I'm happy to announce that Jim Vieira will be doing his second tour of duty as a guest in my Forbidden Archaeology class. He'll be with us for two class periods in mid-October. During the first class period he'll give his presentation; during the second the students will ask him questions. In between class periods he and I will discuss double rows of teeth, the secrets of the vast academic conspiracy of which I am an important part, and great moments in the history of stone masonry. I'll also make him walk through my art exhibit downtown.
It has been a busy few weeks. As usual, I have more topics than time. At this point, I'm going to just accept that my blog sometimes functions as an open access journal. Here is the bullet point version of what I've been up to. We'll do art first, then archaeology.
The Jasper Artist of the Year Is . . . Not Me
As I wrote in December, I was one of three finalists nominated for Jasper Artist of the Year (in the visual arts category). The awards ceremony was last Friday. I did not win the award: that honor went to Trahern Cook. I met some new people, drank some wine, and had a good time (the picture above was taken there). Congratulations to all the winners!
New Pieces Over the Holidays
In addition to "Desire," I completed several other smallish pieces over the holiday break.
Fact Bucket Videos: Six Down, One to Go
I'm still working to finish up editing the student videos from my Forbidden Archaeology class last semester. I finished one on Atlantis last week and one on pyramids today. You can find them on my YouTube channel, along with videos about my archaeological fieldwork and my art.
New Grant For Collections Work
I'm happy to announce that I have received grant monies from the Archaeological Research Trust to continue inventorying and preliminary analysis of chipped stone projectile points from the Larry Strong Collection. You may remember me writing about working with the Early Archaic materials a while ago. I'm still working with those (more on that later), but now I'm going to move on in time and process the Middle and Late Archaic stuff. Part of the rationale is that I'll be dealing with those time periods in the materials we've been excavated at the field school.
South Carolina Archaeology Class: We're Making a Movie
I'm teaching South Carolina Archaeology (ANTH 321) this semester. The class is bigger than in years past. That's good from an enrollment standpoint, but a challenge from a teaching standpoint. In the spirit of experimentation, I decided to build in a class video project. We'll be making a video attempting to showcase the archaeology of this state. I've divided the students up into groups and given them topics (mostly organized chronologically) that they're responsible for. They're going to research their topics and develop proposals about what issues, artifacts, sites, and people should be included the video. Then we'll take it from there.
Today I submitted a grant proposal for systematic exploratory work on the deep deposits at 38FA608 (the field school site). We know now several things about the sediments below the Middle Archaic zones: (1) they're deep; (2) they're Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene in age; and (3) they contain artifacts. I don't believe I've mentioned it publicly, but I submitted a sample for OSL data from the deepest stratum we've documented so far (about 5m below the original surface) and it returned a result around the Last Glacial Maximum. Also, we've found an Early Archaic Kirk point in a disturbed part of the site. What all that means is that the landform did indeed exist at the end of the last Ice Age and (minimally) Early Archaic peoples were using it. In other words, there's a really good potential for some very high integrity buried archaeology there. Fingers crossed.
In other news . . . our 2003 4Runner finally suffered a terminal injury. And I'm tearing out our rotted deck. And I've started working a rabbit sculpture that's big enough to sit on. It will have a tractor seat. And a gear shift. And a dashboard.
And now you are up to date.
Flavia Lovatelli and I have several things in common: (1) we both live in Columbia; (2) we both do art using discarded junk; and (3) we're both finalists for the Jasper Artist of the Year award. We also both ran "summer selfie" contests last that were largely ignored by the public. The result is that we won each other's contests, which means we're making each other art.
We decided that we'd make each other the "same" thing. Flavia picked the subject: crows. I picked the title "Desire." I don't know when they'll be done, but I do know we've both started. I settled on an idea and started putting pieces together earlier in the week. I know that Flavia's got a least a couple of coats of paint down. That's about all I can say at this point. Maybe we can exchange the pieces at the awards ceremony.
In other news: the domestication of the dog continues unabated. Have a nice weekend!
I wanted to pass on the online version of this article ("The Fine Scale of Time" by Megan Sexton) that ran in the USC Times earlier this fall. It's a short piece about my work at 38FA608. The photo is me examining some of the conjoining lithic debris from the Guilford-age deposit at the site. Enjoy!
I'm happy to announce that "Passenger," my 10'-story-bear-with-butterfly-wings, has been accepted into the 2019 ArtFields competition. It's an honor to be included, and somewhat of a validation of the amount of time and energy I put into the piece. The idea percolated for months (years?) before I began bringing it into reality last May. I sweated over it all summer and we went through several love/hate cycles together. I'm glad it's in.
Since I finished the piece in November it has been gathering leaves in the driveway behind my house. I walk by it almost every day and barely notice it. It's a strange feeling to go from thinking about and struggling with something almost every day to forgetting it's there. Especially when it's a 10' bear with butterfly wings.
If you like art and you live in the region, I hope you'll visit ArtFields in Lake City this spring -- it's a really cool event and you'll see a lot of fantastic artwork. I hope "Passenger" ends up somewhere in town where you couldn't miss it if you tried.
A final plug: voting is still open for Jasper Project Artist of the Year. I've been nominated in the Visual Arts category. If you like my artwork, please take a moment and vote for me!
The second student project video from this year's Forbidden Archaeology class is now posted on YouTube. In this video, three students discuss some of the evidence that's bandied about for the extra-terrestrial origin of the Anunnaki. They've already gotten their first thumbs down. Enjoy!
As I mentioned earlier, we're making videos in this year's iteration of my Forbidden Archaeology course. The twenty students in the class split up into seven groups and have been working on developing their topics, doing their research, and preparing their scripts.
Last Monday, we taped the speaking parts for the first video and I edited it together over the break. The videos briefly explores the history of ideas/claims that the earth is hollow, and then discusses reasons why that can't be true. Here it is:
I had several goals in mind when I designed this video project. First, it was one opportunity (among several in the course) for students to go through the process of understanding the history/context of a claim and evaluating it based on evidence. Second, I wanted them to think about how to present a message in the format I gave them and all the constraints that come with it. Third, I wanted to produce what I call "persistent resources" that can live independently online and be found by curious people looking for information. I chose the video format because my sense is that we can reach a different audience than would be possible using writing.
Like many of the things I've done so far in my brief teaching career, this is an experimental project. I hope these videos turn out well, I hope the students get something out of it, and I hope they prove to be useful resources for others as well.
I spent most of my art time during the summer and fall working on "Passenger," a 10' tall sculpture depicting a bear with butterfly wings. It's my entry for ArtFields 2019, the submission deadline for which was November 5. It was a push but I got it done, got it photographed, and got it entered. I'll find out on December 18 if it made it into the competition. I'll let you know either way.
There are more pictures of the finished piece in the gallery section of my art website. I made five videos over the course of making it. It was easily my most ambitious art project to date. As with most things, it didn't turn out exactly how I had pictured it when I started. But it did come pretty close to my vision, and there are many aspects of it that I really like.
I didn't realize until about halfway through making this piece that the posture I chose for the bear -- standing, head forward, with slumped shoulders -- is really similar to the posture I chose for a small plaster sculpture I made all way back in the early 1990's when I was living in Carbondale, Illinois. That posture, in turn, was based on the painting "Male Model" by Henry Matisse, which was the cover image on my copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. According to my notes in the jacket, I read that book in 1992 and 1996. I carried my little plaster man sculpture around with me for years, unfinished, until one holiday spent alone in Ann Arbor (Christmas-New Year's 2008? 2009?) I went to work. I built him a set of wings from the odds and ends I had sitting around -- worn out clothes, tin cans, old screws, umbrella parts. I poured what was left of the enamel model paints I had over his shoulders.
I can't really put my finger on why the pose appeals to me and seems to be lurking somewhere in my subconscious. And I don't think I could really dissect the piece and explain and assign meaning to all the different parts. It just doesn't work that way. Some of you may think it's frightening, or threatening, or ugly, or whatever. Maybe it's all those things to you. But to me it's much more than that. There's beauty and currents in it that, for me anyway, aren't just about aesthetics. I guess that's why I don't paint pretty pictures with trees and sunsets and boats. No offense to those of you that do.
Anyway, this creature is now living in my driveway until further notice. I have no idea how ArtFields makes their decisions, but I'm hoping my lack of enthusiasm for delving into the meaning of the meaning of the piece in my entry doesn't hurt my chances of getting in. Ultimately, in my opinion, good art is about feeling something deep in your heart and in your bones (whether you're the creator or the audience). If I need to explain to you how the piece is supposed to make you feel, I didn't make good art. And if I can explain to you what the piece makes me feel, I didn't dig deep enough.
This year in Forbidden Archaeology, the students are making videos as group projects. They are currently working on finishing up their scripts, and we'll start taping segments next week. There is a range of a topics, but all have something to do with "fringe" claims about the human past. Barring any total breakdowns, there will be seven student videos in all. Hopefully I'll be able to start posting them in December.
As I was planning out what to this semester, I decided that making videos would be a way for the students to work on several different elements of critical thinking and communication. It would also give us an opportunity (I hope) to engage with a different audience than the 2016 class did with their blog posts. It's an experiment, so I won't really know what the broader impacts are until the videos are done and we see what the reaction is.
I made an example video so the students could get a better idea of what I was thinking of in terms of length, graphics, etc. I chose to talk about the "red-haired cannibal giants" of Nevada, and I threw this video together in a few hours on Friday afternoon. Enjoy!
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