13 hour drive!

There’s a program at The University of Notre Dame called summer service learning program (SSLP) run by the Center for Social Concerns. Being a Holy Cross College student I had the privilege to participate this summer.

As my site partner and I begin discussing the details of our trip, we decided that we would drive together to Savannah Georgia. In midst of several conversations between Hank and Marion Policinski (our ND alumni club contact) we learned that the had a home in Banner Elk, North Carolina right on the mountains. They would be on vacation there during the time of our travel to Georgia. Instead of taking a 2-day trip to Savannah they invited us to their home for several days.

Finally it was departure day. On June 11 we woke up at 4:30 am in order to get a good head start to our day and head towards Banner Elk, North Carolina. You could imagine the fear my parents felt having their only daughter embark on a 11hr 45min (according to google maps) drive across states. Not only my family was nervous but I was beyond nervous. I have never driven more a two hour distance from home. Also I knew I would miss my family terribly this service trip ends on August 8. So I’ll be gone from home for two months.

Anyway, the drive was not as bad as I thought it would be. We drove nonstop to Indianapolis, got Einsteins for breakfast the head towards Cincinnati Ohio. Never really knowing exactly where we are headed but in full trust of the handy dandy GPS. We drove through Kentucky and Tennessee but right when we left Indiana the land that surrounded us as we drove were getting more and more interesting. Soon enough we were driving by the mountains.

Going up a hill I saw a sign that said scenic overlook but didn’t think to much of it (since I’ve never traveled this far from home and Indiana does not have scenic overlooks) but when we drove over the hill I saw what it was. There were several cars parked amazed of the beauty of the mountains. Luckily I had enough time to slow down and turn into the parking lot.



This is what we saw. It was so beautiful but I did not realize that there was more to come.

As we are we getting close to our destination the hills get taller and the road get curvier. They call them the winding roads. There was what I thought was a dirt road that went straight ups mountain side. If it is a road I don’t know how anyone could go up much less down that thing.

Oh also we went under or through a mountain on the tunnel of Cumberland Gap in Tennessee. Like nothing I’ve experienced before.




About two hours left of the trip and I was driving. Before I could get any closer to Banner Elk, I had to stop at a gas station to let Anne drive. I was too tired and did not want to risk anything. But coming out of that parking lot without looking to see if there was tragic on the left she was stepping on the gas pedal. You bet there was a car coming around the curve and fast. Thank The Lord I was paying attention and I yelled, Stop! Anne there’s a car coming!

Oh she made me so mad. I didn’t trust her driving at all throughout the trip so I tried to drive as much as I could but at that moment I was way too tired. Then when we were about half and hour away from the Policinski home we encountered tight curves and the winding roads. The view there was even more spectacular. But to be honest I couldn’t enjoy it Anne was driving very fast around the curves and I became too anxious. Before the curve would start she would slow down and as soon as the curve began she tried to speed up and take the curves fast I was ready to tell again. Finally I said stop and let me drive and after the fifth time she listened. Ugh she scared me.

Then we saw the sign that said Welcome to Banner Elk.. Well the Elk was covered by tree branches but anyone could’ve guessed it. Finally we turned left at their street and had to travel up a steep curving road to get to their condo.

This is the view that awaited me.


Oh and the hummingbirds!


Fame! Who really wants it?

After discussing religion as a conceptual framework our class dove right into fame as a conceptual framework. From ancient times till now fame and celebrity has been a part of society and culture, it is impossible to steer away from. Not only in the arts, films, sports but also in religion there is fame and celebrity. In Hollywood there are the singers, actors and entertainers. In religion there are the symbolic figures, such as Jesus Christ and the Buddha, clearly there are many other famous and well-known figures in religion. There are the pro-players in different sports teams. These are all examples of celebrity and fame. Many questions are raised here such as; what is fame? Who can be famous? What are the implications to being famous and how does society react to fame?

So, what is fame? Anyone can attach a different meaning to a term, and as time passes terms acquire several meanings. Fame is calculated by the attention given by other people, the reaction of people tends to be more energetic around a person of fame. Andy Warhol’s theory is that everyone will have fifteen minutes of fame during their lifetime.

Who can be famous? Whether it may be in High School, or in sports, or in movies Andy Warhol said any person can have their fifteen minutes of popularity, celebrity and fame. But the thing is its only fifteen minutes, as soon as the clock starts there is only small window of opportunity a person has under the spotlight.

Our culture is centralized on celebrity and fame. From ancient history the Gods and Goddesses were idolized by people and worshiped. Now the common day movie star is worshiped and viewed as a god. They are viewed to be more important and less human because they are compared to be Gods, than the “normal” people. Too much importance in put on fame, the media portrays celebrities and gives easy access to the masses about their private details. To be in a constant spotlight where no detail about your life is considered private and everyone wants to know everything about you, this is the way celebrity life is.

So who really wants those 15 minutes fame?

Religion as a Conceptual Framework

The next topic of discussion that created a bit of turmoil in our minds in Visual Literacy class, as we attempted to unveil what artists messages were is Religion as a conceptual framework. Through different works of art and artists renderings of the topic of religion we have been challenged to see what kind of art affirms or criticizes religion, or if the artwork is neutral we see that it neither critics it nor affirms any aspect of religion. Through understanding how other artists rendered religion as a conceptual framework throughout their artwork, we were challenged to photograph three images that affirmed, criticized, and were neutral to religion.

Critique. To discuss the idea of my critique of religion I would like to refer to one particular artist, whose artwork demonstrates high controversy and a strong critique of religion as a conceptual framework. This artist’s name is Andres Serrano; his artwork is named Piss Christ. The image is Jesus Christ completely submerged in pee and this image crested immediate offense, but Sr. Wendy Beckett interprets this image differently. She describes it as what society is doing to Christ’s image by their way of living, by the way the act. She says that this image is a direct representation of what people are doing figuratively to his image by living vulgar and corrupt lives. So to discuss my photograph of the critique of religion, it is a bible with and X over it. What I am trying to convey through my photograph is that people can have a complete disregard for the word of God. Like other images people brought into class, people choose to live a life separate from religion and faith. What I deem important also is the page the bible is open, it is open to the Psalms and by reading Psalm 146, we are being called to Praise the Lord, and he upholds the cause of the oppressed. Both my photograph and Serrano’s image, depict what we should see is that an image like this is what society is doing to Christ’s image.

The Holy Bible

Affirmative. The image that I portray as affirmative is that of a classroom at St. Adalberts’ School, the children are learning about Christ, they are learning about the word of God. While learning the catechism of the Catholic Church the students are bonding as a community of people, as children of God and friends. The image is a montage of two photos underneath the one of the classroom is the Last Supper, a very well known image of Jesus Christ and his Disciples. The image represents the unity between the people and how they relate to Jesus while sharing his last meal with him. In a way the image of the children at school could be compared to the image of the Last Supper.

Class of Friends

Neutral. The image that represents neutrality in religion is the photograph I took of the Holy Family. This image I considered to be neutral because it represents the concept of togetherness, unity and family. These concepts are very universal, not only in religion but also in any culture. The image is clearly religious because it is an image of the Holy Family, but it portrays familial concepts and that makes it a neutral image of religion.

The Holy Family

It was a challenge for me to come up with an idea of a neutral image for religion. That may be because I have not created any artwork that deal with the topic of Religion. I particularly like the photographs I chose, and hope they portray affirmation, neutrality and a critique of religion as a conceptual framework.

A new topic of …

A new topic of discussion has taken over our visual literacy class; race. As we begin to explore the topic of race we are introduced to several artists who incorporate aspects of ethnicity in their works of art. These artists are Kehinde Wiley and Kara Walker; both are African Americans who in their own unique way illustrate race in their artworks. This similarity will help us as a class explore this topic of race in more modern artwork.

Wiley’s artwork differs greatly from paintings I have seen before. He has been accustomed to paint African American figures in poses from well-known artworks and places the figures in positions of power where we have been accustomed to seeing white men. Pictorially, the figure wear the latest hip hop street fashion, in theatrical poses taking on the authority of the figure that they take the place of. For some people this may cause controversy, by thinking Wiley is degrading the works of great artist, that person is one who may not be accepting to the idea that people of such a race a capable of having positions of power.

ImageIce T Kehendi Wiley 2005



                                     ImageNapoleon I on his Imperial Trone 

                                                                                       by Jean Auguste Dominique, 1806 


The stereotype associated with African American who wears “street clothes” is the mentality that they are of lower class. The contradiction or dualities of his artwork are the view a person has of a character like that of Wiley’s paintings and the environment and poses in which they have been placed. That is good things can be found in all. Even though his paintings are clearly connected to African Americans, one can easily relate other racial identities to this situation. The figures could easily be transformed into the typical stereotype of a Latino person. It would convey the same ideas connected to race.

Walker artwork is less dramatic, is the way that her ideas about race and slavery are not as obvious. Her artwork consists of black silhouettes and each work is a scene of action. From the article Still Here: Artist Kara Walker in Black and White by Rhonda Stewart, Walkers artworks are described as “life-sized depictions showing racial and sexual power struggles of Slavery and the Antebellum South.” The way I interpreted her art is that of a colourless person, no colour to the skin, even though her figures are clearly different. The features of an African American person, like the course hair and bold features contrast with the defined characteristic of the supposed white person. These differences outside of colour demonstrate the incorporation of race in Walkers artwork.


   Kara Walker

She brings a new elements into her artwork, it is viewed sometimes as comical, but similar to Wiley, “she dares to be provocative not for the sake of being provocative, but to give the audience a new way to think about a taboo subject.” (Rhonda Stewart)

The Readymade’s of Marcel Duchamp.

What is Art? /Is it Art? This is the topic of discussion in our visual literacy class while we discover who Marcel Duchamp is and his theories. Marcel Duchamp clearly demonstrated in his works his ideas, for one his readymade artworks confused people so much that it made them question what art really is. His idea is that anything can be presented as art as long as the artist presents it as art. To illustrate Marcel’s concept, he began with an object, sometimes conventional other times an item which no person would consider it to have aesthetic value, and alter the item slightly. The end product of this artwork is meant to be reproducible by anyone who can attain similar materials and in a way the work is supposed to seem meaningless, since it’s reproducible and its meaning is relative.

The main concept is that the work of art is created with the mind not with the hand, for example a painting rendered by the artist hand does not adhere to the requirements of a readymade. Duchamp’s works had no direct explanation leaving room for the audience or viewers to interpret the work of art individually and create their own meaning for it. The meaning of the work depended on the person to finish the creative process for Duchamp. One example of this is through the titles given to the artwork, according to the article “Apropos of ‘Readymades’,” they title is not supposed to describe the subject of the readymade, but invoke the viewer to really think about the connection between the work and its title. Otherwise if the titles described the subject of the readymade there would be an obvious lack of uniqueness. This is because most forms of traditional art making generally have titles which described or explain the subject of the work. Marcel depicts this in many of his readymade’s but particularly, I thought, the concept is clearly seen in his work The Fountain, which is a urinal turned and placed in a different matter than we are used to. This work’s title does not explain the subject of the readymade, it makes the viewers question the connection of title and work, but the juxtaposition of  the urinal, which is seen as dirty and not as an aesthetic item, to the fountain, which is beautiful, hindered many people of his time to understand the concept Duchamp was introducing. The concept that the craftsmanship and ideas were to be experienced by the viewers through the mind, because they were made with the mind not with the hand.

The first art project for this class is to make a readymade, adhering to the requirements of a readymade, which are that the work be reproducible by anyone who could obtain similar materials, the work be found and altered very slightly NOT created, and appear to be “meaningless.” So, at first this task seemed very difficult for me, because I have been very used to creating all my artworks by hand, that is painting on a fresh canvas, building a pot from a ball of clay, or drawing on a blank sheet of paper. But as I began to search for possible items I might want to use for my project I came across this jar of sand, shells and ocean water my brother brought back home from his trip to Madeira Beach, Florida three years ago. I also found this little Lego action figure which I decided to incorporate in the project. The only thing that i altered was adding the Lego figure into the piece and hopefully the picture is clear enough for everyone to see what is in the jar. The name of the artwork is “Swooshhh”.Image

Introduction, A Little Bit About Myself

As you may already know my name is Norma. I am a sophomore at Holy Cross College looking forward to the next years I will spend at HC. My hometown is Arandas, Jalisco in Mexico, which is a small town that has grown so much since the time I moved away in May of the year 2000. Having lived most of my life in South Bend, I can’t help but miss the family members I left behind. But since I have five brothers, there is rarely a boring day at my house. In fact my older brother Ed is also a student at Holy Cross College. The liberal Studies program at HC has kept me interested since my Intro to Liberal Studies with Dr. Langan, and although I have not officially declared my major I have planned the last two semesters accordingly to major in Liberal Studies with minors in philosophy, political science and Graphic Design.

So the reason I chose to take the Visual Literacy class this semester is so I can be one step closer to accomplishing my Graphic Design minor. The concept of Visual Literacy as we discussed in class  is the ability to read and understand the language of images.Honestly I do not have any experience interpreting any form of art, but I certainly love creating and viewing all forms of artwork. Whether it may be painting, drawing, sculpturing, print making, or ceramics, I take great leisure in producing new works.   Not knowing what to expect from the course, I came to  the first classes with an open mind and learned what the plans were for the rest of the semester. For example, we have to write a blog for class. When I realized that I truly was not looking forward to posting my writing online. But at this moment I see how writing a blog is truly not that big deal, it’s actually easier than I imagined it would be. Being able to share the information I’ve learned during class in my Blog, is an experience not common in any other course I have taken. I conclude that this is an experience that should be taken advantage of greatly by the students. Not only for the experience of blogging, but also to keep track of what we learn in Visual Literacy and be able to look back at the blog during the course and later in life.