Last night I finished reading Illeana Douglas' memoir called, I Blame Dennis Hopper and boy, did I enjoy it! I'm a sucker for Hollywood stories, but I am especially interested in the stories told by people like Illeana Douglas. People who are funny, hard working, and reveal an authentic love for the craft, the roots and the history of whatever it is they do.
During our lunch break at school yesterday, I was listening to my fellow teacher, Niki, talk about her friend's daughter who had an unexpected experience lead to a sweet costuming job in Hollywood, and I had read a section in the memoir that related to Niki's friend's daughter's experience, so I shared what I had read as a way to express, "sometimes that's just the way it happens!" Another teacher, Armando, who teaches math and loves movies (especially low-budget horror films) overheard our conversation and recognized the name, Illeana Douglas, and asked me why I mentioned her. I told him that I was reading her memoir while commuting to and from work on the bus and train, and that I was really enjoying it.
He was curious to know what led me to reading about her and asked me what it was that drew me to her, initially. He wanted to know about the first time I took notice of her in films. It's fun talking to Armando about movies, music and pop culture, because we have a similar sensibility, and it's nice to talk to a teacher about something other than kids or teaching. Also, I appreciated his question, because I didn't know how to answer it. I couldn't remember the first time I took note of her, but I know that I saw and liked the 1991 version of Cape Fear and I liked her in To Die For as well as Allison Anders' Grace of My Heart... It would be many years later that I found her web series, Easy To Assemble, which is hands-down one of my all-time favorite creative projects in existence. (It's so smart, warm, meta, and funny!)
Then I remembered Ghost World. "Ghost World!" I exclaimed. I asked Armando if he saw the film, and he had. He read the graphic novel before watching the film, and is a fan of Daniel Clowes' work. After he told me a bit about the author, we got back to the movie, when he remembered that Illeana Douglas played the part of the art teacher. I said, "When I first saw this character I could not believe how correctly she depicted a high school art teacher, and I vowed to never, ever, become a high school art teacher, and now of course, I am one. So yeah, I think about that character a lot but it isn't the first time I paid attention to her."
Not only am I a high school art teacher, but in college I studied performance and video art and let me tell you, I have made some real, Mirror, Father, Mirror-type stuff. While teaching, I sometimes show my own artwork to students (Yikes!) and I even sometimes catch myself moving my hands and arms the way Ms. Allsworth does in that scene when she talks to the kids about "externalizing the internal" (Double yikes!). Yesterday was a reminder that Ms. Douglas' performance of Roberta Allsworth is a kind of guide post for me. A post with a sign on it that tells me that it's okay to be good at teaching art to teens because we can help kids who draw comics in their journals get into art school, even if they choose to instead take a bus going to nowhere– but that sign also says, "never wear that outfit again" and "press delete on anything you write that can be reduced down to the words, 'mirror, father, mirror.'" Unfortunately, I don't always take heed.
Buy I Blame Dennis Hopper here: http://www.illeanadouglas.com/?page_id=14
Buy the graphic novel, Ghost World here: www.amazon.com/Ghost-World-Daniel-Clowes/dp/1560974273/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495214902&sr=1-2
Before I was a full-time teacher I used to participate in readings around Los Angeles. Mostly involving poets. Even though I focused on fiction writing in grad school, it was the poets (and in some cases, comedians) of L.A. that welcomed me and allowed me the chance to combine my art with my writing in a public setting. I integrated dolls and costumes or outfits I designed. Readings, to me, are performance art.
When I teach, it's not as much of a performative outlet as you might think it could be, because, well, I'm there to help children and also, my school requires us to teach one-to-one. Despite the "audience-of-one" I have sitting across from me, six, seven or eight times a day, I do my best to be prepared, focused and enthusiastic. I'm sure the administration and parents of the kids I teach would be pleased to know that I do not consider this performance art. I do, however, think I've learned a whole lot about improvisation by way of this experience, over the years.
Sometimes we are encouraged to perform things with and for all of our students (who are teens and tweens) as a group, during lunchtime. When I have something prepared, I try and take advantage of this opportunity to perform. In the photo above, I was participating in a poetry-reading event. It happened about a little over a year ago. I took the opportunity to show off a puppet I made for a larger project I started but haven't had time for. I also shared a "prose poem" written from the perspective of the puppet-character I invented. I call him Mr. Nibbles. The project has to do with a cat that is simultaneously anthropomorphizing and transforming into a liminal creature.
Here is the poem:
I woke up one day
and I was a unicorn. Sort of.
Here’s another thing, I can talk.
Grumpy Cat can't talk.
I don't know what I am.
Go on the internet, they said.
I said, what’s the internet, I'm a cat.
Lil Bub thinks I'm a joke.
She mocks my fifteen views on Youtube.
I once made fun of her for drooling
and then I felt like a jerk.
I was just jealous.
What does it take to be an internet star?
Why do I care? What am I for?
I wish I was Tubbs or any one of those cats on Neko Atsume. That’s the life.
Linda says it’s “meta” for me to play that game.
She uses the term, meta, so people can tell she has a Master's degree.
I can read her mind.
I can read your mind.
Just kidding. Lol.
What does it take to be an internet star?
My name is Linda Lay and I'm an artist, a writer and a teacher who dabbles in fashion. I'm planning for this blog to be an ongoing series of relatively abstract thoughts, videos and images related to my experiences as a person who teaches art, writing, health and "life skills" to teenagers.