Transcript – Aylah Ireland – Without Borders 2020 Thesis & COVID-19 Response

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Welcome to the White-Girl Talk Show. I’m your host, Lisa-Karen Johnson. 

Audience Applause

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Thank you! Thank you! You’re great! Today were talking about some serious issues we’re all facing: the pandemic. 

Audience Boos

Lisa-Karen Johnson: I know, I know. I hear you, I’ve been hoarding toilet paper and white Zinfandel. 

Audience Laughs

Lisa-Karen Johnson: But what about those people who are literally on the front lines? Thank you to the first responders: nurses, doctors, police, fireman. (Makes a catcall noise)

Audience Applause and Whistles 

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Yes! Yes! Thank you! (Claps)Today on our show, we are talking about graduating during a pandemic. What is it like to have to celebrate your achievement’s at home? And what does the future look like for students entering the workforce? These are some of the questions people like our first guest are asking themselves. I’d like to welcome our guest, a white-girl, from Maine who is graduating with her masters of fine art: Aylah Ireland!

Audience Applause

Aylah Ireland: Thank you, Lisa-Karen.

Lisa-Karen Johnson:  Welcome, Aylah. How are you during this pandemic? How are you holding up?

Aylah Ireland: I’m adjusting, you know? I’m working from home and homeschooling my son, so I’ve been busy.

Lisa-Karen Johnson:  Wow! I applaud you, working from home, being a full time student and a full time mom. That’s amazing!

Aylah Ireland: Oh, thank you. I just do what I can. 

Lisa-Karen Johnson: SO you’re getting a Masters (mouths wow). What is that like? I mean what exactly are you doing?

Aylah Ireland: I am graduating from the Intermedia MFA program at the University of Maine. The program has an artistic component and combines that with theory and concept, making the “final” product or project rich with research and deep meaning.

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Incredible. (Clearly reading poorly from index cards) Can you tell be about the program? What are some of your major takeaways from your time in the Intermedia program? 

Aylah Ireland: My undergraduate art program was a place to develop and refine artistic skill, the graduate art program was a place to develop and refine conceptual skill, this program was especially suited for conceptual development. 

There were a lot of options for different modes of engagement for my art. I learned I didn’t have to stick to painting and hanging it on a wall. I could embroider on a photograph and invite others to join me. Thinking outside the box of the gallery walls have opened up new perspectives and ways of thinking about art.

I received a breadth of theoretical knowledge from studying in this program. The program is designed to incorporate the student’s art practice with theoretical and conceptual themes. It is highly encouraged to explore multiple disciplines of study for conceptual and theoretical research. This style of research and education has expanded thinking and learning, pushing me to accept ideas outside of my comfort zone. The program and faculty encourage students to explore and experiment with things of personal interest. The personalization and comradery support a community of artists to freely express themselves and share thoughts and opinions. It is a true place of growth–if you allow it to be.

Lisa-Karen Johnson: (dumb look on her face)Dizzying!

Aylah Ireland: Thank you?

Lisa-Karen Johnson: You said “research” earlier… what is the general research focus of your thesis?

Aylah Ireland:  I’ve been researching my matrilineal heritage. Using an autoethnographic approach, recording my thoughts and observations and interviews with family members, I can relate my personal, female perspective to a larger, cultural perspective.

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Yes, tell me and the viewers at home: what is “matrilineal heritage”?

Aylah Ireland:  Right, so, traditionally genealogy is traced through the patrilineal line… the father’s line which is how we tend to get our last names. The Matrilineal line is the mother’s line. I specifically focused on my female blood line—meaning my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother etc. 

Lisa-Karen Johnson: WOW! That’s a lot of whiiiiite giiirls!!! (air horn sounds, camera shot of Aylah’s expression, camera back to Lisa-Karen)Anywhoo, How are you able to extend and or develop your ideas into your creative work? I mean like how are you even doing that? 

Aylah Ireland:  (Laughs) Sometimes I wonder that myself. (Camera shot of Lisa-Karen’s expression of a confused face, camera back to Aylah) Right, (clears throat) so I am using the photographs of the ancestral women in my matrilineal line. I have recreated negatives and printed the negatives using cyanotype. The cyanotype process shares its origins with early analog photography which attracts me because I was able to find photographs of my great grandmother’s as far back as the invention of photography.

The family photographs couples with the qualitative research method of autoethnography creates a zoomed-in view of family life and the women in families and compares it to culture on a larger scale.

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Right, right. (scrambling to write stuff down on index cards) Has your research been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Aylah Ireland:  The stay-at-home order hasn’t affected my practice, I think as artists we are used to working alone and being flexible. It has however, affected how the thesis show will be displayed. Instead of a traditional gallery show, we are digitizing everything, making videos, and web content to get our art to the public. I am thankful for the connectivity of technology and my cohort’s commitment to each other. As a group, my cohort is toying with the idea of displaying the art exhibit in a different format than that of the traditional gallery.

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Why? (making a dumb face)

Aylah Ireland: Um, because… of… the pandemic?

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Oh right! (laughs dorkily) So what advice can you give to future students working on their thesises?

Aylah Ireland:  Theses

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Huh?

Aylah Ireland: Theses, you said thesises… nevermind. The advice I have (camera shot of Lisa-Karen)

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Uh-huh? (listening intently)

Aylah Ireland: Yeah, the advice I have would be Listen to what others have to say even if you don’t like it or their words don’t fit your current ideas. (camera shot of Lisa-Karen emphatically shaking her head no, camera back to aylah) You never know what the future holds for your work. Network! A group of artists and/or an artist community is necessary for growth in your work.

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Great advice (making disgusted face)Thank you so much for being here, Aylah! Best of luck to you in your future endeavors. 

Audience Applause

(camera shot of Aylah trying to say thank you but being ushered away by a bouncer, camera back to Lisa-Karen)

Lisa-Karen Johnson: Up next: Are you paying too much for Avocado Tooooooast!? 

(air horn blares again, intro logo and music before commercial break)

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