character study: the work will never be done

photo by Brad Ford, edited by J. Fuentes

I’m ashamed to say in all the time I’ve known Alissa I have never taken a photograph of her, so here I post an image she shared with me, taken by Brad Ford, of her at Amarillo Ramp.

I met Alissa through the Dallas Museum of Art.  She has volunteered with the education department at the museum for eight years, and in my nearly four years working there, I have come to know her well.  The thing that first struck me about Alissa was her straight-forward approach.  She is an opinionated woman who is comfortable sharing her thoughts, and I respect and admire that about her.  Perhaps because of this trait, I quickly learned of her passion for volunteering at the museum and her eagerness to help in any capacity.  Alissa was always willing to stay a little late at her shift, help with crowd control, and jump in to assist with any program when needed.

It has been in the last two years that our relationship has grown from work acquaintances to a more meaningful friendship.  We bonded over shared life experiences and I learned so much from watching how Alissa re-evaluated her priorities and made shifts in her life to let in more living.  Her last year or so in Dallas, Alissa took up rock carving, learned how to do handy work around her home, and went on several impressive road trips around the United States.  She made more time for the things she loves and stepped away from the things that caused stress.

Selfishly I was sad to find out she planned to return to her native Australia this fall, but as a friend I knew this move would be one more piece to the work/life balance we are all struggling to achieve.  I’ve missed our Late Night and Saturday chats.  I’ve missed learning new Australian phrases like bubblerhills-hoist, and dob in.  I’ve missed sharing our artistic endeavors.  But most of all I miss Alissa’s smile and energy.

Of course technology helps to diminish the distance, and emails from Alissa always make me smile and fill me with inspiration.  Tonight I received an important reminder that I will share with you here:

Remember the whole work life balance! Leaving work at work at a reasonable hour is critical to you being a success while you are at work. The work will never be done.

Yes, there will always be more work to return to, so leaving it for the work day is fine.  It’s not just fine, it’s good for your soul.

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the past is not

Fuentes_summerJulia_10the past does not exist.  those moments are gone into the nothingness and only distorted fragments remain as our memories. the only thing that is, is the present. but that fact doesn’t rectify or recognize the yearning that we have for the past. often i flip through old photographs trying to recall voices, fragrances, weather and i long to return if even for an instant to those moments and revel in them a bit longer.

i can’t be certain what year this was taken. my guess would be summer 2010 or maybe 2011. my daughter was four, maybe five.  we lived in this house from 2009 – 2013. when we first moved in it was painted blue, and i loved that color.  when it needed to be repainted, the owner went with this beige color which i despised. when i look at this image, i can imagine the heat of the texas summer and the refreshing spray of the sprinkler… i can imagine an animated julia running, twirling and laughing… but what i want most is to be there, to pick up 4/5 year old julia and hear her voice.  one thing is for sure, when she comes home today from her first day of fourth grade, i’ll hug her, hold her, and try to log her voice and her laugh into the deepest parts of my memories.

nine rolls

film line

i’ve been active this year… traveling, photographing, experimenting, creating.  typically summer is my most productive time, but this year i don’t have much to show for it.

at least not yet.

my mind imagines the potential images i’ve captured and forgotten that lay hidden on these 9 rolls of film-120, 35mm, color slide, color negative, black and white. these rolls contain memories from yurt camping, tent camping, two trips to galveston, and a nine day excursion to puerto rico.  soon i’ll discover the secrets held on these 9 rolls, but for now i’ll delight in the possibilities.

light in the dark

the first of these images was taken in december 2014 at abilene state park when my significant other and i went winter camping and stayed in a yurt.  when the weather is nice (fall, spring, early summer) campsites can feel overrun but winter camping in texas is a great opportunity for real solitude.  as an educator and parent my daily life revolves around others, and i’m happy for that, but often freedom and growth come with a few days of isolation in the middle of nowhere.  it is in solitude, wrapped in darkness that i am able to refocus and appreciate the true sources of light in my life that are consistent when others are not.

drawing as performance

a few months ago i had the pleasure of leading an adult drawing class at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.  as an artist working mostly in photography, i wasn’t sure at first how i would approach teaching the class, but i was up for the challenge.  i went to see the exhibition Urban Theater: New York Art in the 1980s to plan my class.  what struck me first was the performative nature of the work in the exhibition.  so i asked myself, “how can i help the participants experience drawing as performance?”

first i thought of blind contour drawings, since that exercise is more about the process of looking and drawing and less about the final product.  there were a handful of Cindy Sherman film stills in one gallery, so i thought that would be a good place to start.  we talked about the performative nature of the work and then participants loosened up with some small blind contour drawings of the figures.

in the same gallery were three Robert Longo drawings from the Men in the Cities series.  these were great inspiration to draw big.  for the next exercise the participants each received a large (5-6ft) piece of butcher paper.  IMG_3091they could lay the paper on the floor (or on a bench if they didn’t want to draw on the floor) with the goal of making a modified blind contour drawing–that is, one where they could look occasionally at their paper but with the goal of keeping the looseness of the earlier blind contour drawings.  its not often that you see or get to lead a group of adults in a drawing exercise on the floor of a museum gallery, so i was sure to document it.  it was fun and energizing to see so many adults, on the floor, drawing like children.

the next gallery had a some large scale Keith Harring’s, so i thought this would be a good place to talk about bold, confident line work.  we looked at the artworks and participants drew characters from various paintings and put them together in a new composition using thick graphite sticks.

all of these exercises, everything we had learned thus far– the looseness, the large scale, and the bold lines– culminated in the final product of light drawing.  and to help establish the mood, we set-up our cameras and flashlights in a small space where a Laurie Anderson performance video was playing.  in the end it was a fun playful experience for everyone involved.

click here to view more light drawing photos from this class.

Friday Photos: All in a Day’s Work

When I decided to leave my teaching job and go to grad school to pursue a career in art museum education, I was worried that being in school full-time would mean that I would not be able to spend as much time with my daughter. When the time came to write my thesis, I knew I wanted to somehow include her in my research. We embarked on a collaborative research endeavor and since that moment she has been a major influence on my work. It was such fun to have her at the Dallas Museum of Art for, “National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.”

DMA Canvas

Thursday, April 23, was National Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day.  This year, I observed the day by bringing my daughter Julia to the Museum. She had the opportunity to help with daily tasks, attend meetings, attend a workshop, and participate in a Star Wars themed photo shoot… All in a day’s work at the DMA!

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

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