“Hand, Mind, Wood: My Apprenticeship with Ghana’s Fantasy Coffin-Makers”: 2011 Esther Dayman Strong Lecture

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 18, 2011
 
For more information:
Nadine Fiedler, Catlin Gabel, 503-297-1894 ext. 301, fiedlern@catlin.edu
Catlin Gabel website: www.catlin.edu
 
“Hand, Mind, Wood: My Apprenticeship with Ghana’s Fantasy Coffin-Makers”
Michael de Forest, an artisan in wood, explores creativity and his extraordinary experience in Ghana in the 2011 Esther Dayman Strong Lecture
 
Catlin Gabel teacher Michael de Forest will discuss his recent apprenticeship as a fantasy coffin-maker in Ghana on Tuesday, February 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Cabell Center on the school campus, 8825 SW Barnes Rd. In addition to talking about his experience, illustrated by many images, he will speak about how practical knowledge and creative thinking work together in the making of art. The event, this year’s Esther Dayman Strong Lecture, is free and open to the public.
 
THE LECTURE
 
Michael de Forest spent two and a half months in Ghana in the summer of 2009 with Eric Adjetey Anang, grandson of the originator of fantasy coffin making in the Ga community. These wooden coffins are assembled, carved, and painted in many fantastic shapes meaningful to their intended recipient—including fish, trucks, bottles of beer, pens, and boats. While in Ghana de Forest learned to appreciate not only his mentors’ practical techniques, but also the way they make creative choices collaboratively.
 
De Forest has brought that experience to bear on how he thinks about his making and teaching, which he will share in his slide-lecture.
 
“Art is the center of an experiential school,” says de Forest. “No art can happen without doing. And no doing can be done without practical knowledge of the world and in collaboration with the people around you. Art allows us to take risks, to use our ideas to create, and to succeed and fail.
 
“Creativity involves knowing that you have a point of view. Finding a voice comes through the doing, and honoring your insights. You have to understand the cultural rules of your own community about communication, symbols, and meaning in objects and images, so that you can use them in new and surprising ways. It’s not about breaking the rules, but about bending them, seeing them from a new perspective, and making them your own.”
 
MICHAEL de FOREST

Michael de Forest has worked as a professional woodworker and artist for 36 years. He designed and made custom furniture from 1977 to 1992 as co-owner of Oregon Fine Joinery. Since then he has made and sold furniture, wooden sculpture, and art objects nationally and internationally. He has won awards for his work, been published in local and national periodicals and books, and has lectured and given workshops both nationally and internationally. His work has evolved from finished carpentry and commercial cabinetry to one-of-a-kind fine hardwood furniture; to painted and carved objects, tables, and chairs; to figurative wooden sculpture.
 
de Forest has taught woodworking at Catlin Gabel School since 1996. He is also an adjunct professor at Oregon College of Art and Craft, where he has taught since 1993, and has taught at Marylhurst University. He received an MFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design and a BA from Lewis & Clark College.
 
THE ESTHER DAYMAN STRONG LECTURESHIP

The Esther Dayman Strong Lectureship in the Humanities was created in 1987 by the Catlin Gabel School board of trustees. The board wished to establish a living memorial to the human and academic values Esther Dayman Strong nurtured throughout her life, and especially as principal of the Catlin-Hillside School from 1944 to 1958. The lecture honors her legacy of lifelong learning by paying tribute to the intellectual excellence demonstrated daily by Catlin Gabel’s own faculty and staff members.
 
Catlin Gabel serves Portland and the world as an educational catalyst, drawing together dedicated educators, motivated students, superb curricular resources, and thoughtfully applied technology, in a beautiful and functional setting, all for the purpose of forming bold learners who become responsible action-takers for life. Catlin Gabel is an independent, non-sectarian, progressive coeducational day school serving 730 students from preschool through twelfth grade. Its roots go back to the Portland Academy, founded in 1859. The school occupies 54 acres on Barnes Road, five miles west of downtown Portland. For more about the school, please visit www.catlin.edu.
 
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