BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


begging, one more time
March 31, 2010, 10:23 pm
Filed under: rants and such | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As I am now hearing back from MFA programs it’s once again time to deal with finances, and the humiliation of asking for money or resources all the time. My room mate suggested I should keep all the letters and documents I have written to ask for some sort of assistance so I can survive.

All the food stamps paperwork, grants, scholarships, utility assistance letters. The essay to try to get money for florence’s braces, the financial aid pleas to various schools, the letters to my landlord asking to lower rent. It can keep on going, I think.

The second step would be to interview the people around me and ask them how it is that they do what they do, especially the people I have around at school. Last night this eminent intellectual guy came to speak to my class, and he went off about class, communism, corporations, and the economy of generosity. Someone in the class asked him how he makes ends meet, and he answered that he writes, gets some commissions, and than his mother died leaving him enough money to buy a house in Paris, and save up enough to never worry about whether what he is doing makes any money.

I appreciate his candor, but it made me feel like shit, hopeless about my own predicament. After class I was talking to a classmate I really like and he frankly told me that his parents help him out with rent while he is in school, and he is 28, not 18. Again, I appreciate his willingness to share this truth, but it doesn’t give me many tools to imagine how I can live the life I want.

On one side I feel like it’s incredibly selfish and entitled to even feel like I can desire a certain life, but on the other side I am sick of seeing people with privilege being the only ones able to live fulfilling lives that are not bogged down by a constant preoccupation with survival.

SAIC offered me not even enough to cover half of their tuition for the next two years, and I had to appeal to the Financial Aid department. I am in between humiliated and defiant right now, and hopeful that they don’t totally shut me down, while being frustrated with the fact that I am still dependent on an elite, wealthy institution.

Here is the letter I wrote, because I am sick of these things being secret, and I am sick of feeling that everyone is very good at talking about art and ideals and blah blah, but talking  about what makes it financially viable or possible is super taboo.

I am an incoming MFA in painting, and a current post bac in the same department.  I am committed to the school because of its focus on helping us become the best artists we can be, without forcing us into one mold or narrow discipline.

I am a single parent to 10-year-old twins, and the first person in my family to graduate from college. I left Italy partly to leave the abuse and dysfunction of my family, and came to the US with my then 2-year-old daughters in 2002.

I worked relentlessly, and in five years had a triple degree in art history, international studies and painting from Indiana University with a GPA of 3.9. I was working, taking care of my daughters, and volunteering at a domestic violence shelter, because I wanted to try to break the cycle that affected me so deeply. During that time I accrued significant debt in order to go to school, as I had no financial help from my family, or anyone else.

I came to SAIC after laboring to make sense of my place within the art world, which, coming from poverty, seemed impossible to penetrate financially and intellectually. However I realized that such a sense of self-exclusion only keeps the pool of people that are successfully making art restricted to the ones that have had the social capital, means and time to dedicate themselves to art making.

I was able to come to SAIC thanks to a scholarship that covered the cost of tuition. To cover living expenses, I took student loans, and now have a total debt of $35,000. In this year as a post bac I have learned an incredible amount about myself as an artist and I can’t wait to continue this process during graduate school.

As I read over the financial aid packet I realized that my biggest fear of having worked so hard, and then having to give it all up because of money, was materializing before my eyes. Tuition alone at the school is $37,000, and I was only awarded $13,400 in grant funds.  In addition $6,000 of the award is work study, which I have not had much luck with this year. I am taking 15 credits, which only leaves me a day to work if I want to have any time in the studio at all.  The pay for work study is anywhere between $9 and $11.50 an hour, which left me making only about $900 dollars per semester working 7 hours a week.

The loans offer of $20,500 in Stafford loans still barely covers tuition, and will lead me to accrue $40,000 of debt in the course of two years.

Still, I would not be able to survive, even if I accepted the Stafford loans, since they would only cover tuition.

The additional $15,000 of the award is private loans. I am not in the position to take those loans.  As I mentioned, I have $35,000 of debt between this year and undergrad because I was shouldering the cost of school completely, without any outside support, and working.

SAIC prides itself on making students the best artist they can be, but that is a paradox, if my chief preoccupation coming out of school will be “where in the world can I find the $600 a month to pay back my student loans?”, not to mention just dealing with the cost of living for me and my daughters.

SAIC also prides itself on valuing diversity, but how diverse can a school be when the only people that can attend come from a highly privileged background?

I have many documents that show my situation and financial need. I have my IL food stamps award, or my checking account statement, or my tax return, and a plethora of other documents that can support this letter. Please let me know what you need and I will be happy to provide it.

thank you
chiara

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saya woolfalk!
February 3, 2010, 1:16 am
Filed under: artsy art | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tonight I went to see the lecture by Saya Woolfalk and it got me thinking about art, the fetishism of otherness, and white guilt.

Saya makes amazing work about utopia, or what she calls “no place”. She works with ideas of fables and stories as a place where people can try different realities and possibilities. Her work used to be very much about gender and race in an overt way. She used to include images of genitalia and tropes of blackness in her art but she found that instead of questioning issues of race or gender they reinforced them.

I am sure her process is much more complicated than this, but she then decided to create “no place”, a utopia of how the world could be, populated by beings that can fluctuate through gender and color. Saya is herself Japanese, Caucasian and African American, so the sense of having to think about identity and race seems very personal. I related very much to that, the sense of being other, of not fitting, of being part of identities that are societally disconnected.

What I started wondering about once I got out of the lecture has not much to do with Saya’s work per se, but the bigger questions of people that are identified as “other” somehow being successful within the art world.

I would even venture to say that there is a sense of otherness being exotic, and desirable. If a gallery/museum/ art institution is exhibition work from a white anglo dude, than boring boring boring. It’s all about finding the most other, the farthest away from the canon. Though it seems that there is a positive change in whose voices are heard, I can’t help to also feel ill at ease.

Are the “others” just being fetishised? Are “others” becoming some sort of collective superficial riddance of white guilt? I am always weary of being seen as an exotic other, and I am especially weary of space that seems to be given to me because of it.

I have not talked to other people who are not white, not American, or straight or whatever other deviance from normalcy about feeling fetishised, or feeling used , but I am very interested to know how “successful” artists feel about this, or if it’s something that they think about.



twenty and ten
February 2, 2010, 3:41 pm
Filed under: rants and such | Tags: , , , , ,

long time without a post, maybe the flood of things to say was too dense to sort through and edit. i always have the illusion that i want this blog to be about an organized set of ideas, or topics, but i am continually faced with the impossibility of that.
my life is not neat and the boundaries between all the different parts unclear. so i slowly came to the decision that it can all exist in one place, though disjointed and messy.
in these past few months i have been throwing around the big questions about life and what exactly it is that i am doing. no answers yet, i am figuring it’s easier to approach those questions by a process of elimination. after 3 months spent in the studio with the pressure of making stuff for a portfolio review, for example, i am coming to think that making things should be something that can exist collaboratively, away from the romantic loneliness myth of the Artist. i also want the stuff i make to exist outside of the studio, or the gallery, and inhabit the world at large.
two good friends are pregnant and it is very shocking to be faced with adulthood, with the prospect that i am at a time in my life when people actually start having children, and i am not the only one with that experience (not in the world of course, but in my circle of friends).
i am still biting my nails and coping with life’s harshness by eating sugar. that did not change.
being bombarded by the coverage of haiti i have come to realize that there is no or little background information about the history of the country that has caused the present conditions to be possible in the first place ( earthquake aside). i will be looking up info and posting a very brief history of haiti ASAP.

well, the wiki page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiti), is pretty decent even though there are lots of qualitative language to sort through that is not necessarily objective or even trying to be. but it’s a starter

ok



the fly by months
October 14, 2009, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

for all the activity that is been going on in my brain it’s surprising i have not sat down for a second to actually put in into words. there are different kinds of busy, the one i am experiencing now is non stop from the moment you wake to the moment you close your eyes at night kind of busy. it seems impossible to always be doing something targeted and deliberate, but it is my present condition. i was thinking about the name of this blog, and how gender justice has been such a undercurrent for my life, i thought my involvement with social justice stuff would never change.
however i have to come to terms with my choices and what it is that i love doing VS who i would like to be in theory in my head.
the thing is i love making visual things. it is the space, besides music where i am the happiest and most satisfied. but i don’t know how to come to terms with what that life choice involves. i am going to one of the most elite schools in the nation for art, without paying for it, granted, but i still have to contend in how to orient myself with that privilege, and with the reality of taking up space and resources for my own happiness and fulfillment.
maybe i just lack imagination, but artistic practice seems so fraught with elitism, and intellectual prejudice.
incomplete thoughts for now, gotta go!



missed connections
August 14, 2009, 1:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

being in a new city is making me obsess over how people meet and form relationships, because i am around people all the time, but they are perfect strangers, a strong unbreakable wall keeping us divided.

so enter the missed connections, my own attempt at understanding what draws people to each other, as a starter we have women for men, and my rendition of the desired person:

Macedonian Guy At Lincolnwood Produce – w4m – 30 (Lincolnwood)

Date: 2009-08-10, 12:56PM CDT

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You will probably never read this but I saw you last Thursday at Lincolnwood Produce and waited behind you at the second register since lane one was closed. I told you how nice your Orthodox cross looked and you said thank you. I buckled down to talk more but when I asked you for your number you looked at me kind of funny and said you were in a serious relationship. Maybe you were surprised that I was the one asking you for your number. Then you paid and walked off quickly. You had on a white cut off tee, tan shorts, had facial hair and cute dimples. I thought you were Greek when I started speaking Greek to you but you told me you were Macedonian. It never hurt anyone to go for some thrills but you are committed. I never got your NAME! I will probably run into you again. I will be there this Thursday!

 

Location: Lincolnwood

DSC02640

We talked about a lizard while your son ran around – w4m – 26 (Shedd Aquarium)

Date: 2009-08-11, 8:02PM CDT

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You have long hair and were dressed kinda granola. You were with an adorable little boy about 3 or 4 years old and he was running in circles around us. I loved watching you play with him. I assume he was your son, but I didn’t see anyone with you or notice a ring. I wanted to talk to you more but your smile made me a little flustered. On the off chance that you read this and you happen to be an awesome SINGLE dad, I would love to talk again, not necessarily about lizards this time, though it was fun.

 

Location: Shedd Aquarium

DSC02645



excuses and failures
March 6, 2009, 8:09 pm
Filed under: rants and such, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

i don’t know when failure became a bad word. it’s inevitable, and it opens up possibilities that we had not yet considered. if everything always went as planned, we would probably still live in a middle ages-like world. science progresses because of failures, changes of course and the unexpected. 

but we treat failure as the ultimate judgement about our self worth.

no, thanks.

as i am waiting for the responses from graduate schools and getting rejection letters, and acceptance letters, i am trying to make sense of all the pressures and expectations i am putting on myself, and the ones i am getting from others. i am trying to figure out how much the rejection letters are saying anything about me, or say more about a system where privilege, again, is the key to receiving a thick admission letter. how much does it matter that you can pay someone thousands of dollars to take professional looking photos? or to buy material to make art, or to not have to work and have the time to spend hours making stuff?

my guess is, a lot. so i am torn between refusing to make excuses for myself, and taking into account that i am not playing on an even field. i am exhausted, and frustrated and sick of seeing the ramification of privilege, at my own limitations , and the reality that working hard sometimes it’s just not enough.

it’s too easy to be bitter, to watch the calls of admission being strongly correlated to who has the cash between my school mates, and not even really knowing what to do with that observation…

what i know is that i refuse to sit quietly in the corner carved for me by society, by all the -isms. and that i will try to leave people the space to be themselves, and to support them in their search for a meaning. and that i will try not to become a hater.