Hey! I’m excited to share some upcoming publication news. My essay Considering Wheat as a Patience Play has been chosen by Isele Magazine for the September 15th Edition. Read more exceptional essays here, and check out all of Isele’s recent selections here.
My poem Lady Godiva’s Mercy Ride has been selected by the South Bend Art Museum for their upcoming Ekphrastic Poetry Chapbook. More info will be coming soon. I worked on this ekphrastic poem, inspired by Anna Hyatt Huntington’s sculpture, Lady Godiva, for quite a while, and ended up with a three-part poem. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my great-grandmother was a teacher in South Bend, Indiana, right around the corner from the museum, and that my maternal grandmother loved the Lady Godiva sculpture so much, she made a painting of it!
How can words, fibers and performance intersect? I’m still contemplating the connections myself, but I know that creating textile/fibers pieces, for me, satisfies a specific desire to invent.
Additionally, because most dances require threads of some kind– scenery, decor, or costume,– I bet many of my pieces will end up as wearables.
I can happily report that three of my recent performance ventures have included my fiber crafting and/or shibori. In chronological order, these are the installation for “Cave” (November 2020 and April 2021, Ypsi Glow (October 2021) and a suite of liturgical pieces for First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor (December 2021.)
Over the past year, I’ve been learning Fibers from the best, Suzanne Boissy, who is a Faculty member in our neighboring School of Art and Design at EMU. Since I am also a Faculty member (teaching Ballet to non-majors) it’s just a hop, skip and a jump between the Fibers’ Lab and our Dance Studios in the Warner Building. Suzanne is also one of my best friends, so I count my lucky stars that I get to study with– and shadow, her– in full Studio Action.
If you’d like to read more about Shibori, including an approach I call “Trash Panda,” fill out a contact form and I will keep you updated when my next blog post drops.
Subscribe, like or follow me to learn more about “Trash Panda Shibori.” In 2022, I will be sure to share updates with you!
2021 is heading out the door. As I pause to reflect on all that has transpired this year, I want to dedicate a few words to “Ypsi GLOW.”
We met on a rainy chilly evening and were painted by Professor Suzanne Boissy from the School of Art at EMU. My body painting took about an hour, and the other dancers’ painting required roughly half an hour each. What did we discover during this installation and performance?
Contrary to what you might expect, after loading in the installation, setting it up, and dancing for four hours, we felt energized. After playfully interacting with the “audience,” who passed by our windows, we felt joyful and connected. Some of the tiniest participants rolled by in strollers. Families and small groups of friends danced with us, laughed with us, and scanned our posted playlist with their phones. A whole school of piranha “swam by” in the rain. The colorful full-head masks on these GLOW-festers artfully conveyed a compelling grouping of these carnivorous –and awe-inspiring–fish. We danced backwards–quickly– trying to escape the potential threat of their teeth.
Public Art makes a sense of community possible. A sense of community makes optimism possible. As the pandemic, and its effects, drag on, this community festival is just what the doctor ordered!
The Back-Story: How did we get here?
About a month prior to the performance, I submitted an Artist Proposal to create an installation and performance at Ypsi GLOW. Then, I crossed my fingers for luck. Once my Proposal for “Punk’d Up Dance Marathon” was accepted, we were off and away for a 6-week flurry of preparations. Deliverables included a short video piece in “Glow TV,” the installation itself, hosted by SPARK East Innovation Center, 215 West Michigan Avenue, and a suitcase full of hand-made fiber props, costumes and make up! Ooh, and a long playlight and custom performance.
By long, I mean four hours and one minute long. I developed the playlist on Spotify for easy sharing, and asked friends to submit song nominations. I asked “What songs make you want to dance?” About 12 friends responded with song title suggestions, and these all made it into the playlight. Next, we dancers donned several costumes and danced our hearts out, twirling fiber wands, dancing traditional American jazz steps, with other forms such as contemporary, modern and popular/club dance thrown in. Often, we were balancing all this while manipulating day-glo props. Did I mention this is a black-light installation? It was, and with the inclusion of approximately 20 black light instruments and special effects lights, we made SPARK East glow up!
SPARK East went from a chic, all-business shared office space, to a circus-like stage. Swirling lights, day-glo wands and go-go boots set us up for a rockin’ contemporary playlist that included artists as varied as Adele and Amber Mark, Laura Mulva and Mitski; Lizzo and Lil Nas X.
The Installation transformed SPARK East
This blog post would not be complete without a list of folx who made this Installation and Performance possible. Thank you to all our friends at Ypsi GLOW and FestiFools. Especially we thank the school of piranha who swam by several times. And everyone who danced on the sidewalk with us, outside our window.
Video Team: Troye Aho, John Verellen, Videography by Sidney Anderson, Make-up by Jess Aho. Sidney Anderson went the extra mile as Video Editor and is the Engage@EMU Graduate Student Coordinator.
Performance Team: Lisa Dietz, Amy Hutchison, Christina Sears.
Design Team: Christina Sears with make-up by Suzanne Boissy. Lisa Dietz provided hands-on assistance.
Special Thanks: Jennifer Goulet, Jeri Rosenberg, Trevor Stone and all the gang at Wonderfool Productions.
A quote from one of our incredible dancers:
I’m currently a senior at Eastern Michigan University majoring Nursing and minoring in Musical Theatre. I’ve danced my whole life and my favorite performance was when I was in Addams Family the Musical!
‘Zines are quick and snappy. ‘Zines offer writers and artists a means of production that is fairly barrier-free. ‘Zines are pretty easy to organize and range from low-cost to moderate-cost production.
Comments about the Intertextuality Process.
I undertook a few days’ research to learn about ‘Zines. I had only made one before, and that was an old-school process; with paper, scissors, copier and a special type of stapler- a saddle-type. While I am fascinated by book arts, fibers, and hand-made goods, I decided to make this inaugural edition digital.
I put out a call to approximately 100 folks I knew from my earlier career as a dance artist. I also reached out to students in the Creative Writing and Literature Programs at Eastern Michigan University, my alma mater.
Submissions trickled in at first, then built to a steady stream. I love the diversity that is represented in this first volume.
Poets, cyber-artists, photographers, musicians, ballet dancers, somatic therapists, body workers, labor organizers, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs all have thoughts about the theme “Words on Dance.” I actually couldn’t fit in all the submissions. Thanks to all the artists and writers who trust me with their submissions.
I hope you enjoy the ‘Zine. Due to reader interest, print copies are also available. If you’d like to purchase a paper copy, they are $12, mailed via USPS, to any where in the US. International orders are $15.
Message me or respond to this blog post to order a copy, or just enjoy the ‘Zine electronically.
Donations are accepted.
My Venmo handle is: @Christina-Sears-17. If you’d like your own paper copy, remember I will need to collect your mailing address. Email that to me please and place “Zine order” in the subject line.
As a Fiber Student in Advanced Fibers study with Professor Suzanne Boissy at EMU School of Art and Design, I’ve been having a blast learning new techniques and skills. I’ve been applying these new skills to my first Project in Fibers. I consider this an extension of my multi-media journeys, as this piece includes my original poem “Monk’s Hour at the Pompidou Museum.”
I wrote the poem six years after a visit to the famed Pompidou in Paris.
The piece is made of: An upcycled Degas Print “The Dancing Class” (1874), layers of lavender chiffon, screen prints, and more. First I had to learn how to make screen prints, which I did with some success. I love the magical process of screen printing. See the materials list below for a comprehensive list.
Linen fabric for screen print
white and lavender chiffon
gold embroidery floss and thread
Vintage photographs (mine are by Parisian Photographer Yvon Guy Greff, marked Greff studios from the 1940’s.)
Since September 2018, I have been studying Creative Writing @ EMU. No stranger to EMU, having been a member of faculty in Music and Dance since 2011, I’ve always enjoyed the campus and community. However, studying with Creative Writing Professors in the program has been an incredible journey. One aspect that makes the Creative Writing Program at EMU special is hybridity.
Many higher education programs (MA’s, MFA’s) direct writers into a stream of study right from the point of application. As a multi-genre Movement Artist making the leap into Literary Arts, I had a deep desire to explore it all-
Poetry, fiction, flash-fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, and hybrid forms. This blog post documents my third project in MultiMedia, the art booklet. Today I’m sharing a photo gallery of DOCuDrama of a Dream, my second artbook project. I’m discovering a whole world of art books, collage, and multimedia composition.
As a person with health challenges and some level of disability, I’ve really had to take quarantine seriously during COVID-19. Even though I’ve struggled with social distance limitations, for example having to put my band BadjaMutha on complete hold, I’ve really never been more creatively productive.
Part of the impetus has been due to my extreme thirst for creative exploration, part of it is due to having a wonderful collaborative partner/teammate and delightful community of artists to interact with/ and learn from, and part of it is slowing down and attuning to my inner rhythms and the energy of the earth.
Winter, even in the disordered climate-change version of winter, offers opportunity for peering inward, and contemplating shifts, affinities and contrasts. I haven’t been posting a lot on my blog due to demands of life, job and school-work- I hope you enjoy this December post.
In today’s blog post, I offer glimpses of my new art booklet DOCuDrama of a Dream. I used many different compositional tools, techniques and technologies to construct this piece.
First, I concentrated on harvesting and recycling images and language from my dreams. I dedicated my focus to writing as soon as I wake, no matter what the hour, for a period of about 14 nights. Later, I processed the language into edited hand-written compositions. In these compositions, I hone the text into a bi-fold article: the meaning of the text is important, but the visual element of the writing has equal weight. Therefore, instead of typing the text and applying the usual (computer-based) options to the text, I tried to really focus on the act of writing as mark-making. I’m obsessed with line!
Textual Meaning and Materiality
Style of writing gains import here. I invented a kind of block-lettering that reminded me of early computers. And by early, I’m talking about the computer technologies of the late 70’s and early 80’s- ginormous computers that had a footprint of 20 square feet. My father, Dave Sears, an engineer at Allison’s at the time- took me to visit this computer at work. Allison, a branch of General Motors, was HQ’d in Indianapolis, Indiana, where I was born.
This computer used punch-cards and binary coding to function. It was a far cry from the nanochip tech we all have access to today. But this vintage tech was an aesthetic motivator for the hand-lettering you see below.
Additionally, I fleshed out my dream-material with character names (Lisa, Jill and Arthur Robinson, Barney, etc.) and gave Lisa, a leading lady, her own enscriptive style, a loopy cursive script. I even created a signature for her. Finally, I typed up the bulk of the content on a vintage typewriter I scored of Ebay. I was absurdly excited for the typewriter and it’s accessories, two ribbons, one black and one red to arrive. Quickly, working as a choreographer does, I established some aesthetic rules.
First- due to typing on unusual paper(s) I decided to accept all mistakes as fate, and work them into the flow of the text. One reason was that the corrective technology for this mid-1960’s Coronamatic typewriter is pretty primitive. The second reason was aesthetic: imperfection proves this item is made by human hands.
My own life is full of mistakes, shortfalls, and imperfections. Why should this booklet be any different? I decided to accept the mistakes of this booklet process, and integrate them, even when errors of spelling or fact occur. This led to another interesting sidebar- Tabloid type elements.
Some of the mistakes I made were mundane, but some were early steps in my research process. For example, one day, during a hike in the woods, my partner and I were discussing the Beatles’ song: “Give Me Money.” We both had a sneaking sense that this song, is, in fact a cover. I dreamed about it later, and dreamed it is a cover of a Bill Withers’ tune. That proved incorrect. I discovered a fascinating music research line. Berry Gordy’s administrative assistant at the time, Ms. Janie Bradford, is a co-writer of the song. She also was in the Motown Offices on the day the Beatles expressed interest in covering the song, and probably took the call where the deal was sealed.
Is she appropriately credited? Yes, today she is and does receive royalty compensation for her many songwriting credits. Check out this cool blog post for more about Janie Bradford, her accomplishments in music here. However, this is not the typical outcome for musicians, especially in blues and rock-n-roll music. Even in the case of the house bands for Motown’s various labels, many of the musicians suffered from poverty and instability in their careers and lives. Thus, creative exploitation, and a specific sidebar, exploitation of women, became a thematic sub-current in the booklet. This theme can’t be identified in the photos, and likely will only come to complete fruition a the next version of the project. (Spoiler: women’s reproductive capacity and monetization of biological reproductive capacities through the practice of surrogacy, sperm and ova donorship, etc. will be a theme in future drafts.)
The booklet components lay fallow for about six weeks this past fall, while I tried to decide upon a strategy to complete them. With the aid of art found in a little free library (LFL’s) on Oak Street in Ypsilanti, MI, I generated a cover. Memories of growing-up times with my father are layered underneath the medieval lady (greeting card art) on the back cover: a jingle from a radio advertisement for Smith Brothers’ Wild Cherry Cough Drops is penned in messy gray and royal blue marker.
On the front cover, I include a photo I took in 2009 on a visit to the Dominican Republic. The signage in English reads “No Passage, Private Property.” According to Frederick Engels’ 1884 Book, Origin of the Family, Private Property and The State the conceptualization of Private Property, ushered in a transition from matriarch to patriarchy. Family bloodlines and the establishment of trackable paternity made monogamy and privatization of land the new system in 18th century Europe. Industrialization in the mid-19th century allowed for the development of the middle class, and the widening divisions between workers, landowners, middle class managers of industry, etc. Finally, nuclear family practice and models of patriarchal tradition formed the perfect vehicle for the transfer of white privilege through heirs and inheritance. As society continued to evolve, a centralization of wealth and familial lines through the father created a cult of domesticity for certain classes/ races of women. The fence in the sepia-toned photography, and the off-center sign speak to all of these meanings.
I choose, with great zeal and joy, to stitch the whole booklet together on a fancy modern sewing machine. This choice of technique echoes centuries of female labor and points to women’s integrations and roles in testing technology. Also, women’s roles in fashion, textile production, manufacturing garments.
This semester I have had the privilege of studying with Dr. Elisabeth Däumer from the Department of English Language and Literature. The course finished now, and despite the Quarantine and finishing the course in lockdown, Winter 2020 was a wonderful semester, in terms of our course: Literature in the Age of the Anthropocene. My eco-criticism final project for the Course is a paper entitled “Luna Lake: EcoCriticism, History and Land Use in Ypsilanti.” There is also a conjoined hypermedia notebook in the hopper. Meet me at the River is a multi-modal creative investigation of the Huron River and my study of it over time.
I have the pleasure of speaking with Matt Seigfried who is a self-employed historian. According to his website, Matt is a historian, writer and researcher originally from Cincinnati, Ohio who has lived in Michigan since 1996. A graduate of Eastern Michigan University with degrees in History and Historic Preservation, much of his work has been on connecting local history to broad historical moments.
Matt’s Master’s Thesis Project resulted in the publication of an impactful website. This site centers around the cultural and sociological histories of African-American Families in Ypsilanti around 1900. Matt and I spoke about the gaps in what history has been preserved in terms of land use, ethics, and social and cultural norms and practices of African-American families. Matt stated:
“If the information wasn’t collected 150 years ago, it’s not (going to be) available now…When we look at history, there is an absolute necessity to use an informed imagination.”
When I explained a bit about my project, and that several of the components in my hyper-media e-book, Meet Me at the River, are inspired by a somatic sensing of place, I wanted to get a professional impression of my research process.
As a Somatics practitioner, I have found that this work infuses everything. A somatic sensing of place allows one to collect distinct impressions of place through one’s sensory apparatus, energetic attunement, and intuitive creative visioning. I call this process of somatic attunement “Deep Time Listening.”
Due to there being significant missing pieces in Ypsilanti’s social and cultural history, there was a lot of sadness and sense of loss in this study. One particularly disturbing gap is the lack of record regarding First Peoples and this area.
The Prospect Park which marks the epicenter of this lived history project is particularly complex. What I was able to establish from historical record is that Luna Lake and Prospect Park were widely used as hunting lands by at least three tribes (bands) simultaneously. The area was plentiful with game and water, having been documented as “Swamp land,” on a platt map.
However, this area, bordered to the East by International Water Way and the Port of Detroit, to the immediate North East by the powerful Huron River, and the South by Ohio settlers and bands of people migrations from East to West, was lively and multi-cultural from the get-go. European influence came from the British and French wars, military history, fur traders and trappers from French-Canada and so on. Consider all the impact of this past, and then add “Great Migrations” of African Americans. Families travelled northward following the Emancipation Proclamation, and continued to seek better employment opportunities in through mid Twentieth century. The progressive manufacturing activities of Edsel Ford are intricately tied to Ypsilanti history. Ford used the river extensively, and hydrology and automotive history play a big part in the industrial development of the area. Additionally, Ford designated housing for factory workers, and the connections between Detroit families and Ypsilanti are hinted at in my poem, “Boys in Dress Uniform.” (DM if you’d like to read a draft.)
Of particular note, burying grounds have an important function in cultural life for all people, and land cultivation as well. In the past, Prospect Park was a burying ground for cholera victims, though these remains were exhumed (presumably respectfully?- one hopes) in 1892 as a activist efforts by local women were undertaken to “improve” the area.
Facing these complexities, during one 15-week semester, which was disrupted by COVID, was a daunting task. I imagine the possibilities of undocumented land use, in January 2020 I began a poetry series inspired by the place where I live. Most of these poems are set in the time period between 1890s-1930’s, and I have wondered how valid Deep Time Listening, combined with sociological and biological factual points of reference and poetic prompts are as literary inquiry.
How important is imagination, interrogations of place, and an examination of built structure in terms of interpreting history? Was I totally off-the-wall in my practice, which like most other points of inquiry, is multi-modal?
How does investigative traditional research, books, scouring newspaper accounts and making detailed examination of photographs, drawing, cartoons, etc. interface with the lived body? I’ve long been fascinated by oral history, especially given its mainstay as a feminist mode of inquiry.
How do conversations, news accounts, and found items play out with the experience of living in a historic neighborhood?
I floated a few questions about the research process I used during LIT 592 to Matt, during our interview. One gem from his response below:
“I do nothing but walk around and imagine what things could have been like. You have an informed understanding of the past, but you must use your imagination. All history requires imagination, in one sense or another.”
This position was reassuring to me. As a white LGBTQ+ woman, living with hidden disabilities, ethics and anti-racism are an on-going concern in my research and life. I’d been juggling historic papers, from City and Michigan State University sources, contemporary pro-Black farming studies (notably Ms. Dorceta Taylor’s comprehensive reportage on African-American farmers in Michigan and nationwide, published in March 2018) with observational study, perusing platt maps, vintage photographs, and the like.
Balancing historical traditional research, primary research and the emergent “Deep Time Listening” made for a heady stew. In order to compose my paper and create aspects of my conjoined hyper-media project, “Meet Me at the River” I required a professional historian’s point of view. It is and was imperative to me, that the research be as immaculate as possible.
Matt conducts walking tours and considers the built and natural environment an invaluable resource. Matt shares:
“One of the reasons I do walking tours is because history is what we walk around in everyday. History is in our built environment… history navigates the… relationship of the built environment and our natural world. Roads are racially-coded, and the built environment is a really important place to understand history and how social differences are built and encoded into place.”
Visit Matt’s impressive website, which documents African-American families, neighborhoods and life-styles here. The feature image, at top, is a photo from the website, and marks an intersection of major historical import in South Ypsilanti. Similarly, the second image, a candid of Matt, shows him standing in front of a former theatre, on Michigan Ave. where Frederick Douglass spoke twice.
To contact Matt and book a place on one of his tours, or inquire about other programming, send him a note through his website. I personally hope to go on a walking tour with Matt soon, and will be sure to share a bit about it this summer.
Join Christina-Marie and the Creative Writers Association for a Flash Fiction Workshop this coming Sunday March 8th, from 4-6 pm at Cultivate.
Write a short short story of 300, 500 or 1,000 words and bring it to the workshop for peer or small group review.
Look for our table at Cultivate, in the Main Cafe area. Excellent coffees, beverages and snacks are available for purchase, but purchase is not required to participate.
This workshop is free and open to serious creative writers. For those who are not currently students, a suggested donation of $7 to $15 applies. Funds raised will support the Creative Writers Association of Eastern Michigan University. We ask that writers commit the full 120 minutes to the workshop, so everyone has a chance to receive feedback on his/her/their projects.
Last August, I began teaching CRTW 120, Composition I: Writing the College Experience. As it is, whenever one begins a new adventure, I had a lot of new content to embrace. A new text, a fantastic cohort of teachers in the First Year Writing Program, a new Pedagogy professor, and finally, a full group of lively and talented students at Eastern Michigan University.
We’ve had a wonderful semester together, and in 2020 I will be moving on to Instruct WRTG 121, Researching the Public Experience. I couldn’t be more excited to meet and face new challenges that allow me to refine my pedagogy, learn from my fellow Graduate Student Assistants, interact with expert FYW Director and co-directors, and engage with a dynamic community of freshman students.
As I go forward, I am thrilled to be able to look back on all we’ve done in WRTG 120. Research will be my polar plunge for 2020!
This is a home-based creativity space with classes in music and dance, somatics, and yoga. This is a family-owned and operated wellness studio. Come as you are! Enjoy arts experiences, workshop, small classes, personal instruction, safe space for everyone. LGBTQ friendly. Payment is donation-based.
There is a staircase down to the studios, so Maple Street has limited ADA accessibility. For Full Accessibility options, Programming is available at Riverside Arts Center.
Our first ArtsShare was a lot of fun! This casual gathering is a wonderful way to meet other creatives and share your artistic practice.
Highlights include Bombay Jam with Miraya Fit. This is a woman-owned dance and fitness business. My friend and colleague Mukta Joshi reached out to me in 2018, as she had just moved to Michigan with her family. She is a classically trained Indian dancer who is also a personal trainer.
At Arts Share we enjoyed dance, food and fun, and poetry. Three poets read their work in this intimate and supportive setting. While you are enjoying the holidays and trying to beat cabin fever this winter, consider taking a workshop or class at Maple Street. If you are wondering what else is happening in the studio, Tap is hot and improves memory, balance, coordination. I have been a tap teacher and dancer for over twenty years. sooooo…
Learn tap dance with me!
Tap Dance is an American classic form, and it’s brain and body friendly. I have beenb a tap dancer since the age of three, and I love sharing the joy and fun of this rhythmic form. I consider tap dance an extension of my musicianship, and perform it with our cover band BadjaMutha.