Writing in the Galleries

images-2On one of the last years I taught English at Rollins College, maybe the very last year, I had the pleasure of having David Matteson in an editing course required of all English majors. He was a senior, and had somehow slipped under my radar, so I was delighted to get to enjoy his keen intellect and his subtle sense of humor over the course of the term. He was an unusual English major, however, because he was completing a double major in English and Studio Art. As you may know, it’s fairly hard to be an English major, and it’s also hard to be a Studio Art major, but to be both of them at the same time is quite a feat. I was more than impressed with this fascinating young man.

At the end of the semester I went to the senior art show at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum and saw the large work of collage and mixed media that concluded David’s art major with honors.   There on the wall of the gallery was evidence of a creative mind consumed with words as well as with color, design, and texture, an installation based on his altered book called The Couple.

I thought it was stunning—and again, I was way more than a little impressed with David Matteson.

cover_2And soon after that, David introduced me to the world of art journaling when I read his altered book called The Couple. I want to do that, I told him! And before I knew it, I was taking a course with art professor Rachel Simmons at Rollins on creating an art journal. I can’t remember having so much fun, or being so in over my head.

A big part of the fun of that course was that David Matteson was assisting Rachel, so the tables turned and I got to be his student. I got to learn techniques from him. I got to watch him paint. I sheepishly asked him to look at my very primitive attempts. I got to see how the whole process of art journaling works through the eyes and the talents of my student. I can almost cry just writing these words. Truly. It was such a wonderful experience to be the student of someone who just weeks before had been my student. The roles reversed, and the joy and admiration continued.

After his graduation from Rollins, I saw David often because he had taken a position at the Orlando Museum of Art, a place I frequent. I took a class on abstract painting from him, and hugged him at all of the OMA openings. And I celebrated him when he was promoted to Associate Curator of Education at the Museum and watched him bring his signature energy and enthusiasm to the educational programming at the museum.

So folks, for a teacher, it doesn’t get better than this. To work with a talented young person and then get to watch his trajectory toward success in his chosen field—that’s what we live for!! It is SO-MUCH-FUN!

But wait, it does get better! Here’s the next part of the story.

Last month, out of the blue (cerulean blue I believe it was), David Matteson wrote me asking if I would be interested in teaching a class with him at OMA, a class on writing about art. “I know you’re busy,” he said, “but I thought I’d ask anyway. Would you be interested?”

WOULD I BE INTERESTED? Are you kidding? How amazing would it be to actually teach with a former student on a topic both of us absolutely love? This was a no brainer.

Which brings me to the reason for this post—I know, I tend to have a long wind up.

I want you, my subscribers, to be first to know that David Matteson and I are teaming up to teach Writing in the Galleries, four sessions offered monthly January through April in which we examine a work of art, look at it really hard, be with it, sit in silence with it, walk around it, and sniff it if we want to. And David will help us see what the artist was up to.

After that, I’ll give participants a prompt from my book Twelve Doors that will help find the story 61cExKlHfaL._AC_US160_or the angle or the feeling that bubbles into your consciousness during the looking part of the session. We’ll write for about 30 minutes, without pressure to produce a finished product, of course, but with encouragement to write from the heart and to express what most deeply wants to be expressed about how the art was meaningful to you. And then we’ll share what we produced.

If this sounds like fun to you, I would love to have you join our first session on Saturday, January 13, from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. I will have copies of the book Twelve Doors for purchase, but if you already have one, please bring it with you. I can promise you an inspiring experience. And you get the added bonus of seeing an unusual learning collaboration between me and David continue.

Here’s the OMA link for registering. Do it now!

I hope to see you on January 13.