Joan Dickinson blurs genres to create works that span the mediums of drawing, literature, film and performance. The current artist in residence at PlatteForum, she will display genre-bending work inspired by the astrological and paranormal there at a show that opens today; she's been working with students from the West Career Academy, who will also be exhibiting pieces. PlatteForum supports contemporary artists, who in turn work with under-served youth who don't get the opportunity to have much art in their lives. "The artists are the creative spark for learning through the arts," says Judy Anderson, artistic director of PlatteForum, adding that Dickinson "has been guiding them through thinking about their lives."
And the results are remarkable.
In 2012 Dickinson completed The Cooking School of the Air, a combination of illustrated novel, libretto and screenplay. During her residency, she transformed the print version into an electronic version, which will be made available online, that includes audio and video of interviews with paranormal experts, and astrological exploration of the text itself.
"As a starting point for her work here, she did astrology readings for the youth she is working with, and for all of us," says Anderson. "And that was the starting point for how does the past inform who you are, and how does the past connect to the stars and the greater world, and that has been absolutely fascinating. All of her work is really interdisciplinary, and this performance is the first piece to another book that will be published."
While working on The Cooking School of the Air in its new form, Dickinson also began a second piece of art in response to the river and neighborhood around PlatteForum, which will debut on Friday night. The Dream of the Owl Sisters starts as a performance with singers and musicians on the Platte River celebrating the rise of the Hunters Moon, but that's only the first part of a much larger project. "It's a little bit hard to grasp, because it encompasses so many genres," says Anderson.
The creative spark for The Dream of the Owl Sisters really came from a drawing.
"I work in elder-care and one of my clients has dementia and is very repetitive," explains Dickinson. "So I did most of the drawing with her, and so she's really part of the drawing, because she talks constantly and repetitively and her language is woven into the drawing. So it's a drawing, it's a performance and it's a book all in together, and it's happening all over the world."
The moon and bodies of water are very important to Dickinson's work. The performance on Friday, October 18 is actually on the eighteenth anniversary of her first landscape performance, which also took place near water during the rise of the Hunters Moon -- the only moon that is stays in the sky all night.
Dickinson has gathered over forty people in Africa, Asia and Europe to observe the moon rise near bodies of water such as the English Channel, the Hudson River, the Nile, the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. The observers are to document the moon and their experiences however they can -- be it on film, in a poem or with a drawing -- and they will be collected and turned into a book over the next year.
"I have friends all over the world," says Dickinson. "And I was lucky to get artists, writers, teachers, filmmakers to come to the performance, which is really a ceremony. But given that not everyone can, they are going to observe the moon where they are near bodies of water."
And she's made new friends: the students she's worked with from West Career Academy, guiding them by using her own methodology to spark their creative spirits and create art.
"They've done really interesting work -- sort of around the themes of different tipping moments in your life, and what brings you into those moments, "says Dickinson. "Autobiographical, but also reflecting a particular moment as well. The students I have worked with are all really interesting symbolically. The art forms they have the most in their lives are tattoos, graffiti, comics and graphics. I work symbolically a lot myself, so it's been a really nice conversation because they are very sophisticated in terms of how they understand symbols -- it's like the air they breathe."
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The opening reception for the art of Joan Dickinson and the West Career Academy runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. tonight, October 17, at PlatteForum, 1610 Little Raven Street. The Dream of the Owl Sisters performance and celebration will take place across the street from the gallery at the Platte River, beginning at 5:15 p.m. Friday, October 18. (Maps to the performance can be picked up at PlatteForum.) The exhibition runs through October 26. For more information, go to the PlatteForum website.