Springing and Flux



I’ve still got an intermittent nasty cough, but at long last, I spent a beautiful, balmy, sunny weekend in the gardens.  (Poor Paul is slowly improving but still down). The very first thing I did was to clean up and fence in the back strips, so the dogs could have full access to the yard.


I had forgotten how very much fun it is to be around a creature who is experiencing his first spring. Chance is just ecstatic, and periodically he runs up to me, pretty much shouting his totally obvious message: “WOW! This is SO COOL!” It’s great for Lupe, too, much more and better exercise than our walks. She’s initiated a game they play constantly: she is ‘herding dog’ and Chance is ‘you can’t herd me hahaha’ – with periodic double herding going on. And then they both sleep deeply, and Chance sleeps all night!


There’s lots more to do – there always is – both indoors and out, but this also means that dogs can spend time happily in the yard, and I can return to the studio quite soon, and finally have that full balance. In the meantime, this show opens Friday (copy below from the Cleveland Plain Dealer). I really do feel a strong ‘home’ connection to the Morgan, though mostly I experience it vicariously through Aimee, so I am utterly pleased to have been included as a Morganite. (And, the day after, Chance is six months old).

Morganites flier

FIBER IN FLUX – Heights Arts is presenting the paper exhibit, Morganites: Fiber in Flux April 25 – June 7 at the gallery located at 2175 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. An opening reception is planned 6-9 p.m. April 25 with a curator talk and poetry reading to be held 7 p.m. May 8.

Curated by Tom Balbo, artist and artistic director of Cleveland’s Morgan Papermaking Conservatory, the exhibition highlights Morgan Conservatory artists, featuring the collaborative effort of papermaking and the transference of craft, technique, and ideas. Works represent both handmade and commercial grade papers and fibers. This show illustrates a wide range of paper art processes including sculpture, print, pulp painting, book arts, painting and drawing.

Participating artists are Jared Akerstrom, Margaret Bakke, Tom Balbo, Melissa Jay Craig, Yuko Kimura, Aimee Lee, Stephanie Lee, Pam McKee, Julie McLaughlin, Mason Milani, Victoria Pickett, Steve Pittelkow, Lauren Sammon, Tony Trausch, Susan Vincent, Kirstin Wilders, and Paula Zinsmeister.


crawling out


I was quite wrong, thinking that I was finished with the flu after two days. That was just the end of the violent phase. It lingered on in a most uncomfortable form, and, alas, has been passed to Paul. During it, more snow and cold temperatures came. The snow’s gone now, and its arrival made a good thing out of the fact that I had not yet cleared the gardens, but still: an insult.  We missed Tuesday’s pup class, neither of us were well enough. Chance returned to the vet yesterday. The rest of his stitches came out and he is no longer drugged. Fortunately I do actually seem to be getting better; someone has to direct his considerable energy as it returns, and also to begin to deal with with the total wreck the house has become with both humans ill. That will be me.


I did some rather belated reading about aging during it all. Yes, I am hitting the time when the flu strikes harder (not that I really needed to confirm what I vividly experienced, I just wasn’t capable of much else). I guess that is why people retire to warm climates.  I won’t do that, but what I will try is a flu shot for the first time next fall.  It doesn’t prevent contracting it, but supposedly buffers: you get a milder case.  Paul had one, and that’s what ’s happened for him.  Today he has no voice, and my ears are somewhat worse from the assault on my sinuses.  We’re lucky that we have many years of alternative communication under our belts. (Gardens, very soon, please. And studio. And spring: true, headed-towards-summer, no-going-back spring?)


(Let’s try this again, and get it right, shall we?)

Oh, important SUMMER CLASS addendum / update: the Morgan class is now full; a waiting list is being created, but there are other 3D courses available, including Julie McLaughlin’s Big Ass Paper Kimono class, and Tom Balbo’s pulp casting extravaganza. There was one single space left open at Women’s Studio Workshop last time I checked, and I’m afraid that’s it for me this summer. Thanks for your understanding and interest!

Wee bumps in the road

Chance went in to the vet Tuesday to have the bandages taken off his rear leg, where the little useless dewclaw was removed. (Miraculously the bandage was still on, though much chew-frayed). He had pulled open two of the four stitches, which had gotten infected; of course we couldn’t see that through the bandage.  He hadn’t damaged them by chewing, they’d torn from his too-active antics (though as prescribed, he didn’t go for any walks, nor have any training sessions till Monday). We were supposed to keep him quiet, which we did to the best of our ability, but he is a strong, athletic young guy, bursting with energy. So he had a laser treatment, got a new bandage, antibiotics and: tranquilizers.


Which was just as well, because by Tuesday evening, I had started to feel pretty strange, enough that I asked Paul to  take over as handler at puppy class, something I don’t usually do (and the trainers don’t recommend).  The vet, recognizing Chance’s energy and personality, had said, “He’ll heal anyways eventually, go ahead and take him to class before you start the meds, he needs that.”

He certainly did. After nearly a week off to recuperate, Chance was a total, out-of-control rotten brat, though Paul didn’t let him get away with anything. By the end of class, I was a soupy, eye-watering, nose-dripping, coughing mess, and I stayed that way for over 48 hours. I had so far escaped any sort of flu or respiratory problems in 2014, even sailing through three polar vortexes, and yet, as soon as the weather finally got good: wham. I had plans, but everything shut down and Wednesday I slept and slept and was miserable the little time I was awake, though I did do a brief training session with Chance as best as I could: that boy needs it, tranquilizers, flu-ridden owner or not. Paul had to be out Thursday, so I stayed semi-awake, watching Chance’s half-tranquilized butt (I cut the pills in half during the day; the full dose makes him wobbly drunk). At night he gets a whole pill and everyone sleeps and heals. Today, finally, I can breathe and I’m hoping the pup’s leg is healing too.


Why the garden needs (standing-up) fences: we put these down when we found Chance shoulder-deep in mud last month; you can see his impressive hole lower right.  He may have dug out a giant hosta I put in this shady spot last year, but I have more to transplant if need be.

Though a rainy weekend is predicted, very soon I’ll be busy at one of my favorite aspects of life / work, in the garden: cleaning up for spring, feeding, scattering some early hardy seeds, trimming back roses, red-twig dogwood and mulberry, making and putting up a new tall trellis for the clematis, and fencing everything so I can enjoy both pup and plants.

The past few days were just a bump in the road: I’m still liking my life now better than ever.  This is one of the best things I’ve read lately that describes why. It’s spot-on.



Comforts of home and hometown

April came in fast: surgery for Chance on the first, and then constant mostly effective efforts to keep him quiet for a week, which had to include The Cone.  I attended training class without him, and it was very good for me to have time to observe the other pups working.


I resolved all but one last exhibition, cleared out my office (used as literal cold storage during what has been officially proclaimed the coldest winter that has ever been recorded in Chicago), got taxes ready, packed and loaded up work for the Morganite show, and had a sweet, fast trip to Cleveland, where my only regret was that I didn’t get to see Aimee’s solo show (and also check out its location).


It was a Morganite convergence weekend. Time there Saturday was short but rich: dropping the work, hanging a wee bit with Julie, Tom, Bruce, Mason as they all worked away, and seeing the working beater room, all the stuff happening with the Asian Paper Center, the latest fantastic donation of a superb collection of binding tools, a Kensol, brass type and a very sweet smaller working Washington hand press, and to take in the fallow garden, the winter-aged ears (I’ll write more about those soon). That evening there were twelve for a lovely dinner cooked by Mike and salad by Julie (massaged by Mason).  The Morgan is one place where I can always enjoy that sort of gathering: time to have side talks with everyone I want to see, and it absolutely doesn’t matter how much I do or don’t hear at the table: what I do hear is great, and when I don’t, I’m just plain pleased to be watching so many people I like so much relaxed and enjoying each other, and feeling the warmth that provides (even when everyone is a bit tired, including me).


The Morgan garden, waiting. I didn’t take many photos there and none during the party. At the Morgan, I’m often too busy talking and/or using my eyes to listen. With the Smiths, silences and images are a natural, easy part of the whole.


Two good portraits happened; Smith writing above, Lady at the Market below.


The rest of the time: my other warm hometown place to be, the gentle, sharp-witted, easygoing poetic energy of the Smiths and Mandikat. There, there are long, long friendships still unfolding, and this time the addition of Joanne and briefly, Wendy; and vicariously sharing in Lady’s full ongoing gathering of and intimacy with her environment and community energy. I so much like this chapter of the Smithstory: something long-deserved.  Saturday morning, a trip to the lifelong constant of the West Side Market.  Smith and I returned Sunday for a hometown farewell, viewing a mural of community by long ago colleague, cartoonist Gary Dumm, in excellent collaboration with spouse Laura Dumm.


In the middle of the drive between (western Ohio, eastern Indiana) there were still big crusty patches of dwindling icy snow on the northern sides of the freeway ditches.


At home, by Sunday, the cone was too full of duct tape repairs to be of any more use. The hind-leg bandage is frayed but still intact and will come off at the vet’s tomorrow, when Chance should be cleared to go for walks again and back to class in the evening. Today we began regular training again outdoors, Lupe had a long grand walk, and I planned my early garden work and pup-proofing for later this week. Spring.

And in the meantime, this show opened in Arizona, this class has only one space left, and this (larger) one has four spaces, and I am going to stick around after that for a gift to myself, and take this. Yes!


(Oh, I also bought and installed a new kitchen gate.)

Dogs + Art

aadogwhat The exhibition work has reached a tiny mandatory resting place; my part of the taxes are late, and need to happen now. I’ve been back at the web site work (still unpublished), making plans for Chance’s surgery aftercare and a quick trip next weekend to deliver work, see friends, have a break (hooray!)

Dogs share some similarities with art. For one thing, everybody’s got an opinion about them: how to train, what food / collar / equipment to use, when (or if) to neuter, and, if they are shelter dogs, what breed they might be, and on and on. I don’t even want to begin cataloguing opinions about art; just use your own. We are increasingly perplexed about ‘what’ Chance might be: he changes every few days. The latest  development is random patterning in his coat, which is still short but getting a bit longer and weirdly wavy and whorl-y. Could we be headed back towards one of his original suspected breeds, a Flat-Coated Retriever? Last week, when he was looking quite collie-like to me, someone at the training club asked, “Is that a Catahoula?” and this past Tuesday, by which time I was sure I had imagined any resemblance, “Is he a Collie?” (He did, incidentally, rather rock his puppy class that evening; I was proud). The club folks are dog-fanciers, people well versed in breed knowledge. On the street I get, “Ooh, what kind of dog is that?” and now I just reply: “Rescue mutt.” Someday, I might be tempted to get his DNA tested out of sheer curiosity, but really, as I’ve said, it’s who he becomes that’s important. Somehow, it all makes me think of my (too many) years in art schools, when students were relentlessly pressured to identify with this or that movement, ‘-ism’, or especially the latest trend garnering rarified buzz in some obscure academic journal. As both student (when we were force-fed Fluxus) and instructor (when I focused on the creator’s intention versus audience reception) and even just as an observer, what I cared about was an individual work’s impact: what was evoked by encountering this work? Authenticity never, ever needed to be justified by alignment with a theoretical basis for me. A good dog is a good dog, no matter her/ his bloodlines; art that is effective for me is a visual, visceral experience, regardless (and sometimes, in spite) of the sociopolitical views of its maker. aadogwhatart

Here, the artist cleverly employs a traditional rainy season palette of earth-based pigment, and a background patterning which, though muted, clearly pays homage to pointillism.

When making my own artwork, the pieces that tend to hold the most fascination for me are those that begin with an impulse, the mysterious, even mystical process that has a long and still-current history of being denigrated in academic discourse, labelled ‘intuitive.’ The spark may be something that I see (in the world or in my mind), a phrase, a small piece of a technical procedure or history; anything, really. But it begins a process of experimentation and discovery that I trust implicitly: these are the works that ask to be made, that teach me, shape me as they unfurl. They happen for reasons that are not always clear at the beginning and may change radically, require a lot of physical, mental or spiritual grappling, and evolve into something else along the way, and they require faith.


In a later departure, the artist turns to environmental work.  A found object is profoundly manipulated by unskilled brute force, in a stunning tribute to the principles of canine liberation, particularly addressing the issue of crushing boredom imposed by a blatantly speciesist human refusal to engage with inclement weather.

So it has been with dogs who come into and share my life. With Lupe, it was a simple flare in her glance at the Chicago pound. Face, the Supreme Dog of my life, I adopted sight unseen: she was a feral dog who found my dear departed Bro in rural Michigan. When he called to ask if I wanted her, something said: it’s time. With Chance, there was again that feeling that it was time, and an image that leapt out to me. He has something essential to teach me, as much as I’m teaching him, and we are only beginning the process. I don’t know yet what it will be, but I’m still taking it as I took him: on faith…even when I’m (literally) wrestling with him.


Spring-ish Sunday


It was a good week: the contents of one more exhibition got nailed down. Work for another is heading out the door, being picked up today after one more late addition and the cleaning of and slight adaptations to some early altered book works: dates and notices for that exhibition coming soon.  It’s kind of nice to have older works requested; keeps me from feeling strange for keeping what I view as these ancient, unsold things.  Borrowed-back work was picked up for still another exhibition, and more is being shipped for a different one (along with a lovely check for a piece I wanted also, but was just recently sold; something new will be made in its place for a June show). The last of what was needed for the next publication is done, and a fun-for-me quick delivery road trip is set for the first weekend in April: hooray!  All that’s left now are the contents of two more shows, crate-building for a third, shipping for three, then hopefully, finally, some studio and garden bliss before it’s time yet again to gather materials and hit the teaching road (a single trip this year, with two stops only: but still). In there are possible, under-discussion short air trips to some of the exhibition openings.


Also in with the entire busy mix is extensive daily pup training, more extensive than I’ve ever, ever, ever had to do before, and we still need to closely monitor him as well. Chance isn’t stupid by any means, but he is simply, purely willful, and is beginning the most difficult period of his life (or rather ours, in relation to him): adolescence. With us, with Lupe, he is utterly loving, but as is often said about Catahoulas, he does seem to be somewhat ‘psychologically more primitive’ than other dogs I have known. His surgery date is set: he’ll soon lose his testicles (and a single, hind-leg dew claw, a useless partially-developed appendage attached only by a flap of skin that he is sure to get caught in something and tear off, otherwise). I’m hoping that neutering him slightly early (at 22 weeks as opposed to 24) will help him, particularly with his aggressiveness towards his own species.


At times I’ve admittedly had some despair about him, particularly because my work is calling to me, getting more insistent all the time: things are asking – pleading, on the verge of demanding – to be made.  But I am working on compromises / strategies that will get me that time, and soon. There was a nice recent external ‘prod’ towards that in terms of a lovely brief mention of my work: a reminder that it’s not speaking only to me. And here’s something else I’m looking forward to: an author and her subject, both of whom I’m truly fond of and always impressed by.