Letters to My Students 

One letter to the students in my Beginning Sculpture course and one letter to the students in my Critical Seminar in Contemporary Art course 

2020

At the end of the Spring 2020, we were still enduring the Covid-19 global pandemic. I was teaching two courses—Beginning Sculpture and Critical Seminar in Contemporary Art—online via Zoom to keep our communities safe from contracting the coronavirus. As the end of the academic semester drew near, I became preoccupied with how to conclude my courses in a meaningful way. How do you say goodbye to groups of students during a global pandemic? How do you say goodbye that isn't just an awkward Zoom wave and closing of my web browser? How do you say goodbye to students that continued to foreground their education despite a time of consistent uncertainty, political chaos, rising unemployment—bracketed by the fear of getting sick? I decided to write them letters which I read over Zoom at the end of each class. They are frank, vulnerable, somewhat circuitous, and a little inspiring.

Foundation 

2014

book of poems

The words in this book of poetry were appropriated from Youtube videos of young girls providing makeup tutorials for online audiences.

 

12 Youtube videos were selected and carefully transcribed to include every "uhm" and "uh." Videos were chosen based on their titles. They had to indicate a grade or age that the makeup look was intended for. For example, "natural 4th grade makeup" was the title for one video. The girls providing these tutorials ranged from age five to age twelve and their videos were uploaded from 2012 to 2014. 

 

The process of transcription was done manually. I listened to the videos again and again—playing, rewinding, pausing, typing, playing—in order to get an accurate transcription. It was tedious, intimate, a bit heartbreaking, and familiar for I was also one of those girls who made up makeup tutorials, but for the silence of my bedroom, not anonymous Youtube viewers. 

After transcription, the language was divided according to makeup product and restructured into poems about that product. Foundation, Eye Shadow, Blush, Mascara, Lip Gloss. Between tutorial instructions, there are many mentions for the desire to be natural, how a lot goes a long way, confidence, and to be sure to not do too much because they're just kids.

Interview with Bertha the Skanky Couch 

email exchange

2015

Bertha the Skanky Couch was the name of a couch that was a fixture of my MFA program at Penn State University. Many students sat on her between classes. She often appeared in student work. She was the perfect sleeping spot for all-nighters. One day, us students received an e-mail from Bertha. She relayed announcements and important dates making us aware of clogged sinks, university deadlines, and final critique dates. Not only was she helpful, she had flair to her writing style, and sass. As her e-mails came more frequently to my inbox, I decided to e-mail back to see what she would say (and try to figure out who Bertha was). 

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On Mon, Mar 2, 2015, 11:17pm, Bertha The Skanky Sculpture Couch <berthatheskankysculpturecouch@psu.edu> wrote:  

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On Tue, Mar 3, 2015, 1:18pm, Bertha The Skanky Sculpture Couch <berthatheskankysculpturecouch@psu.edu> wrote: