This particular project helped me get into grad school for fiber. It also helped me get thrown out. I found all the pieces just as I put them away in 1989. I also found the letter I wrote to the chair of the art department, explaining my decision to withdraw from the master's program. It's particularly ironic that I found the letter almost to the day it was written.
As I put together this long-abandoned project, I thought about what I'd written in that letter. Did I want to share it now? I suppose all the people involved are now retired and/or dead. But this is my history as a woman, and I want to share it.
"It is with a deep sense of regret that I write this letter. I am afraid that the situation has become such that I can no longer pursue my graduate degree in fiber under Ken. In an effort to fully explain the situation, I am including this chronological list of what seem to me to be unprovoked abuses and a clear attempt to force me out the program.
August/September: the semester begins with Ken telling me to quit my part-time job so that I can devote more time to weaving. When I told him I couldn't, he said that I was married to a rich man and he should support me and that I should quit my job. (A reminder that the only reason the job was part time was because I was in grad school, and I was in grad school in order to make the job full time.) We had this conversation several times, always with Ken insisting that my husband was rich and should pay my way. When I told him that our situation wasn't that way, he told me it should be and wanted to know why I didn't force my husband to support me. When I got tired of this and told Ken that my financial arrangements with my husband were none of his business, he said I was touchy and had a chip on my shoulder.
September/October: My husband and I separate and Ken's response to my situation is that I should now quit my job and have my parents pay for everything. When I told him that I had already taken a loan from them and didn't think that more would be appropriate, he told me that as my parents they gave me the money, I shouldn't pay them back, and that they should just pay for everything and I should quit my job. He again accused me of having a bad attitude because I didn't think my financial situation was a subject about which he should advise me. He repeated that if I didn't have a commitment to the program (i.e.: quit my job) I should get out of the program.
November: Ken objects to the amount of time I am spending on my art history reading and paper. I miss only one of his classes, and finished the needlework restoration project for him. I also finished two weaving projects and several drawings for potential quilts. Although I have shown Ken drawings of the weaving projects, and he approved them, once I am a third of the way along on the loom, Ken demands that I make changes to the work.
December: Ken gives me an incomplete, saying that I haven't done enough work, although in point of fact, I completed more that term than all but one of his other students. The work I am endeavoring to do is process-intensive, something I had thought Ken would understand, as his own work typically takes months to complete. Such did not appear to be the case. During advisement, Ken insists that I take 9 credits with him. The remaining three are my required art history.
Break: Over break, I completed my first quilt top. Ken does not alter my grade. All he was concerned with was whether or not I was going to add a border and whether or not I could iron the piece better.
January: Ken asks me why I'm taking nine credits with him, since I don't have the time to devote to my studio classes as it is. I remind him that he demanded it of me. I attempt to get him to tell me what he expects from me for nine credits and the only reply I get is "nine credits worth of work". When I ask him to be more specific, he says only that he will know it when he sees it. I venture to say that this is like Catch-22, and as I complete the work, he raises the number of missions. Since he was so displeased with the amount of time I spent on my term paper in art history, he now requires me to write a term paper for him: twelve fiber artists, their work, their media, etc. etc. He claims I am never in my studio, and when I tell him I am, he challenges me to prove it. I am in every day, on break and on weekends. I am generally here till 10 or 11 at night. (I list faculty and other students who can testify to that.) Ken tells me that my defensive attitude is not helping.
Also in January, plans for his fashion show start to heat up. I am expected to participate, but given no notice of planning meetings. I begin yardage for a blazer. I do a sample and show it to Ken for approval. He approves the design and the concept of a blazer. After I get it on the loom, however, Ken tells me that he doesn't like the color, he thinks it's dull. Then he tells me that he doesn't want me to make a jacket. Then he asks me how I will make a suit. We go around and around with me saying blazer and Ken saying suit or jacket and trousers, or that he doesn't want me to make a jacket at all.
February: Ken reams me for talking with another student. (A professor's wife) She quits the class in protest over the way we were treated. The entire undergraduate class is witness to this. During the fashion show meeting I express my concern over copyright violations, as Ken has a copy of Ornament magazine and is telling the undergrads to make a duplicate of the cover subject as a centerpiece of the fashion show. He tells me that I am only using that as an excuse not to work in my studio.
March: This week he mimicked me and ridiculed me in front of the undergraduate class. Another professor tells Ken he is unprofessional and owes me an apology. None is forthcoming.
To date, he has shown no interest in my critique from our visiting artist, has never come to my studio to see my work, has never changed my incomplete and has informed me that he will never sign off on my thesis or let me have studio space for my second year.
I will be asking for my tuition to be refunded and my record expunged, or I will be taking this to the local media."
And there it is. My academic record shows that I only attended one semester of grad school. I never took this to the press. I got my money refunded. I had to quit that part time job after all, because without the Master's I was never going to get the administration job. I ended up working in corporate America for the next 25 years. Categories: Brain Crumbs