The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents The Mark Bradford Project, a yearlong audience participation residency connecting the artist with the Chicago community. This project leads up to the Mark Bradford exhibition, the first survey of the artist’s work to date, on view at the MCA Chicago, May 28–September 18, 2011.
Art is not something outside of their experiences. It lives right there with them.
When I visited Lindblom in March to meet with students to discuss and motivate their individual projects in process for the Mark Bradford Project, I found many new places I couldn’t have expected. The studio (classroom) was alive with individuality, personal visual vocabulary and concepts that asked questions about journeys.
Journeys of the past impressed in the soles of our shoes, documented in photographs that would turn the head of Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons. Journeys that come together in the same place almost everyday captured in still frames that are then distributed equally on the map. Journeys of the future that are filled with abundance of opportunities, choices, fears, dreams, and successes fed daily through what one wished to be fan mail.
There was an ephemeral quality in the room, a buzz that hung in the air and swirled through the hands of each student as they individually focused during the class. It spoke of commitment, challenge, and self-expectation knowing that the end of the journey for the work produced is an exhibition in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and their mentor, Mark Bradford.
When I left the school that day and the old wood front door fell behind me, I whispered thank you to Mark Bradford and Nathan Diamond, for being who they are, for being an inspiration, for searching for truth and justice, for challenging themselves and others, and for asking the museum, the students, the education system, the teachers, and myself to be more, ask more, say more, and live more.
— Cheryl Pope, Artist; Images of Cheryl working with Lindblom student Renee Alvarez on “College Dress,” © MCA Chicago.Tags: Lindblom students classroom journey Cheryl Pope Renee Alvarez
Renee Alvarez, a senior at Lindblom, has received stacks of colorful mail from colleges all over the country. Rather than toss it, she stuffed the mail in a drawer, and is now creating an elaborate dress with it. “I am ripping and folding paper over and over and then sewing these shapes together in the form of a ball gown,” she said, when asked about her process.
Part of Renee’s inspiration came from viewing Mark Bradford’s video Practice, in which he plays basketball while wearing an oversized hoop skirt. Renee recognizes a connection between Mark’s video about overcoming an obstacle to achieve a goal, and her own journey through high school, then preparing for what lies ahead. “I wanted to emphasize the journey after graduation from high school, that’s why I want to use the college mail.”
The concept of the dress surprised her friends and family because, as Renee says, “I’ve never made a dress before; I don’t sew. I draw and I paint, that’s what I do. So when I told them, it was like ‘Really? Gosh you just want to do everything.’” Renee plans to attend an art college and is currently weighing (or maybe wearing) her options, as she works feverishly to complete her “College Dress.”
Lindblom Mia Wicklund Renee Alvarez dress project sewing students
“My project is basically pictures of people’s soles.”
Lindblom senior Michael Moore has spent the year collecting shoes from his classmates, tearing them apart, and photographing the soles. Building on Michael’s personal interest in shoes, his project examines what the soles say about their owners, “I wanted to express a sort-of individuality, but at the same time we’re also similar, through the way we dress, the areas we come from, and from looking at the soles you can see all these things.
“Whether it’s an expensive pair of vintage Adidas, versus someone who has a pair of Air Force 1, you can tell economic status, maybe the neighborhood they come from. From the way the sole looks, so if its perforated, and it has rocks stuck in it, and gum and other things, you see the terrain they traveled to get to wherever they have to go, versus someone who maybe gets dropped off to school everyday, who has a perfectly clean pair of shoes.”
Michael’s project will be presented as a series of large-scale c-prints of the dissected soles of students’ shoes.
Text by Sarah Wambold, Multimedia Manager, MCA; Images (top to bottom): Michael Moore working on his project, “Sole.” Photos © MCA ChicagoTags: Lindblom Michael Moore Sole c-print journey neighborhood photography project shoes students Sarah Wambold highlight
Prior to Mark’s visit to my classroom on February 8, a student posed this question: “So what should we do when Mark is here?” It isn’t a question I had considered and my response reflected that: “Nothing different.” This was not my response because I felt everything was ideal in my classroom. Nor that the situation would not be altered by the presence of Mark, MCA representatives, a video camera, a radio reporter, and the principal. Rather, it was my belief that my students are capable and creative individuals who already achieve beyond my expectations. It was also my belief that the nature of this residency is for Mark to integrate into the existing situation and be another critical voice for the students; that he is here to act as a mentor and a facilitator, much in the same way that I act.
Once I was asked the question, I started to doubt my assumptions. Mark and I had spoken and exchanged emails, but we had never clearly defined classroom roles. I wondered if I had assumed too much. When Mark stepped into the classroom I knew that not only had I not assumed too much, but that Mark, and my vision for this residency and in a larger sense, the goals of secondary arts education, were more in sync than I expected. Despite the fanfare, Mark integrated seamlessly into the classroom, engaging students in critical discussions and finding new ways to address their process. He seemed at home in the high school environment and easily related to the students (not always an easy task).
Mark’s presence in the classroom and the ideas he generated brought energy to the class. Since his critique, students have renewed their focus and clarified the direction of their projects. One of the great benefits of an artist-in-residence is the legitimacy that they bring. Students’ perception of a visiting artist differs greatly from their perception of a teacher, whether real or imagined. The respect that Mark showed both my students and their work was powerful reinforcement of the discussions that had been ongoing. Mark is a voice of possibilities. He champions an idea that I learned as a student-teacher from Jorge Lucero that “I want my students to be high school students that make art, not students that make high school art.”
This residency is not merely an opportunity for my students to work with Mark Bradford, but also to take their work beyond what is generally possible in a high school environment. I have always asked them to make work worthy of who they are, not the circumstances they are in. Mark’s involvement and reaction to their work makes that expectation a reality.Lindblom Nathan Diamond classroom Jorge Lucero highlight