Art Education

Back to Blog February 7, 2023

Cecilia Secaira (MEd '23) Displays Rhizomatic Cloud Sculpture, "inter/liminal lingering"

Author: Emily Herbein

Cecilia Secaira (MEd '23) works as a graduate assistant and peer advisor in Tyler's Art Education program. With a varied background across several fine arts disciplines ranging from ceramics to textiles, Secaira says her time at Tyler has opened her eyes to her love of art education. Through her practice, which settled in the crafts space, she uses making as a form of self-discovery, research, and communication. Her latest work, "inter/liminal lingering," is a rhizomatic cloud sculpture that employs a/r/tography research techniques and critical thinking skills, all while encouraging viewer engagement and self-relfection. Below, Secaira reflects on her practice and work ethic.

Describe your artistic background.

"I have always loved making things, but didn’t consider myself an artist until college. I learned to sew as a young child and was always learning about different mediums. During my second semester of undergrad at the University of Dallas, I took a ceramics class for fun and declared a ceramics major by the end of that semester. I fell into art and art making with everything I had, spending days and nights at the studio, sleeping in a hammock outside while kilns fired. I also found a love for costuming and patterning/draping during my time at UD; I was very involved in the Drama Department and the costume shop. This led to me briefly pursuing a career in costuming, before eventually turning to education." 

What is your art practice like?

"I consider myself as primarily a craft artist. I have been consistently working in fibers and ceramics since college, spending my evenings and weekends making art. I came to Tyler with the intention of exploring other mediums and growing the breadth of my studio practice. My practice centers around self-discovery, attunement, self-reflection, generational trauma and the healing that comes with it, and supporting autonomy-building in both children and all people's inner child. I am drawn to texture and color play found in both the natural world and urban decay and am constantly integrating sensory experience into my work. I prefer to leave traces of processes in my work; as a craft artist, process is another facet of making that I aim to embrace and celebrate." 

How can you reflect on your time at Tyler as you get ready to graduate?

"The Art Ed grad program is rich and allows for a lot of growth as an artist as well as an educator. I was drawn to the program for its attention to personal art practice as well as pedagogy and Art Ed research. As a grad student at Tyler who isn’t an MFA, it can be little hard to feel included sometimes, but I will say that I am grateful for professors and techs in the studio departments that were encouraging and helpful." 

What did the process of creating "inter/liminal lingering" look like?

"This project was developed over a year and a half of research and making, and the first and foundational line of inquiry in my research was a month-long rhizomatic inquiry questioning what a book is and also who I was/am becoming as an artist and educator. This questioning happened in a singular unfolding site, an amorphous book/sketchbook/art journal that was becoming as I did. As the book was built, so was a long list of questions I considered/am continuing to consider. I call these questions prompts for unfolding of self. The prompts were intended to be used with middle or high school age students as a part of a curriculum exploring bookmaking and identity, and were divided into four stages: germination stage, self-reflection stage, unfolding stage, and becoming/potentiality stage. Each stage contains a variety of the questions I developed, and they are grouped according to depth, abstractness, and emotional vulnerability. This process was my first introduction to a/r/tography in practice, and I not only enjoyed it, but felt confident that it was a how I wished to move forward with the rest of my research. It was essential to me that artifacts (shown below) were included in the installation — they were rich spaces of curiosity and learning. I wanted to keep holding space for that inquisitiveness in the larger installation. 

Following this development of prompts, I began to dive more deeply into the writings of Rita Irwin, one of the main practitioners and advocates of a/r/tography. I had learned about marginalia — marking up the margins of a text — in an art ed research course, and felt drawn to engage with her texts primarily through this note-taking method. A professor in my undergraduate English course had called this “entering into conversation with the text,” and I have held onto that idea as I entered into many long conversations with many ideas over many months. The margins became the main site of my research, a documentation of my learning and the expansion of my knowledge.    

Another thread throughout my learning was making, specifically making books and zines. This is a newer form of expression for me but has been especially interesting in two ways: it makes three-dimensional objects from a collection of two-dimensional pages, and binding most often includes stitching. I have always sewn; it is my oldest form of making and the one I fall back to over and over. Binding using hand stitching and eventually machine stitching as well connected this making to my sewing and fibers practices and helped me to relate to a medium I had not considered for myself. Zines were an even bigger step away from my other practices, but the simplicity of folding a single page or coupe pages into a sharable and reproducible book has a simplicity to it that settled any apprehensions I had. Zines became a way to document little moments, big feelings, or just draw intuitively. I am grateful to have been exposed to zines toward the end of the last semester because I do believe that they are a very approachable introduction to bookmaking that could be less intimidating for future students. Zines also require very little in the way of supplies, which is ideal for undersupplied art rooms.                                     

As I grew my collection of marginalia-ed articles, I began to have ideas of them creating a rhizomatic sculpture that other people could interact with, showing the interconnectedness and the wanderings of my learning while also mimicking a murmuration of birds —  many lines of flight, but still a whole. Months later this has culminated in my marginalia cloud. The cloud consists of scans of my marginalia-filled articles printed on vellum (in part as a nod to the history of books and the preciousness of animal-skin vellum hand-written copies, but also because the translucency lets the piece feel lighter) and suspended from the ceiling to create a space of learning, both an archive of my own learning and a site for others to engage in the learning experience. Liminality is a concept that has always been a part of my art practice and is also a topic considered throughout most a/r/tographic publications; I hope this cloud is a liminal space where others feel welcome to participate in my learning and engage with thoughts of past me and the me I am becoming."