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  • Writer's pictureKara Mshinda

The Temperature of Water: My Art Education Part I

Seepage, 2015. Digital photograph.

At my first art showing of this year, I was posed with the following questions, "What inspires you?" "Do you have a background in art?" "Where did you go to art school?" The story of my art education begins in adolescence.

I will start with Mrs. Muse (actual name). Mrs. Muse was my middle school art teacher. She was the first teacher to inspire me to combine different media. For example, we once had an art project that involved painting hollow egg shells with acrylic. Another project involved assembling collages made out of magazine images and construction paper. Another, piecing together figures made out of papier mache and tempera.

Then there was My "Uncle Henry." He was a professional photographer and a member of the church I attended in Columbus. He would show me pictures and tell me tales of photographing famous people like Richard Pryor. He also taught me the basics of composition and film development. He led a class in Black and White Photography at our local recreation center and at a youth summer camp.

My high school photography teacher was also inspiring. It's a pity that I can not remember his name (even though I photographed him). He would tell us stories about how he and his brother would put each other in strait jackets and play in their yard. He taught me SLR camera basics, chemical safety, and darkroom basics.

Rodger in Cali, 1997. Painted photograph.

I loved the darkroom. I mean really loved it. I had no knowledge of digital photography. The technology had not emerged yet or at least kids our age did not have access to it. This was the early to mid nineties, after all. What I loved about the darkroom and photographing with film was the mystery of the outcome. Film photography was truly a sensory experience. From loading the film onto a reel and then into a lightproof canister-all in the dark to finding and waiting for the optimal temperature of water from a running faucet... Projecting the image onto photo paper (I preferred Ilford). Waiting for the image to appear, using water to play with light exposure. For me, light became corporeal in the darkroom. It was tangible, physical, and as such, I learned that I could manipulate it in different ways and bring my imagination to life.

Assemblage art and film photography are foundations of my visual praxis. My understanding of visual theory, in contrast, came during my time at Temple University...

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