Saturday, November 19, 2011

Jerry Ropson and Narrative Art

Our Contemporary Art History class had a special guest, Jerry Ropson, visual artist, story teller and Assistant Professor at Mount Allison University, this past Wednesday. He gave an engaging presentation of his work and discussed his ideas surrounding narrative, in relation to his own art practice. All through the presentation he referred to his attachment to his woodshed at home and how he was given the chore of bringing in wood to the wood box from an early age. He had a love hate/relationship with this woodshed. His  attachment to wood splitting became a central theme of a large part of his art work. The woodshed was a very significant part of his psyche growing up and I think has been become symbolic of his deep connection with where he is from, his family and life in rural Newfoundland.

The fact that Jerry grew up in isolated Newfoundland close knit community, lends itself to story telling, making your own entertainment, which is embedded in a strong history of oral tradition. Unfortunately much of our own oral tradition has be lost within our North American culture, with the exception of some isolated communities and First Nations people. However I think it can be said, there is a revival of sorts happening, in the contemporary development of narrative arts.

Recently I sat down and spoke with Jerry about story telling. He shared with me the experience he had doing a residence with a woman known as the Dean of story telling, Gioia Timpanelli. She is definitely the consummate story teller. I think Jerry has been influenced Gioia Timpanelli, in the sense that this has been one of the life experiences that helped him to gain a sound understanding of his art practice enabling him to bring together his personal and professional art practice. Like Kiki Smith he has learned to trust his intuition and come to understand and appreciate his family and cultural heritage that are all part and parcel of his art practice and work.

While in New York City, I saw Tony Smith's sculpture, at The Whitney Museum, in New York City. My Professor Dr. Anne Koval informed me he was Kiki Smith's father. I have to say I am a great fan of Kiki Smith and find her art to be very much about narrative. She comes from a Catholic Irish family and I find it fascinating that she considers Catholicism to be about story telling. So much of the Catholic imagery, belief in the Virgin Mary, festivals and etc., directly and indirectly comes out of the Celtic history with worship of the Goddess, relating to archetype, and mythical stories through oral tradition.

Communication, language and oral tradition I have always been very drawn to. In particular story telling has been a constant in my life, which has been for me like numerous guideposts that help to form and confirm my belief that in order to grow, we must be willing to fail and make mistakes. This is what it means to be human.  Narrative art to me is a spiritual kind of journey and is about the human experience, and human beings as story telling creatures.


Indigene said...

Thanks for sharing, this! I love the connection between the Goddess and Catholic history!

Unknown said...

Thank you Indigene. Yes me too. I always loved The Virgin Mary. But now I understand why! It's about the Goddess!