Archive for the Artistic failure on campus Category

Just over three years ago, CAFA was contacted out of the blue by the West Coast artist and art teacher Jeanne Finley of the California College of the Arts. Finley had come across this Chronicle while preparing a syllabus on an art seminar she was organizing around the theme of Failure. She expressed interest in organizing some sort of collaboration between her class and this site, and we readily agreed.

The resulting final projects by her Failure students were mounted on CAFA, each in turn, at the end of the semester in May, 2009.

Although CAFA has mostly been inactive over the past few years, as various society, cultural, and familial pressures limit the ability and inclination of the site’s admin to post new stuff, we are proud to announce that, starting on Monday (December 19) and continuing with one new post each day (in a kind of Failure version of the 12 Days of Xmas), we’ll once again be presenting final projects from Jeanne Finley’s revisited seminar on Failure.

So stay tuned, Failurephiles — and please be sure to spread some love to an artist in this desperate holiday season.

The fifth (and final) project by a student in Jeanne Finley’s class on failure is by Rebecca Ora. Here is the original project proposal.

Note: The drawings and italicized text in this piece were composed by my mother, B.Levavi. The straight text and images of the books are my own.
-Rebecca Ora

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I have lived next door to Mr. Harmon for 21 years, precisely 21 years this month, yet he and I have never greeted each other much less held a conversation. He is at once comical—a gaunt, galloping Ichabod Crane—and dark, the bogeyman who lurks under the bed and in impenetrable shadows.

We know Mr. Harmon’s name only because from time to time his mail has been mistakenly dropped in our box just as we know the name of his (now deceased) dog Francis only because at 3 AM we would hear Harmon calling, “Francis, Francis, wake up. Why are you sleeping?” I sometimes think of the name that contains “harm” yet is only one letter from “harmony.”

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I always refer to him as “like Boo Radley, but he doesn’t like children.” We have also called him “the man with the yellow hat,” a Curious George reference.

But we normally refer to him simply as Harmon.

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Harmon lives alone in the house once occupied by his parents. In all the time we have lived here he has never worked, never entertained, traveled or had a casual conversation with a neighbor. Periodically he leaves his house to hang tattered garments on the back yard fence, drag his shopping cart to the supermarket, returning with innumerable boxes of raisins, or place his garbage bins precisely three feet apart at the curb on Wednesdays. Mr. Harmon has a characteristic walk. He leans forward at a precipitous pitch and takes giant strides, sweeping one arm into the air with every second step taken. He is rarely seen without a hat and appears to have a vast, varied wardrobe from Chinese pointed hats that tie under the chin to deteriorating straw hats to pitch helmets.

Harmon’s requirements for privacy are exacting. Once I returned home with a friend who mistakenly pulled into his driveway. Harmon came to the window with a megaphone to announce that we were on private property. Again, I approached his door to inform him that a recent earthquake had weakened our chimney and that perhaps he would want to move his car (he had a car at that time although he was never known to drive it) that was directly beneath the listing bricks. He was about to leave the house as I approached, saw me and quickly retreated behind the locked door. Only by banging on the door was I able to draw him to the window so that I could convey the message.

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One time, a friend told me she had read in the local paper’s police log that the name “Fudge” was reportedly written on the side of a shed in the Wilshire-La Brea area. Of course, my brother Fudge was immediately suspected of foul play, though he vehemently denied it. Years later, he confessed to having written his name on Harmon’s shed that abutted our yard. We can only assume the Harmon, upon spying the crooked crayon scrawl on his dilapidated structure, had reported this paltry attempt at vandalism to the police.

About ten years ago I received a letter from a lawyer who threatened legal action on Mr. Harmon’s behalf because he claimed that my children were harassing him. In actuality, if my children chased a wayward ball onto his barren lawn, Mr. Harmon would turn on the sprinklers. I responded that I would counter-sue if they pursued this frivolous action and they instead went after the Asian family whose most intrusive actions appear to be silently deadheading roses on Sunday mornings. Since his failed attempt to extort money from me, Mr. Harmon hides behind bushes if he is on the street and sees me coming. On those occasions I walk very slowly.

Harmon used to have a dog, Francis.

I was the one who discovered Francis’ name. It was 3 AM, and, being an avid high school senior, I was constantly up all night, studying. Occasionally, I would hear shouting from next door: Harmon.

It sounded like, “Francis! Wake up, Francis! Why are you sleeping? It’s 3 AM!”

This was the only time I ever really heard his voice. Considering the late hour, I do not know how accurate my recollection of this episode was. I don’t know whether he was saying “Francis” or “Frances.”

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Harmon’s shirts, through time, have become rattier, his walk more emphatic.

Sometimes I still spy him reading the newspaper outside, in his weedy yard, while donning a red batting helmet. He moves his head side-to-side, presumably with each line he reads. Sometimes, the newspaper is upside-down.

Mr. Harmon has had several visitors over the years. When Francis was still with us a mobile dog-grooming van would sometimes be parked in his driveway. Once I returned home to find police cars parked along the street. Mr. Harmon, it seems, had been tied up, beaten and left in that condition for several days. A friend who was visiting us told the police that she had seen a man in a bathrobe get out of a car and enter Mr. Harmon’s house several days earlier. More recently one of my children spotted two people who appeared to be social service workers standing by Mr. Harmon’s door with a pie. The pie was alas not sufficient inducement for him to open the door.

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Mr. Harmon is the embodiment of isolation and paranoia. He is at once repellent and fascinating. His proximity provokes thoughts about the nature of reality and the purpose of human existence. He is the neighbor usually described as “a quiet guy” who has for years been burying dozens of bodies in his garden in the middle of the night.

Oh, Harmon! Oh, Humanity!

We have always had too many books. There are floor-to-ceiling shelves lining every wall in the living room, and shelves of varying height in the hallways, all three bedrooms, and in my mother’s bathroom.

With seven kids, all in the same schools, we often read the same books. The night before the first reading assignment was do, the child in question would inevitably freak out, realize he /she had no idea where the book was (though we were certain we had it somewhere) and someone would have to run out and pick up another copy.

We live 3 houses from a library that holds weekly book sales. Ten-cent paperbacks and fifty-cent hard covers meant that we accumulated multiple copies of random books as they were withdrawn from the stacks.

We all knew that we had too many copies of several titles. Gorky Park and Lost Horizon, for some reason, seemed to abound.

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Once, I gathered together the myriad copies of these two books, much to everyone’s amusement. My mother said they were very fine pieces of literature, and it was ok, but I could tell even she knew this was excessive. I think I found five or six copies of each. When I left Los Angeles to move up north, I donated a good deal of my old stuff to charity, and my mother gave me some of the Lost Horizons and Gorky Parks to give away. We still have too many copies of other books lying around the house, though.

My mother told me once that women have a particular connection to reading, since it is a solitary activity, and women are expected to be constantly engaged, socially. She said my father used to throw her books in the trash. She would be searching for a book she was in the middle of reading, and would find it buried in the garbage. When she confronted him, he claimed that he had begun reading the book, did not care for it, and so disposed of it. He did not understand that it was not about him.

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Tovah, my aunt in Israel (really my grandmother’s nephew’s wife), likes to tell the story of how my grandmother died.

Tovah refers to her as Malka, though Malka was her middle name. Her full name was really “Esther Malka” (Queen Esther). Tovah just calls her “Queen.”

She had flown to Israel from New York to visit her family. She came in on a Friday, and, upon arrival, decided to eat something then rest before the Sabbath began. She hung her wig (though she had long since been widowed, she continued to cover her hair) on the arm of the couch, put on her slippers, and sat in front of the television in the living room.

When Tovah (always in the kitchen, always cooking) realized she had not heard from the old woman for a while, and entered the living room to find Malka, perfectly still, with a slight foam on the outside of her mouth. She had died, then and there.

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Tovah says that at one point, Esther, who came from a strong family that fought against the British colonizers before statehood, showed her her diaries, and claimed that her father had pushed her to marry her husband—my grandfather—who was a stringently religious man. She had actually been in love with another man, she claimed, and showed Tovah the diary entries as proof.

She was a hard, mean woman by the time I knew her.

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I remember Mrs. Leo. She was the vice principal when I was in first grade, and I liked her because she had blonde hair. She was a large woman, tall and buxom. She was always very nice to me, but she did kick a little girl in the class—Sherizad Kohanzad—out of school for supposedly cheating on a spelling test.

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Melissa, the woman to whom Mrs. Leo confessed about her flight capability, was eccentric in her own right. She had originally been a model, then married a religious French-Moroccan man. Her father was head of Warner brothers when she grew up, and her family lived next door to Groucho Marx. When I knew her, a mother of four, she spoke with a fake French accent at times, and cooked horrible vegetarian food with tofu-substitutes for the original ingredients. Her mother, who bought her a face-lift for her birthday one year, married a man named Laszlo who convinced her to invest the last of her fortune in an ostrich farm.

Melissa’s kids were all devastatingly gorgeous and devastatingly stupid. I tutored several of them—both older and younger than I am—for years. They are all married to beautiful stupid people, and live in Los Angeles.

Melissa’s husband Charles (my mother refers to him as Le Grand Charles, both in reference to his grandiosity as well as in ironic jabbing at his diminutive stature), once told my mother that all of his grammatical errors were “poetical license.” For some reason, my mother and Melissa had a falling out some years ago and have not spoken since.

Mario, Slim, Louisiana, Bumdog, and some other characters live on the street corner.

They drink. Mario, from the south, refers to my mother as “Miss B.” He has “cleaned up” a few times over the years, but keeps returning to the streets. At one point, he was working as a security guard.

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Whenever I am back in town, Mario is happy to see me. He always tells whoever is sitting at the corner with him that he has known me since I was “this small.” And now look at me.

He used to ask her for five bucks here and there, but I think he has stopped asking my mother for money, now that she is out of work.

My mother’s backyard abuts a large park and all of its human and animal wildlife. We have spotted possums (My sister Hannah, or “Ham,” as we call her, is most afraid of these repulsive creatures, and is somehow the one to whom they most often appear, leering at her with their red and beady eyes), lizards, and even chickens on occasion. But cats are the most common.

We hate the cats. Someone always feeds them, and the neighborhood is overrun with mangy felines.

My mother has tried setting out cayenne pepper, vinegar, anything she reads or hears will serve as a cat repellent.

We had never had pets growing up, not the furry kind, at least. We had, through the years, several canaries (Tweety, Spot), freshwater and saltwater fish (including a catfish that stung my highly allergic father), and a suicidal eel that would jump out of the tank. I, being the brave one, would constantly be called to save the depressed creature’s life.

Once, Dov and Ham spotted a sign publicizing a missing cat answering to the name “Phuk Phuk.” Thereafter, the two of them began answering to Phuk Phuk, too. We did not try to locate the original Phuk Phuk; considering the number of strays in the neighborhood, those people could have easily found a replacement.

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Recently, two women rang our doorbell, and asked my mother if she minded if they would catch some of the strays and take them home. My mother, in her infinite wit and dry humor, expressed that not only was this fine with her, but she did not care what they did with the cats thereafter.

“You can make stew out of them for all I care,” she said.

One of the women lost it at this point, and had to be dragged off, screaming and shaking, by her companion.

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I once saw a little Asian woman pushing a baby carriage full of kibble, sprinkling cat food around the periphery of my house. Now, in addition to setting out cat repellants, my mother sets out threatening signs to deter old ladies.

I know that, no matter how long my mother is out of work, or how far her children are, she will never be an old lady with hundreds of cats.

The fourth project by a student in Jeanne Finley’s class on failure is by Kamil Dawson. Here is the original project proposal.

Kamil Dawson’s Failure class statement:

When conceiving the project for our Failure class, I intentionally chose to avoid commonly prescribed ways for “successfully” displaying artwork. Instead of searching out a “professional” gallery or exhibition space to show my art, I conceived an art based project that would provide a creative invitation to engage those within the California Collage of the Arts graduate community to make art that is unrelated to their current practice. The project and invitation would provide artists an opportunity within a free-form space wherein they could create art, eat, relax, and be entertained and inspired by who or what they find around them. The platform I used was the theme of what daughters do when their mothers are away, or a back to high school extravaganza. The thought was to inspire our early incarnations of creative freedom, mainly through high school themed social engagement with our peers and friends.

I advertised the event through flyers and e-mail posts to the CCA community and focused the event around an already existing communal space and gallery called Fish Space. Located within the graduate studios, Fish Space boasts a large fish tank, table, comfy chairs and couches, and naturally attracts circles of students that want to relax, eat, talk or read. The event was advertised from 5:00-10:00 on a Saturday, and people were asked to bring items from their high school years as well as art making materials to add to the event. To encourage art making I also collected a large stack of magazines from friends, supplies for creating collages, pens, pencils and markers for drawing, and large quantities of food and beverages for snacks and dinner. I opened the space up my moving the furniture in a circle and placed blankets on the ground for people to sit. I also rented three films for background entertainment. These included, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same, and Snoop Dog’s Film Boss’n Up. A wall adjacent to the lounge area was also available for people to display the work they created.

I was very pleased by the initial setup of the space and the number of people that attended (around fifteen). To my surprise people were absolutely exhausted and wanted to mainly lie around and eat. I couldn’t blame them, as reviews were beginning the following week. Some people brought art pieces that they were currently working on, and by the end of the event, the actual work that was initiated and finished within the space and time of the event was done by a group of three four year-olds. Between watching the movies and running around, they finished a large painting- a feat that us adult artists were too tired, or too distracted to create.

Although the project failed in terms of creative expectations, (no art made it onto the final wall) people did have the chance to catch their breath and relax.

Samples of Kamil Dawson’s project:

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As announced this week, Jeanne Finley’s Failure class at the California College of the Arts has ended. Students have submitted their final projects for the class, and the Chronicle of Artistic Failure is proud to present these young artists’ final projects for the class.

First up is Natalia Gomez. She planned a project in film and video exploring “cyclical patterns of violence.”

Natalia’s Statement for Failure Class

The anxiety was almost nauseating as the day got closer. March 17th was the day I agreed to show my video in Richard Olsen’s class. He is an art teacher at Gateway High school. I dreaded the idea of presenting my video since I was expecting the worst — no response. I expected to fail. I expected to bore these high school students. I’d walk in there and sound like a discombobulated retard. I have always hated any form of public speaking. I’ve been the quiet one who just sits and observes, too many obsessive thoughts running through my brain, making it difficult to decipher what is going on around me.

As the day arrived, I decided to bring moral support. A friend from school decided to accompany me and write a short a response of her experience of the critique. I did not take any pictures in order to create a more comfortable environment. My social phobia was increasing by the minute as the time to present was getting closer. My leg was taking a life of its own in order to calm my discomfort.

The video I chose to present was my first attempt at stop action animation. I made puppet like figures which I took individual stills of and later compiled into a movie through Windows Movie Maker. The video is violent and chaotic. It is exploring the spiraling and cyclical effects of violent acts. I am interested in exploring the ramifications of trauma on the individual. I was worried on how the class would respond to my video. I was completely surprised.

Richard Olsen showed the video and the class began to share their thoughts. One girl spoke very softly and stated that the video did not need sound. The disorienting affect of the flashing and jarring movement of the camera created its own sound. The students were very articulate and comfortable with critiquing the work. One student noted how the flowers were used to represent the male figure that was starting the vicious cycle of violence. She believed that the juxtaposition was effective. One student grinned as he noted that I made flowers insidious. While the student shared their thoughts, the instructor kept showing the video. He showed it four times. Each time the students became more and more comfortable. They began to laugh as Richard noted the corkiness of the puppets movements. The legs bent and twisted in an awkward manner. One student said that it reminded him of sex. It reached climax as the flowered patterns excreted from one of the puppet’s mouth and then it slowed down as the video went in reverse. One girl noted that the video did not need the reversal. I could just end it once the flowered patterns filled the whole screen. One student asked me what the meaning was behind this video and Richard Olsen immediately stopped him and did not let me answer. He later explained that he does not want the artist to talk for the first half of the critique. This allowed the students to give you their own interpretation without being influenced by your own thoughts. This was great because I was able to see things in my work that were not evident before. The critique only went on for 15 minutes but it was the best critique I had experienced since my time in college. They were comfortable around me which made it easier to talk about the content of the video. This created a positive and effective critique. They did not ask for my stance in making this short one minute and 18 second video. They did not stop at the surface of my work and fixate on the violence but instead explored ways that made it work and not work. Richard Olsen and his class were articulate and supportive. Since that critique I have continued talking with Richard Olsen. I feel very comfortable around him and his sense of humor is fucking great! I would do it again even though I know I would still be an anxious mess.


Richard Olsen’s Response

Natalia’s presentation was rather perfect (alas, not a failure). I think she got a lot
out of it and my kids did as well. It was really an act of sharing and exchange. I was
impressed by her and, as the daddy-teacher, my kids as well. The actual event could be
broken down to a series of levels (we showed the piece 4 times, each following
discussion, each return to the video, resulting in a higher level of engagement) but she
had a friend with her who I suspect will talk about that. At anyrate, a most delightful,
informatative, and engaging event for all. With of coruse, the art work as the
catalyst. Alas (smile), a stunning success!”




Here is Natalia Gomez’s video, “showered”:



Photos taken in Richard Olsen’s art class:

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A Statement by Jeanne Finley: 

My graduate seminar at CCA is a fail. While on sabbatical and leave for the past two years, I developed a seminar that would focus on the cultural construction of failure identities both historically and contemporarily; the failures of graduate student’s work created and shown publically during the seminar; and a further public reflection and celebration of those failures through the forum of Michael Fallons Art Failure website.

The Failure seminar filled on the first day of registration and quickly a long waitlist developed for the class. FAIL. On the first day I walked into the classroom and over twenty people were fighting for a place in the seminar. FAIL. I opened my computer and patched it into the projector. FAIL. I went around the room and asked the student’s department affiliation within the fine arts department. FAIL. I am a professor in the media arts area and have always had classes populated with about seventy-five percent media arts students. FAIL. Things had changed at CCA during my leave. FAIL. None of the students in the classroom were media arts students. FAIL. Most of them were painters. FAIL. The projector would not see the power-point presentation I had prepared. FAIL. I struggled with the technology. FAIL. Students went to the AV center to try to fix the problem. FAIL. Some of them never came back. FAIL. I told the students that most of the work I came prepared to show was media arts based work. FAIL. I gave up on power-point and presented from individual files. FAIL. I showed some things off U-tube. FAIL. I heard a student ask under their breath, “Did she just do a search on failure on u-tube?” FAIL. I showed a work of my own that was a failure in my own eyes although successful publicly. FAIL. I showed a work of mine that is a success for me although curators have been uninterested in it. FAIL. At last it was break. FAIL. Students began telling me they were dropping the seminar. FAIL. Students began saying that the description of the seminar didn’t match what was happening that first day. FAIL. By the end of the day almost everyone dropped the seminar. FAIL. Almost everyone on the waitlist left too. FAIL. I have never felt so devastated in all my years of being a professor. FAIL. Five students in total remained in the class. SUCCESS.

The intimacy of the seminar and the commitment by the students to both the seminar topic and their own work resulted in a remarkable class. We took an overnight field trip hosted by social practice artist, Gregory Gavin. Richard Olsen brought us to his high school art classroom and Tina Takamoto gave a talk on her work. The process of creating a seminar from a focused group of students through the first day’s failure was not something I would necessarily wish to repeat, but I am grateful that that it happened this semester as the seminar would never have succeeded in the way it did if we hadn’t first failed.

Here is the final project proposal from Jeanne Finley’s class on Failure, by the student Zina Al-Shukri:

What happens when people get together drawing and painting in the same room?

A show happens.

On Thursday, March 26th, I will be having a show in the place of productivity — My studio.
I am transforming my studio into a gallery called, Gallery 90.
The title of the show is:

What Happens Here Stays Here
Thursday, March 26th
6-9 pm
California College of the Arts
Graduate Center, Hooper St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

A series of small drawings and watercolors done by an emerging group of artists will be put up for display while people enjoy refreshments and the finest songs that contemporary rap can provide.

The artists involved are:
Anna Simson
Queena Hernandez
Maja Ruznic
Zina Al-Shukri
Justin Hurty
Liesa Lietzke
Brigid Mason

All of these small works on paper contain figurative content. It just so happened this way. They are all very different and are considered not to be any ‘real’ work of the artists’ in that they are secondary practices that are not really meant to be shown to the public eye.

So, all the pieces are failures.

Kamil Dawson

Fish Space Gallery Proposal

What Is Your Daughter Doing?:A proposal for an art event at the California College of the Arts Fish Space Gallery.

A weeklong event, highlighted with an opening night participant based art show and film screening. This would take place Saturday, March 28th and would be removed on April 4th, 2009.

I’d like to propose an event based on what daughters are doing. The event is prefaced by the underlined theme of what daughters do when mothers are away: watching sexy movies, eating junk food, looking at magazines, making naughty drawings, taking pictures, listening to music, as well as conversations based on “bitching” and “trash talk.”

The opening event will include a film screening of Led Zeppelin’s concert film, The Song Remains the Same, from 1976. During the duration of the film, event goers are encouraged to participate in the further mentioned activities. The documents and objects created during this event will then be displayed on the walls of the gallery for one week’s time.

The objective of this event is to encourage community and group collaboration between women, girls, boys and men in order to create a freeing and stress relieving space through the act of art making.


Erik Madsen

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I am going to document my successes and failures in my attempts to make contact with certain galleries or organizations as well as send work to a juried competition. The first venue is Alternative Television Access in San Francisco, CA, I intend to show either some experimental works on large graphic arts film or an experimental video. My second venue will be Donna Seager Gallery in San Rafel, CA , where I will attempt to get some recent works on paper exhibited. Thirdly I am going to enter an international competition for innovative printmaking. This will be held at the Musee Hamaguchi Yozo in Tokyo, Japan and is free to enter but work must be sent to Japan and will be juried in person with prizes ranging from 1 million yen for first place as well as six 400,000 yen prizes.

Here is the second project proposal from Jeanne Finley’s class on Failure, by the student Rebecca Ora:

I HAVE ASKED MY MOTHER TO MAKE ART—ANYTHING SHE CHOOSES—AND I WILL DISPLAY IT FOR HER.

My mother is a failure.

My mother is the most intelligent person I know, and the person closest to me in the world. I love her more than I love my life.
She has said that her goal, as a mother, is for each of her children to know that he or she is the favorite child.
I am my mother’s favorite child.

She single-handedly raised seven children through two failed marriages, no money.
We all went through private school, from nursery through high school, beyond.

We are

1 Columbia BA graduate, works for the Boston Symphony Orchestra
1 Masters candidate in Fine Arts
1 lawyer, NYU Law School
1 Masters candidate, Middle Eastern Politics through Hebrew University
1 Barnard College BA graduate working for Legal Aid
1 Psychology BA student, USC
1 BA candidate, Brandeis University

but she, my mother, is a failure.
She had been a silversmith, a political campaign manager in New York, a dean at our high school.

Now she has no work, and no children at home.

The reason I am my mother’s favorite is because I am an artist. My mother majored in Art History because she never thought she was good enough, never had the courage to make anything herself.
She had seven children so she wouldn’t have to make anything herself.

I have asked my mother to make art—anything she chooses—and I will display it for her.

She will never have to meet the people who will view her work, and she needs to meet no standards other than her own.

I hope to give her a sense of purpose, accomplishment by creating a sign of her presence in my endeavors and her responsibility for the achievements of her children.

My mother is not a failure.

As I announced this past weekend, all this week CAFA will be presenting proposed student projects from Jeanne Finley’s class on Failure currently running at the California College of the Arts.

First up is the following proposed project by Natalia Gomez:

I will present my 1min and 10sec stop action video in Richard Olsen’s art class at Gateway High school and have a critique or conversation after the video is presented. This video is an experimentation which explores the cyclical patterns of violence. I have created a faceless silhouette made of patterned paper which only exists to exert force and orchestrate the movements of others who then repeat these abuses of power upon others. Once trapped within these patterned cycles of violence any efforts to resist them only results in getting oneself buried even deeper within their tapestry. I will document the critique by using a voice recorder and take half an hour of the class.

An article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education, published in the wake of Brandeis University’s sell-off of the Rose Art Museum, details the effect the bad economy is having on campus support of art programs.

Without Change, Campus Arts Programs Could Risk Their Survival


By Brad Wolverton

Buried in the recent news about big endowment losses and the steps colleges are taking to weather the economic crisis is an emerging pattern: Culture, it would seem, is expendable.

First came Brandeis University’s decision to close its art museum and sell off more than 6,000 works in its collection. Then Miami University, in Ohio, and Texas Tech moved to sell or shutter their radio stations. Now Utah State University may stop its academic press.

Even Bowdoin College, a longtime supporter of the arts, which completed a $20-million renovation of its art museum in 2007, recently said it may dump its big-band jazz ensemble.

Some of that may just be skimming the fat. But faced with increasing costs and shrinking government support, more institutions may do what was once unthinkable: cut entire academic programs.

That prospect hung over a group of college presidents gathered here last week for the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Mary Pat Seurkamp, president of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, summed up the mood this way: “Some people are saying, ‘We know our mission and we love the liberal arts. But you don’t have to have all of them.’”

The recession is intensifying administrators’ scrutiny of underperforming majors, leading to tough questions: Are those majors helping to drive enrollment and revenue? Do they have a vocal or wealthy constituency? If not, maybe they should go.

“It’s a bad stew,” says Harriet Zuckerman, a senior vice president at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, one of the biggest supporters of the arts and humanities on campuses. “These are episodic symptoms of what is likely to become a more serious problem.”

As the economic downturn has deepened, colleges have demonstrated a swiftness for shedding programs whose goals have not been aligned with core missions.

Art experts say that may help explain the fall of the Rose Art Museum, at Brandeis….