Another excellent but very different class is finished; I’ve had today to sleep in a bit, regroup, do laundry, say most goodbyes and write this blog in little quiet chunks.
I’ve been so happy to be back at WSW. But last night, I was left wondering about a phenomenon that’s occurred both times I’ve taught dual classes here. The first class (which is technically the second, because it is created from the waiting list for the one that fills up first) truly bonds as a group: someone creates an e-mail list before the class is half over; people go to eat or shop together, and at the end, everyone eagerly wants a session to look over and document all the work that’s happened, including the taking of multi-camera group photos of the people it’s happened with: new friends.
The second group simply doesn’t. It’s not as if there’s antagonism or unfriendliness; there’s banter, work and laughter, but everyone remains separate somehow, with much less interest in what others are inventing with the same resources, or rather, the interest is there but is not unanimous; inevitably, several people are sadly disappointed that others just want to pack up and go. (And it’s not as if the earlier group is any less focused on their individual work, either).
It seems odd to have had the pattern repeat twice. I teach the same in both sessions, (which is pretty much the same as I always do). There are two differences in circumstances. First, the earlier group is the only one here that week; the Summer Arts Institute hasn’t begun in earnest, so they are the sole class at lunches with staff and interns; so perhaps they spend more time talking to each other, and the next group to folks in other classes. Secondly, there was a much wider age range in the earlier groups. In the second groups everyone was hovering somewhere in the vicinity of middle age. That makes me wonder: is there an age at which, culturally, we just stop expecting that we will make new friends?
During the week I invited a couple of folks from other classes out to dinner; they accepted, and then at the last moment, backed out. Because of the difference in my classes I briefly wondered if there might be a similar contributing factor, as in, ‘I have enough friends in the field.’ Then I simply concentrated on having a nice (solo) evening out.
Personally, I still love meeting new people (and getting to know briefly-met people better), even though I need to do that in different, smaller ways than before my deafness. My reluctance to join large gatherings and my inability to effectively participate in group conversations are often read as indifference or hostility, and I must constantly work hard to overcome that perception, something that’s difficult to do with exhausted-from-teaching ears, so perhaps that was a factor as well.
Yet, I have to admit that during the past two weeks, I turned down multiple invitations from WSW folks to go on daily group swimming trips, and, well: I wasn’t honest about why. I need to swim deaf; hearing aids can’t get wet. Water gets in my eyes and then I can’t see either, so I crash into people and things, and I hate that. I only feel confident swimming alone, in a roped-off pool lane, wearing goggles. I don’t know why I didn’t admit this, why it’s easier to write about than to say, but it is. So most likely, all these musings are moot, and there are things other folks don’t quite know how to say as well, that make for less cohesive groups.
I truly enjoyed both classes, and each of the individuals in them, both years, but I have to admit that, as groups, I liked the earlier classes just a wee bit more, simply because they appreciated each other so thoroughly. That enthusiasm is simply contagious.
Tonight, I had a nice dinner and great conversation with incoming instructors who did accept an invitation: Dorothy and Catherine. I only heard oh, about a third of the talk over the noise in the cafe, but what I heard was lovely and rich.
I’d like to stay at Women’s Studio Workshop for weeks more, and I’m sad to leave. I inevitably come away with much more and very different insights than I anticipated. Maybe it’s time to apply for another residency. But for now: I’m back on the road.
Today’s images are only three of the works by Merike Van Zanten, an artist I first met at PBI in 2010. It was great to see her again in the second class, and especially to see the many, many fascinating things she came up with: experiments, finished works, and prototypes for new work as well…it will be very interesting to see what happens when these materials are incorporated with her already formidable palette.