Friday, March 31, 2006

Campus Events for Women's Month: A Roundup

I have had the good fortune that my schedule allowed me some moments to attend some of the campus events celebrating Women's Month. From scholars to artists, I have had a chance to broaden my horizons and learn a thing or two in the process. I always take notes so I can blog abou the events later, but this month has been too hectic to allow me to blog the events right away. So, here then, is a small roundup:

  • On March 7, 2006, I attended the presentation by Houston artist Angela Beloian. Ms. Beloian's presentation integrated slides with narrative. She began by telling her audience about why she paints. Some of the reasons include triumph and defeat, to understand why, and to find hope. She does a good amount of her work on wood. One technique she employs is to find images in the patterns of the wood. She discovers these patterns and then creates the painting. In this process, she says that serendipity often surprises the artist. The female figure is very important to her work. She asks in her work how does the environment influence us. She noted that in working with wood sometimes she has to choose from many images she may see in the wood, which one to show, which one to hide. A trick of a trade she revealed is that she turns her other works around when working on a project. This is so as not to look at her older works while working on a current project. Readers can find information and samples of her work here.
  • On March 8, 2006, I went to the presentation entitled "El Lamento de los Muros" ("The Wailing of the Walls") by Argentinian photographer Paula Luttringer. Her work is being exhibited as part of Houston's Fotofest, a biennial event of photography and photo-related art. Ms. Luttringer's work is based on interviews of women kidnapped during Argentina's Dirty War era. The photos were taken at various secret prison locations. The presentation integrated photos with narratives of the survivors. As I sat there looking at the photos and listening, I was reminded of reading the works of Griselda Gambaro, an Argentinian playwright whose works deal with this time period as well. I read Gambaro's work, and even wrote a research paper on her works, for a graduate drama course. So, back to this note. The darkness of the lecture hall added to the eerie and even slightly oppressive effect on the audience. One of the women in the narrative mentioned that this could happen in any society. The secret prisons were really hospitals, schools, and other common buildings which the torturers used for their purposes. Some of these places are now closed; others have been abandoned. The photographer, a survivor herself, is interested in the memory. The images in the photos are cryptic, and this is part of the memories. From the audience, I got the impression that many of them were not terribly well-read or informed given questions wondering why this happened. Yet, in asking the survivors, we are told they cannot give a reason why they were taken or why they survived. If asked, the photographer is not sure what her work is about. Also, the aftermath of the experience is a problem as well. Dealing with the aftermath interests Ms. Luttringer. It's not only what the experiences mean to the individual but what they mean to society. On a brief aside note, readers wanting to read something on Argentina's Dirty War may want to consider this book.
  • On March 20, 2006, I had the opportunity to hear some poetry and creative writing as I ventured to a Women's Reading session. Faculty and students read from their creative works. The event was very informal, and it provided a way for the community to hear the voices of the women on campus. These are women who may complicate things, make us outraged, or uncomfortable, or even warm. The works had a diverse range of themes. One poet read of her summer experiences, which she explored in a poetry sequence, often using the energy of her dreams. A second one gave us poems dedicated to women in her life, one of those women being her martial arts teacher. Another author gave us a monologue from a play she has been working on; the monologue's character is a wealthy woman reflecting on her philanthropy, blending humor and anger as she is displeased with her daughter. Another poet reflected on her experiences, blending humor and history, with references from George Orwell to Zora Neale Hurston, regaling the audience with a prose poem "About the White Dudes I Like to Date." And let us not forget the student readers. One who gave us observations on the human condition, about mothers and their limitless intuitions, of strong women who cannot be bound. The other a brief poem to her mother and her old van with such a sense of evocation and longing, blending English and Spanish in the verses.
  • And on March 23, 2006, I got to learn about Shakespeare and his friends from Professor Kate Pogue, author of the book Shakespeare's Friends. For this event, we met in the campus gallery surrounded by works of art. She began by answering some common questions, such as what inspired the book. A lecture on the topic of Shakespeare and friendship inspired it. Friendship is a theme present in many of the Bard's works. For instance, Othello and Iago show a failed friendship. But this is more a book about the playwright's friends. Researching some of this is possible through records, like his will. The idea of the book is to illuminate Shakespeare's life through his friends. The book gives an overview of Shakespeare's life, brief biographies, and then it goes on to show how his friends illustrated his life. We heard the story of the building of the Globe Theater, which was a bit confrontational, but I will leave that so readers may go seek the book. As soon as I read it, I may make a note in the blog.
There are still a couple of events left, but I will blog those later.

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