there will be blood

I've been meaning to write about how I spent my last two weeks of winter break, ideally writing about jury duty, an early urge to spring clean, and watching lots of t.v. (including political stuff) and movies in separate posts. But my final semester of grad school started on Wednesday this week so I feel like it's time to quickly catch up and move on.

In all honestly, I felt really anxious about the semester starting. It's strange to be finished with my thesis project, only just starting to sense the wave of post-thesis depression/panic approaching, but still sort of a student. I'll be teaching my class, TAing for a screenprinting class, and taking my final art history class, in addition to a couple of side gigs. But since classes started on Wednesday, not only have I been too busy to dwell for long on any sort of impending existential crisis, the anxiety I've felt over the past couple of weeks almost instantly evaporated once I was back in the school environment. The class I'm TAing for is right up my alley as far as projects and assignments go, and I'm feeling pretty good about the revisions I've made to my own syllabus, on the class blog in case you're interested in the free, online version, although it's likely to change again before my first class on the 23rd. I just found out there's a mail art show in New York toward the end of the semester. Field trip!

Anyway, I'm also really looking forward to my art history class, about history, memory, and archives in contemporary art, these being the things I've been interested in lately in my own work. The class consists almost equally of MFA students and MA students in art history, with an additional undergrad or two. I don't think I've ever written about it, but I've sensed a lot of tension over the years between art practice and art history, on both the individual and departmental levels, since my days as an undergrad (especially at an institution that always ranked in the top 3 or so for its art history department...but was not nearly as renowned for its practice component). This will be my fourth art history class so far as a grad student and it's no different at this stage. I've heard the most blatant, negative comments about BFA and MFA student from both art history students and instructors. And it looks like this, my last art history class perhaps forever, will be no different. The MFAs dominated the first, brief discussion, but toward the end of the night, the instructor said a few words about our final projects and how she was considering giving MFA students a project + shorter paper option (as opposed to one long research paper). One of the MA students immediately asked whether or not that option would be extended to non-MFA students, to which the instructor replied, "Well, do you make art?" The student shrugged and suggested that she might for this assignment. The instructor essentially moved on, but I could hear the student continue, laughing with her friends over the idea of, say, making a facebook photo album.

On the one hand, it is an art history class, so I can see why an art history student might question the artists in the group getting special treatment of any kind. But her question really got me fired up. Maybe I'm just a tad too defensive about the topic, but I thought her remarks were rude and disrespectful, not only to the instructor for questioning her teaching style, essentially, but also, obviously, to the artists in the group, for implying that creating artwork for any part of an assignment is infinitely easier than writing one, long paper. You might be surprised, but artists occasionally have something smart to say. Art practice, or studio art, or whatever they call it at any particular institution, is not exactly special ed, but in fact loaded with art history and critical theory requirements. At most, art history students are occasionally required to take one studio course, and that's only at the undergraduate level. I hate to break it to you, Mona Lisa Smile, but it's a symbiotic relationship, whether you like it or not.

Anyway, my nerves are calmed by watching a particular scene from one of my all-time favorite films, Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming, which I've likely quoted before (it's so versatile, really). I couldn't find a clip from the scene "Max and Miami", so to catch you up a bit on the dialog that follows, Miami, who's still a student, (I love the way the "eurotrash" guy calls her mi ami)

and Max, who graduated the previous spring but continues to lurk around campus ("you do nothing"), are hanging out in the college bar.

Max starts to characterize the college types around them ("Look at these fucking people...") and Miami chimes in:

"...and these girls. 'We're both art history majors and we're real cute. But to be perfectly honest with you, anything past impressionism kinda leaves us cold.'"

Now, no offense to any art history majors who might read this post, and I can only speak from my own experiences, but I've found this characterization to be so true. It doesn't speak directly to the kind of snobbery I've sensed, but the fact is, as the dialog suggests, I can probably count on one hand the number of art history majors who even know what contemporary art encompasses. Modernism, my friends, is way over.

Anyway, it should be an interesting semester.


me and jamie lynn

We've only been back a couple of days but the early part of our jam-packed holiday week is already a bit of a blur. I really looked forward to Christmas this year, I think in part because for most of the semester the holiday represented the next big thing post-thesis. And it turned out to be a pretty fantastic time. There were three stops on our week-long itinerary, first with the inlaws in Roseville and Browns Valley, Califoria, then with the friends in Oakland.

The weather was gorgeous (even sitting in some light traffic in order to get across the Bay Bridge...look at that crystal clear blue sky. Sigh.).

When we arrived at SFO on the afternoon of Christmas eve, it must have been about mid-50s or so and clear and sunny (to compare and give you some sense of my appreciation for what probably felt cool to the locals, it's currently 11 degrees outside and with the wind chill, feels like -4). Same as last year, we stopped at In 'n' Out on our drive to Roseville. The burger and shake were delicious but the fries disappointed slightly. Before we went in, though, I literally stood outside the car and soaked up the sun.

Enjoying the weather and food (and company, of course) pretty much sums up the week. Aside from Christmas dinner and one post-holiday home-cooked meal (and breakfast here and there), we ate out the entire time. My dream of having pizza on Christmas eve, just like when I was a kid (we'd have pizza and then my Mom would let us open one gift each, which always just happened to be pajamas, which we'd put on and then drive around the neighborhood to check out the Christmas lights), was finally realized. The day after Christmas we tried out the brunch buffet at the Thunder Valley Casino and then had dinner at Chevy's, just as I'd hoped. The buffet wasn't exactly to the Bellagio standards, but not bad for 10 bucks.

On Thursday, before moving on to the second stop on our itinerary, we tried the Pacific Street Cafe in the older, downtown section of Roseville, one of the few places not on my list. I had the walnut pancakes, which were quite excellent, if you're ever in the area and hungry for breakfast, which they serve 'til 3 p.m. I love that section of Roseville, too, which reminds me of downtown Bend, Oregon, before that area was revitalized a decade or so ago. I think the downtown Roseville area has the same potential, which would provide a nice antidote to the endless strip malls.

The next morning we had oatmeal for breakfast, providing what I'm pretty sure was the first significant portion of fiber I'd had all week. Later that day we traveled the half-hour or so from unincorporated Browns Valley to Grass Valley to catch a screening of Walk Hard (it was okay...not on my list of movies to see during winter break, but funnier than I expected) and a late lunch in town. There was a dusting of snow in the area, which seemed very exciting to our California-native hosts (and a little anxiety-producing for our driver, who clearly had never driven in even a flurry, which was about the extent of the precipitation that day).

Saturday we packed our bags again and began our slow return to Boston via the Bay Area, staying with friends in Oakland. Impressively, even with one host miserably ill for part of the weekend, thanks to the drive and organizational skills of our fearless and able hostess, we managed to eat at every restaurant on my wishlist, a feat I thought surely impossible for a mere two-night visit. Dinner at Barney's the first night, lunch at Cactus on Sunday, followed by dinner at Holy Land and dessert in the form of a cake from Katrina Rozelle. We had scones from Arizmendi for breakfast on Monday and a late lunch at Zachary's before heading back to Boston by way of a red-eye flight from SFO. Impressive, no? In addition to all the great food, as in the central valley, where we got to see numerous inlaws (not to mention some extended relatives' friends from India), back in Oakland we were able to see a bunch of our friends, some still in the area, some visiting, so that was pretty excellent.

Now I have a couple of weeks to decompress and ready myself for the spring semester (and catch up on movies, of course). Although I'm finished with my thesis, I still have one academic course to take this semester, in addition to continuing to teach and TA, before officially graduating in May. What's next, you ask? Well, looks like we'll stay in Boston one year longer than originally planned, in part because of work opportunities and in part to get a start on procreation. I remember jokingly responding to a co-worker's question early on in my program about what I planned to do after grad school that I thought I might "pop out a couple of kids and call it a day." Okay, so I don't plan on the latter part, but kid number one is due to arrive in June, just about a month after graduation, which, if all goes as planned, will allow me to take advantage of a summer off and a transitional year of teaching my one class as a post-grad teaching fellow before, with any luck, relocating the fam' to the west coast. Being pregnant during my last semester of grad school will be interesting. Even though grad school is a long way from high school, being surrounded by mostly skinny freshmen, I can't help but feel a little bit like the after school special on teenage pregnancy (which, apparently, they don't air in Louisiana), waddling past lockers, leaving class frequently to pee, etc. For those who are interested, I'll be jotting down my observations of the experience in a separate blog (of course), so as to keep this already pretty random blog mostly about art and stuff.