Tesseract school workshopsHaving been born on the...

the Forum

November 05, 1992

Tesseract school workshops

Having been born on the Mississippi River, water is for me a primary visual need. I need to be able to see and smell a body of water and occasionally splash in it or skip rocks across it.

Looking at Sam Gilliam's "Mirrored Acts: Chesapeake" at the Maryland Art Place (218 W. Saratoga St.), I became homesick for the Mississippi's leisurely pulse, the Oshun River's clear water and blue skies and the waters of the Caribbean that have lulled me to sleep so often.

Gilliam's work is about water and dreaming and daring to look at your own reflection in the water. It is about space and the hugeness of it all compared to the human body. It is about a relationship of art to life that defines power.

It is work that helped me remember what I am, where I came from and the obligation I have to the people of African descent who continue to live on those rivers and streams in different places.

Watching 60 4th- and 5th-graders from six Tesseract schools create their own installation with Gilliam, who understands the personal power inherent in the act of creation, was an experience that I shall not forget soon.

I watched the children arrive to greet the challenge of being in a new unfamiliar space.

Watching the black electrician's tape of varying sizes, rolls of white paper, rolls of polyethylene plastic, stop lights and string disappear from the table and reappear on the walls and floor of the gallery reminded me that we need to give more than lip service to the next generation of artists, who also may be teachers, politicians, entrepreneurs and military personnel in the embryonic stage.

The two child installations reflected the diversity of what beauty and power are in our environment. They also reflected the visual chaos, the contest for personal recognition inside of the chaos -- with the names in tape on the floor -- and the eyes in the faces that watch us from the center wall -- wherever we live -- to keep us in line.

The ecological waste and the quest for protection in the "Spider's Web" and "Jacob's Ladder" in the installations tell us so much about the children's priorities and how we need to pay more attention to their collective wisdom.

To some people, I am sure such works as "Creativity," "My Art," "Kid's Space," "The Hip-Hop Kid's Place," "Hanging Out," "Frank" and "Pop Kid's" looked like a destroyed art supply warehouse. To me they looked likes acts of power.

When we talked about how the children felt about their workthey told us that they felt, "excited," "happy," "proud," "glad," "smilely" and "free."

I emphasize "free" because it is not a word children use a lot in this age. Between being trained to beware of sexual molesters who come in various familial and institutional forms, and being afraid of being a victim of violence on the street or in a mall, children in urban areas experience fear more often than feeling free.

Jack Rasmussen and staff need to be congratulated on working a small miracle in assisting the 60 children in experiencing a moment of personal freedom through the creativity of action.

Hopefully, a similar -- though different -- experience can be arranged around the new exhibit called "Redness: A New Room," which will be juried by Douglas Davis. Being "red" in America and in Russia has changed; the color re-interpretation has implications for us all.

Which brings me back to being a "colored person" (in my grandmother's words) and water, personal power and the development of the intellect through art and creative collaborative projects.

Amelio Cruise allowed me to do my first "installation" when I was 18 years old. It was among the things that changed my concept of my relationship to nature and humans and my evaluation of my personal power as an African-American. It helped make me, make myself whole. I wish as much for Maryland Art Place's 60 new friends.

Chezia B. Thompson


The writer is a trustee of Maryland Art Place.

Schaefer's endorsement of Bush

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black: Governor Schaefer charges that Governor Clinton has tailored his position to his political ambitions.

If Clinton is a tailor, then Schaefer is a political haber--er. He will sell out to anyone.

Once again Schaefer's duplicity exposes him to be a political liability.

Last summer the governor went to great pains to make sure it was Schaefer, not Democratic Party Chairman Nathan Landow, who announced Maryland's votes for Clinton at the Democratic Convention.

Then he publicly endorsed Bush for re-election. Marylanders know too well that Schaefer is a cantankerous old curmudgeon. So our hopelessly lame-duck governor must find yet another life where he can further his own political ambition.

Why am I angry? I favored Bush for re-election. But it disgusts me that the president would stoop so low as to ask Schaefer to join his campaign.

It may have played well nationally, but Bush has demonstrated to Marylanders he really would do "whatever it takes to get re-elected."

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