, my mother found me. “Oh dear! Those are not to play with!” I sensed her shock at my choice of materials, but also sensed in her laugh that she was pleased with my resourcefulness. I was out of bounds, but not punished.

As a pre-school child, I believed that nature – leaves, mud, water, sumac trees, and bees were the world, and our family lived in a house inside this world. Outside, my dad, a forest entomologist, showed me the wonder of trees, and the interesting marks insects made in their leaves. Inside, my mom, an interior designer, arranged collections of decorations into vignettes like stage sets for little stories. In addition to the bear rug, we had taxidermied animals all over our living room: the heads of a moose and two rams, antlers, a stuffed owl, a frog, armadillo shells, and the front half of a mountain goat on a rock ledge. (My parents were not hunters, but liked interesting things and had found a deal at an estate sale.) We ate in our house, except when we ate outside, cooking over a fire by the lake. Inside, we slept where it was comfortable and where the mosquitoes couldn’t come in. When I was young, the world was large and I was small and safe.
 
The Fall:
Do you remember a childhood sense of natural wonder? Perhaps so early that everything seemed okay? Do you remember when you learned that things might not be okay?

I know at least some of my friends remember one of the scenes when we learned as children that things were not okay. It was an AdCouncil ‘Keep America Beautiful’ public service announcement, commonly referred to as “The Crying Indian.”





Dramatic music plays while the “Indian*” appears traveling through littered landscapes and the narrator says “Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. <shows person littering> And some people don’t. People start pollution. People can stop it.” And then came the close-up of the tear rolling down his cheek. This hit me. I loved the earth too. The message was reinforced by the “Give a hoot, don’t pollute,” campaign in school, but it was this PSA on TV that most strongly made the “Earth” or “Nature” into an ‘other’ that we had wronged. And first taught me that we’d fallen from an Eden, and had to make our way back. (*The Indian was played by an Italian. Some feel betrayed on learning that, as well as by learning the history behind the campaign LINK. But to me, as a child, it was all real.)

From these and other portrayals about the environment, I learned the world was broken. And people were breaking it. And I, even though a child, could help. I would not be a litter bug. I dreamt I would grow up to solve pollution. For example I could be a scientist, wear a lab coat, and invent a filter to stop the smoke coming out of the soot-spewing chimneys I saw on TV.
During this period, I decided to become useful – and somehow decided art was not part of this plan for me, even though it was image and story that had set me on my mission.

As I grew and tried to find my place, art and mud (well, clay) would reappear, but I was on a different mission meant for more important things, I thought. In the next post, the protagonist tries to grow up, and leaves home in search of her proper place in the world. 




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reflection: Full Spring Studio: Ten Years Exploring Connection and Flow



An Invitation:

If, like me, you are nurtured by the stories of co-journeyers traveling toward a life of greater meaning, or are rediscovering your playful creative dimension, or working on your relationship with the Earth, or  simply curious, …then please join me in an experiment —  a year of reflection to explore the story of the last 10 years of Full Spring Studio. I would love your company (and ideas) and I hope you will find something that helps you see your own story more clearly and perhaps feel a sense of companionship as I do when reading the story of others on their adventures.  

 

Connection and Flow

Since childhood I’ve been  drawn to playing with essential elements of the earth: making mud pies, constructing twig forts, and burying secret rock collections. These elements and actions seem deeply symbolic, even without naming what they mean. I think that’s what attracts me to Joseph Campbell’s work which examines the commonality of symbols in stories across time and cultures to reveal something essential about human experience and imagination.  As I reflect on the mission of Full Spring Studio “…to explore the connection and flow between humans and the rest of nature,” I feel centered by two of his quotes below.

On the story of the earth:
“…the World Navel is the symbol of the continuous creation: the mystery of the maintenance of the world through that continuous miracle of vivification which wells within all things.”

On the call to connection and flow:
“The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking
and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world.”

—Joseph Campbell, the Hero with A Thousand Faces


The Tenth Year

I’m also drawn to symbolic timing. A year from today will be the 10 year anniversary of forming Full Spring Studio, LLC. I’ve been thinking about this day, and the coming year for quite some time. For a long time I’ve wanted a sabbatical – a time apart from the usual routine. Not as free time, not to even try something new, but to nurture something old. It’s as if I’ve been planning and making and planning and making for nine years, and haven’t really stepped far enough back, or slowed enough down to see where I’ve been and to care for the project-children I’ve brought into the world. What I mean by that is partly practical and physical: I want to have records of images and nice documentary artifacts of past works – particularly performance or interactive works that are hard to capture in a few photos. For example, I’m two-thirds the way through a booklet about a two-week art-led environmental education project with preschoolers called Downstream/Upstream that took place in 2011. The project is done “externally” but I am not finished with it. So part of this year is about closing loops. The other idea for  this “sabbatical” is reflection. Where am I in this journey? What have I learned? Where do I go next?
                                                                                                       
10

My intention is to take this tenth year leading up to the decade mark and retrace where I’ve been with a goal to do several things:

1.       I want to give the art works that are most important to me some attention and reflection so that they each have at least one post that acknowledges their place in this decade of work.


2.    I want to ask some questions about each art work: “How has this creation  played a role in the mission of Full Spring Studio to explore the connection and flow between humans and the rest of nature?  What have I learned from it? What human-nature story does it tell? What questions does it raise? How does it relate to the questions I’m asking now?

3.     I want to tell an overarching story across the collection of blog posts so that at the end of the year I’ve’ made sense of the last ten years.  One of my guides and sometimes collaborator, Audrey, suggested I consider the Hero’s Journey, since that figures prominently in some of my work, and since – well -  it is a proven narrative form.  This is daunting – since I’ll be experiencing the last year of this journey simultaneously with telling its story. Yet it is by telling the story of Full Spring Studio that I hope to bring back some of the quest’s  “elixir” – some sense of clarity and wholeness about this decade cycle of an ongoing adventure.


Jonee, age 4

The hero’s journey starts in the ordinary world where we find the protagonist in their ordinary environment and learn about their character. In that spirit I’ll write the next post as a kind of autobiographical artists profile of how I found myself ten years ago reincarnating a dormant call to art.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bird Safe Impressions


Expansive windows to view trees and sky draw occupants closer to the nature they love outside. 
But windows can draw birds to fly into the reflection of those landscapes in the glass. 

I went to a dinner for Audubon Minnesota this week, recognizing contributors to the last 10 years of their bird safe work: programs to prevent fatal bird-building collisions by selectively reducing night lighting and careful building design. I was there because about five years ago, I co-authored bird-safe guideline criteria for the B3 Minnesota Sustainable Buildings Guidelines.  But I was also there because I love birds, and by association, am fond of bird-people.


Page from Ascent, 2009
Artist's book
Dead Birds Count

In a presentation, Audubon Project Birdsafe Coordinator and bird-safe guideline co-author, Joanna Eckles gave the stats of the bird count study Audubon had conducted over the last decade, as volunteers made regular walks around Minneapolis and St. Paul in the early hours to inventory bird-building collision fatalities and injuries. Some of the volunteers had been walking these routes for over five years and collected 500 or more dead birds. Each bird is identified and the place and date found are recorded. This data is used for research and helps document the extent of the bird-building problem and reveal patterns across the years. Over the course of the program, over 4500 dead birds that collided with buildings have been collected by volunteers, ...who presumably love birds. How does that feel, I wonder, to go collecting the bodies? Are they still warm? The birds I've found by my house are days old and rotting, but to see a bird up close that recently expired, --is the awe at its beauty there, when the body is intact but the life has left?

How much effort should go into birdsafe design? How valuable is a bird? Birds are small, soft, and fleeting. Buildings are massive, solid, and designed to last decades. The concerns of buildings tend to win. But I loved birds before I loved buildings and it pains me to be practical on this topic. There are practical ways to prevent collisions - that's what the guidelines are about, but sometimes costs or design preferences are in tension with the impact on bird life.

Bird Life

Birds are a muse for me. Many of my artist's books and associated poems reference birds and their bodies: bird beaks, bird feet, feathers, bird bellies. My first public artwork, Children's Nest Egg, was a giant nest and referenced birds in its engraved text. Perhaps this bird attraction started in junior high school art class where the best images we had to draw or paint from were Audubon magazines. I studied the beaks, the eyes, and the curved bird feet gripping a twig. The photos were closer than I could get to real birds and this personalized them for me - faces and postures I could relate to. I was a nature-loving girl.

But the most potent study of a bird and its body I've experienced happened later as part of a bird-building encounter. I was in architecture school, in the library among the dark green hardbound archives of black and white architecture magazines with smooth pages illustrating hard edged modernist buildings. There, along the shelves I saw a small yellow bird. It had probably come in one of the tall slit windows that opened in those days and didn't have screens. I knew I had to get the bird out. I moved toward it and it hopped further down the aisle. Again I moved closer and it hopped further. Then I moved more slowly and it stood still while I reached out to wrap my hand around its belly. It felt warm and its heart was beating rapidly. I never knew a bird's body held so much life inside. I carried it toward a window, stepping evenly like I was balancing tea cups. Then I extended my arm outside and opened my hand. The bird flew away.

-----------------
Recollections of my encounters with birds are adapted from a collection of bird-writings in process.



Monday, February 20, 2017

Story Stage with Taxidermy.

Back in December I went to the 'Tea and Scones' diorama tour at the Bell Museum. It was wonderful with guides offering perspectives from biology, art history, museum history, climate change and more.
One might think that with the availability of ever-modernizing, flashier ways to recreate the outdoors (IMAX, virtual reality, even nature docs on a large screen TV) that a static, constructed diorama of a nature scene would fall short in comparison. But I find the Bell dioramas captivating. Knowing that they are important historically is only one aspect of their charm. There's the room-size scale that puts the viewer in intimate relationship with moose, elk, wolf, and geese. The Frances Lee Jaques painted backdrops are gorgeous. And the taxidermied animals - authentic artifacts of former life - hold me in a middle state of Real/Not Real.    Meanwhile, the depictions of historical landscapes in solid form contrast poignantly with the rapidly shifting nature of place that climate change brings forth: Still/Not Still.


I wrote this impression about one of the video recordings I made, below:

Jaques' birds in flight 
reflected in pools of chrome-plated copper 
while time-frozen relatives stand by, 
and I, stepping to the side, 
try to reanimate 
a moment that has passed.

video 

Try it with mute on, too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Summer Project Video

Much of summer 2016 was spent with 55 grade school children on an art-led journey to the Mississippi River. "Mississippi River Water Journey Camps" is a project I did through my position at the Institute at the Environment at the University of Minnesota with a wonderful team. It uses Full Spring Studio's "Earth System Journey" curriculum framework. Here's a glimpse of the many activities in this video. And then check out the website and links to GIS story maps children made. It was a whirlwind for two weeks in July, and we are already planning next year's camps...