Major General William Hix

Major General William Hix walked into our classroom last week wearing a brightly colored, button-down shirt and a dark green suit jacket. He is older, soft-spoken, and upon first glance, you would not assume his extensive experience with the US army. Upon speaking with him however, MG Hix’s humble expertise became evident. 

Having graduated from the US Military Academy in 1981, MG Hix has a Masters Degree of Military Art and Science. He currently serves as the Director of Strategy, Plans, and Policy, Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7, Headquarters for the Department of the Army. He is responsible for developing strategies, plans, and concepts that shape the geo-strategic security environment, inform army decision making, and for anticipating and providing forces for national security. Previously, he spent time in other strategy and planning assignments, as well as on operational assignments with both command and staff positions.

Though MG Hix is quite busy, he is a good friend of Neal’s, and graciously took the time the speak with us. One of the most interesting parts of our conversation with MG Hix was his perspective on the global economy. MG Hix referred to the economy as a geopolitical force. He went on to explain how the economy plays a crucial role in shaping the geopolitical climate because it can give people the resources that they need to fulfill greater objectives. He described the world economy as a pie: you can either split it up, and while you might hope that everyone gets an equal sized peace, this will not happen. Or, you can make a bigger pie. The goal, Hix explained, should always be to make a bigger pie.

One part of the growing world economy that Hix explained was China. When asked how China’s growth would affect the world economy, Hix said that he expected the focus to shift East. He chalked this shift up to two main concepts: complacency of Atlantic nations and growth in technology. The former is related to aging. Hix talked about how, in Europe especially, Western nations are failing to see how their aging populations will negatively affect economic growth and present unforeseen challenges. In terms of technology, Hix expressed concern that Europe was not using automation to grow like China is. Rather, in Europe, which has some of the some of the most revolutionary robotics companies in the world, China has a large percentage of the shares.

The opportunity to discuss something so crucial and complicated with MG Hix was wonderful. He gave us plenty to think about, as well as a whole list of books to check out, and, with a nod to Neal, one final piece of advice: always find people smarter than you, and get them on your team.

Yá’át’ééh (greetings) from EN252 Topics in Native American Literature!

Yá’át’ééh (greetings in Diné/Navajo)!

Our course during this third block (October 22-November 14, 2018) is EN252 Topics in Native American Literature: Arts and Literature by Native American Writers and Artists taught by Professor Natanya Pulley (Diné/Navajo). Professor Pulley has a B.A. in English and a Ph.D. in English (Fiction Writing) from the University of Utah. We are focusing on poetry, non-fiction, and fiction by contemporary Native American writers as well as contemporary art by Native American artists. We are interrogating curations and critical approaches to Indigenous arts and writing. We are also working on a decolonization exhibit project with the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Here are some of the course texts that we are reading this block:

“Of Cartography” by Esther G. Belin (Diné/Navajo)

“Whereas” by Layli Long Solider (Oglala Lakota)

“American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings” by Zitkála-Šá (Yankton Sioux)

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Our course is connected to Professor Pulley’s Fine Arts Center (FAC) Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow position, which includes opportunities for our class to visit the FAC, have consults, and participate in different activities/exhibits. In September 2016, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the Colorado College $1.2M to support programs and CC courses at the Fine Arts Center museum. The grant is focused on the following initiatives:

  • Supporting diversity and inclusion at CC
  • Fostering interdisciplinary inquiry in the liberal arts
  • Expanding innovative pedagogies
  • Incorporating underrepresented voices into CC’s continuing academic conversation
  • Building experiential learning opportunities that serve a multivalent community of learners
  • Helping students engage with broad cultural shifts

Professor Pulley’s creation of this course was made possible thanks to the support and assistance from the FAC fellowship, Provost funds, VWS, and NEH fund.

Chatting with Morgan Wack

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to have a Skype conversation with Morgan Wack. Morgan graduated from CC in 2015 with a degree in Sociology and minors in African Studies and International Community Development. He is now getting his PHD, but what he spoke to us about was his time as a fellow at the program Princeton in Africa.

I am skeptical of the work of international NGOs. While they often have good intentions, many NGOs are seen as a new version of colonialism, with little regard to local culture and customs, and often creating a dangerous cycle of dependency. However, Morgan’s description of his work gave me renewed excitement about the potential of NGOs.

First, Morgan echoed my concerns about NGOs. He acknowledged that often, NGOs create a disconnect between the community and the government by taking away that responsibility of the government to provide basic resources for its people, under the (correct) assumption that NGOs will fill in the gaps. Furthermore, NGOs often don’t have a structure set up for evaluation of their impact, and they are very connected to their ideas and policies. Combined, they have a hard time recognizing when their programs aren’t working.

The most effective NGOs, however, Morgan explained, are those that work directly with the government to increase its capacity. The hope is that this, in turn, allows individual people to take control of their lives. This is, of course, complicated by corruption and conflict, but working to empower the government to then empower the people, should be the goal of the most effective NGOs.

He also made sure to credit his education at CC for a much of his positive experience. “CC taught me to produce work rapidly,” said Morgan. “Be sure to explain that in your cover letters!”

Internal War with Dr. Kalev Sepp

After taking a quick quiz, the whole class piled into the Economic Collaboration room, where our paraprofessional, Cate, was setting up a Skype interview. After a few minutes, Dr. Kalev I. Sepp’s face popped onto the screen. Everyone stopped chatting. Dr. Sepp was online to discuss with us how countries recover from an internal war.

We were very lucky to be on a Skype call with Dr. Sepp. Currently a Senior Lecturer in Defense Analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School, Dr. Sepp specializes in special operations, strategy, and irregular warfare. He also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, as well as a member of the White House Counterterrorism Strategy Group. He is a former US Army Special Forces officer, with a PHD from Harvard University and has many other important accomplishments.

In discussing internal war, Dr. Sepp used the example of the US Civil War. He shed light on the build up of the Civil War, the war itself, and then how the economy recovered. One aspect of this lecture that I found particularly interesting was the need to consider the residual effects of war and what actions must be taken to address these effects: are there still ethnic tensions? Who address them, and how? Who is responsible for law enforcement? Should there be trials for the separatists? Should they be re-accepted into society?

Sepp answered these questions by recalling the US response. But he said that the thing that allowed the US economy to rebuild was this idea of a shared culture: both sides of the civil war believed in the validity of constitution and its ability to protect human freedoms. This connection was what caused the South to step down. However, Sepp pointed out, not countries with internal war have a similar experience.

It was a wonderful opportunity to talk with Dr. Sepp about the difficulties of internal war. We are very lucky to have such an expert in our classroom (even when its electronic!).

Conversations with Major General Randy George

The first thing that Major General Randy George did when he walked in the room, was shake everyone’s hand. It was 11:30am on October 23, second Tuesday of Block 3, and we were all excited for the opportunity to meet him (as well as to have been able to sleep late!). Major General George had come to class to discuss rebuilding the economy in Afghanistan. He was the perfect person to discuss this subject. After holding command positions in Iraq and Afghanistan, MG George served on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, and as a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He also has a Bachelor of Science from West Point, a Master’s in Economics from Colorado School of Mines, and a Master’s degree in International Security Studies from the Naval War College.

Despite all these qualifications, MG George is very humble. Soft spoken, with a sharp jawline and kind eyes, MG George talked about growing up in Iowa, his relationship with his wife, and the difficulties of war. He spoke of his efforts in Afghan villages to ensure that Afghanistan could stand on its own. One of the ways to he worked toward this goal was by giving $250,000 to each village. This allowed the people to autonomously decide the best, most sustainable ways to spend the money in their community. People built schools, roads, and more.

MG George was proud of the work he did in Afghanistan, but he admits that it is very difficult and often there is no clear path to success. Though he is nervous to return to Afghanistan, he believes that the consequences of the US leaving the county could create a dangerous power vacuum and destabilize neighboring countries. When he returns to Afghanistan in a few months, he will be working on training the Afghan police force and military.

As MG George prepared to leave, he gave our class a few pieces of advice. “Become an avid reader,” he said, “and learn another language.”

Museum Work with the Art History FYE

Our art history FYE, now drawing to a close, was first and foremost a study of Western art from pre-historic times to the 20th century. This subject matter was a fascinating look into the cultures, beliefs, and systems of different civilizations throughout time. That being said, what interested me the most during this course was the unique opportunity to work with the Fine Arts Center, just around the corner from our classroom in Packard Hall. Through working with the museum to put together an exhibit of American art, we experienced firsthand the curatorial process of the modern museum. This was particularly engaging, as it broadened our understanding of the art world to include the present-day industry.

The curatorial project was so gratifying because it allowed us to apply what we had been learning about how to unpack a piece of art. Just as our professor taught us how to pick up on a variety of techniques, styles, and innovations to better understand ancient and classical art, each of us picked a piece from the FAC archive and used our visual analysis skills to better understand them. For the majority of the museum project, which spanned both blocks, each of us was working with a single piece of art. This allowed us to get in-depth with our artist and, study their place in the wider context of the history of art. It was exciting to bounce between studying the old and curating the new every week, and the hands-on nature of the museum project balanced out the rich, cultural study in the classroom. At the end of the course, I’m proud of the exhibit our class created, and I’ll miss our trips to the FAC.

Looking at my Grandfather’s Art Through New Eyes

Taking art history really opens your eyes to what is right in front of you. This includes everything from the art everywhere on campus to the art in your own home. I was home for a weekend and was able to look at all of the pieces hanging around my home, and I thought it would be interesting to try and analyze a few.

Although I don’t know very much about most of these works, there are three wood blocks prints done by my grandfather. My grandparents have lived in Corrales, New Mexico, and most of the prints made by Grandpa Paul are either images from his life there or inspired by Japan, where he traveled to learn how to do this style of printing.

Barranca de Corrales by Paul Davis

In this first print, Barranca de Corrales, you can see the Japanese influence in the flatter perspective and more simplified shapes, even though this is a depiction of the hill on which my grandparents live. The majority of the piece is black, white, or tan, with the only color being the sky and the figures going up the hill. The effect is to make the blue and the yellow of the sky seem even more vibrant, and makes the viewer wonder if the sun is just rising or setting to have such a bright, yellow horizon. The red and blue of the group climbing the hill draw your eye to them, but they are so small and indistinct that the focus of the piece is still on the skyline.

Hokusai’s World by Paul Davis

In the piece just to the left of this, Hokusai’s World, the Japanese influence is clear. With the iconic wave image from The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai in the foreground, bamboo and a bonsai tree in the mid-ground, and what looks like Mount Fuji in the background, this entire work seems like a dedication to Japanese culture and art. All of these environmental additions frame two figures fighting in the middle of the print with what seems to be bo staffs, a traditional Japanese weapon. The color palette is again very basic and shows off the details of the bonsai tree and wave. The patterns around the edge frame the central images, and are a unique addition to the print, unusual in both my grandfather’s work and in Japanese-style printing in general. This homage to Japan and the printing style is both simple and beautiful (although I may be a little biased).

Tiffany Hill: Dawn by Paul Davis

In the third and final piece of the three of Grandpa Paul’s prints we have hanging on our wall, Tiffany Hill: Dawn, we are back in New Mexico. It is an image inspired by what my grandfather does every morning he can: walk his dogs. Although this does show an aspect of his day, this is not a self-portrait, but instead a depiction of the friends he walks his dogs with. The colors are muted, with most of the piece filled with tan, representing the sandy desert that most of Corrales is. But there is still foliage, which fills up the sides of the print, and a town that is in the distance and seems to be the goal of the dog walkers. The dog walkers themselves are simplified human figures, one having a backpack and the other a Harley Davidson jacket. The dogs are even more simplified, just focusing on the essentials. This simplicity is probably a combination of medium restrictions, personal preference, and aesthetics and is consistent through all of his works.

My grandfather is a simple, usually quiet man (except for the occasional pun) who has lived a rich life and learned a ridiculous amount about a ridiculous number of subjects. He spends his days reading, watching soccer matches, and making prints. I am so glad that we are able to have his art hanging in our home.

Iscariot Sculpture in Downtown Colorado Springs

On our daily commutes, the visuals around us are often the same day after day. We know what buildings are coming up, where everything is, and often just go through the motions; however, on one of my daily summer driving routes, there was something new. This massive metal sculpture had taken over what used to be a standard rooftop, providing me with a little bit of a shock.

According to Colorado artist Trace O’Connor, ”Iscariot depicts a mermaid gracefully leaving her perch to take flight.” This unique mermaid made from reclaimed metal weighs in at 4,200 pounds and is part of the Downtown areas partnership and their affiliates’ ongoing mission to create unique cultural experiences for Springs residents and visitors to the area.

Springs residents should definitely keep their heads up in the downtown area, not only to observe the eye-catching street art, but just in case a giant metal mermaid attacks you or your car!

 

McMichael, Jon. “Rise of the Octo-Maid, New Sculptures Hit Colorado Springs’ Rooftops.” KOAA.com. August 30, 2018. Accessed October 17, 2018. https://koaa.com/news/digital-original/2018/06/08/rise-of-the-octo-maid-new-sculptures-hit-colorado-springs-rooftops/.

Photo from: “Colorado Springs, CO – Octo-Maid: Metal Mermaid.” RoadsideAmerica.com. Accessed October 17, 2018. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/61875.

Abstract Flowers

For someone who has never seen the process of making glassware, it is easy to miss the fact that glass is actually melted into a thick liquid in order to make molding possible. The honey-like glass is then collected on the blowpipe (a long metal structure in which air can be blown into to shape the glass) by dipping it in the glory hole of the furnace. It is then made even by rolling it on a flat surface, after which it is dipped in paint if desired, and then reheated.

  

…Then comes the scariest part.

Remember when we were told as children not to play with fire? Well, imagine having to roll glass that freshly came out of a hole with 2250°F of heat using only wet newspaper in your palm…

Water dripping all around my hand from the wet newspaper, my anticipation grew exponentially in the seconds before the instructor placed the blazing glass in my palm. Smoke covered my view as I softly applied pressure to shape the glass, leaving a black burn mark on the first few sheets of newspaper. Do not try this at home!

I had a very short time to pinch the petals of the glass flower I was making before the glass cooled down, which would make it more difficult to shape. It took me two trials to realize that I actually got worse at shaping my flower, so I decided to announce it as an abstract flower.

The glassblowing workshop was one of the highlights of my first block break because I got to explore a process of art creation that I had never had the chance to do before. My favorite part was pinching the round flat part of the glass in order to create the flower petals. This part defined the way the flower would turn out. I gave one of the two flowers I made to my friend and she called it The Placenta. I can’t say that’s what I was going for, but it made her happy anyway.

At the end of the day, it got me thinking that even though it had been a very fun and insightful experience for me, it is a very difficult process and should be appreciated and valued. So, the next time you have a sip from that beautifully constructed glass, keep in mind that someone might have been carefully shaping it with only a wet newspaper in their palm!

 

Source: https://giphy.com/gifs/3o7TKpWmZz1V4ZcVa0

 

 

Visiting the Clyfford Still Museum

Over the past two blocks, our class has been in and out of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center putting together an exhibit. We became familiar with the museum and each section that we saw has art from various artists ranging from different time periods. It was exciting to take our knowledge from our own art museum and bring it to the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum from our field trip this week. The Denver Art Museum felt like a similar format to the Fine Arts Center. We viewed the special collections they had on display with artwork ranging from Rembrandt’s etchings to sculptures of Ganesha. We saw impressive art pieces in different mediums and in diverse styles. It was intriguing to compare these exhibitions with the collection we found in the next building over. This museum displays solely works painted by Clyfford Still, an abstract expressionist from the mid-twentieth century. Clyfford Still requested, in his will, that all his works go to one US city. Eventually, Denver was chosen as that city and the museum received ninety-five percent of Still’s works. The museum building itself was interesting to experience. The architects who designed the museum knew that only Still’s works would be displayed there, so the interior and exterior were built to accommodate his style and type of art. The walls were made of textured concrete to reflect the verticality seen in Still’s paintings. The ceilings had oval cutouts to let in Denver’s natural light. The lower floor is created to be bathed in less light than the upper one, because the second-floor displays Still’s works, while the first floor is for storage of works not currently on display and research. One advantage to having ninety-five percent of an artist’s works in a museum is that you are able to observe the artist’s style progress over time. On our tour, we saw how Still started off painting realistic portraits and landscapes, then focused on depicting the human form, and from there, produced works that were more and more abstract until there were no longer recognizable forms (as seen in the pictures below). Overall both the Clyfford Still and the Denver Art Museum were wonderful examples of experiencing in person what we had learned in class and had experienced at the Fine Arts Center Museum at CC.