Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Scattered Bits of Brilliance

I'm now moving into the time of the semester where I have the opportunity to indulge in my hobby of playing student. As a longtime judge of the Graduate Teaching Excellence Award, I'm going to be sitting in on classes in disciplines including studio art, anthropology, French, all taught by graduate student instructors nominated by their departments as outstanding teachers. When I go, taking notes in diligent student style, I'm always on the lookout for not only excellent presentation of the material and successful engagement with the students, but also for little piercing and beautiful insights that I can take with me in living my life. The latter is not a criterion I use in judging the award, it's just something that makes my time in each classroom more meaningful. I like the feeling of being on a treasure hunt, a scavenger hunt for scattered bits of brilliance.

Yesterday evening I observed a photography class for non-majors taught in the Visual Arts Complex. It was wonderful. The students have an assignment to create a series of self-portraits focusing on "identity." To begin the class, the teacher presented work of some of his own favorite photographers who had done self-portraits, such as Arno Rafael Minkkinen and Cindy Sherman. I loved seeing their work through his eyes.

Here are some of the most memorable lines I wrote in my notes:

"There's millions of 1/25s of a second out there."
"This photo is not worth a thousand words; it's worth a thousand questions."
In the assignment given: "Be whatever you want to be. You have authority over your own self-portrait."

I want to get a camera now! And even if I don't, in my writing, in my novels and my poetry, I want to be on the lookout for the most significant 1/25 of a second - I want to write a thousand words that are worth a thousand questions. And maybe I CAN be whatever I want to be, at least in my own self-portrait.

Thank you, Jesse Kuroiwa.

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