Her Blog: Vita Brevis Arts Longa, by Lee Ann Norman

In 2009, I saw Julie & Julia, a feature-length movie about Julie Powell, a young writer living in New York who once dissatisfied with her dead-end jobs, created an exceptional experience with the well-renowned chef, author, and television personality Julia Child (1912-2004). After Powell discovered Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she aspired to cook all 524 recipes in one year. To motivate herself, she documented her progress on her blog, What Could Happen?

Several years later when watching this film, it still resonates with me. When blogging becomes a regular practice, the power of writing and sharing is endless. Powell's journey reveals how blogs can be a form of art and can evolve into a space in which a woman influences another woman, and may lead her to challenge, experiment, and teach herself in something unprecedented in her life.

A similar situation happened to me. Prior to joining IMOW's Her Blueprint, I was a contributor for the Teaching Artist Journal ALT/space, a multi-authored blog dedicated to sharing stories of individuals in the field of teaching and art-making. Through this space, I had the opportunity to get in direct contact with other admirable people with whom I might not otherwise have ever connected.

As 2013 kicks in, I would like to begin by exploring the art of blogging among women and the way it influences them. I want to find out how blogging plays any role in their life, personally and professionally. Overall, I hope my search and interviews with these women writers to serve as a platform to continue inspiring other women to write online.

I began with Lee Ann Norman, artist, writer, and cultural critic who currently lives in New York.

Carol: When did you start writing online? And how did you start?
Lee Ann: I started writing online as part of the Representations: a series on culture, politics, and aesthetics I did with Experimental Station in Chicago in 2008. We wanted and needed to find a way to reflect upon the programs, and hopefully engage participants in ongoing conversation. The program lasted a little over a year, and during that time, I tentatively started my own blog as I began to focus more intently on art writing and cultural critique.

Carol: Why is it important to you? How has the practice of writing online influenced you? 

Lee Ann: I'm not so sure the "online" part of writing is that important to me. It is certainly more of a necessity in contemporary society, although I don't think books will become ancient artifacts any time soon. In the last 20 years, the way that we receive and consume information has changed dramatically. When I was a college undergrad, the Internet was still a vast, unexplored territory, and by the time I graduated, the web was full of all kinds of new information, content, and voices. ("Google" had become a verb?!) What's amazing about online platforms for writing and ideas is that it has great potential to democratize culture. Online platforms give more people more say in discussing and determining what is valuable in culture, which can only be a good thing…Access to information (think: google project to digitize books and the number of universities and comprehensive libraries that have joined in since that started, etc.)

Carol: What do you aim to achieve through your own blog - vita brevis arts longa (Thoughts on Culture, Politics, & Aesthetics)

Lee Ann: Since I've had this online space - a blog, but not quite a blog - for almost 5 years now, it has undergone a number of iterations with varying focus and held up different projects and ideas of mine. This year I'm preparing to (finally) take the plunge and purchase a domain, and get more consistent with exploring a topic that is of most concern to me right now, which is the role of questioning and discovery in art. On vita brevis arts longa, I write about art, music, film, dance, and culture generally, but I still struggle to reconcile ideas about proximity to artworks and criticality. In visual art writing, people tend to error on the side of more distance being good, while in performing arts criticism, the writer's experience can sometimes overwhelm the reader. I am interested in exploring the value of asking questions of an artwork or experience. I want to know what I don't know and feel comfortable with the knowledge that sometimes I don't know how I feel about a work until I write about it. It's a difficult place to start, but exciting and valuable nonetheless. I'm always interested in how others see/experience/read the world and how their experiences influence everything. Our lives are the sum total of our experiences - a dynamic and fluid process and story. I want to create spaces - literal, tangible, virtual, spiritual, creative, etc. - that give life room to unfold....

Carol: Any other blogs (particularly those by women) that have influence on you? 

Lee Ann: I think most of the blogs I read are ones that seem to focus on sparking dialogue. They are rooted in knowledge and theory, yet, but they are open to and welcome varying opinions and views so that the platform grows in its richness and value. My friends are writing and thinking about interesting things about art and culture: Not Arriving and Aldrin Valdez. Other art blogs I like include c-monster by Carolina A. Miranda, Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, and then those on general culture/feminism like The Crunk Feminist Collective, Colorlines and Racialicious.