Silence of the Slammed

I wish it were just procrastination.  But blahg entries are likely to be fewer and further between for the next eight months or so.  It just ain’t much of a life to write about right now, and that has me depressed (along with the crash of a future endeavor I’d hoped to be involved in; it took a nose-dive along with the economy.)  I had a nice e-mail from someone who bought one of my pieces, a work week dominated by feelings of futility, the crash, and today I’m shipping off two small works to San Francisco, show details to follow. There isn’t anything else to say at the moment; I’m in a purgatory period, and that’s that. 

Walk, Don’t Talk

Well, here’s the thing: I’m back in Chicago for a long while, and back into a situation where I can’t really blog about most of my present, nor my future possibilities.  That leaves only the bits of my life that currently look like this:

which has me feeling, blahg-wise, like this.

I mean, do you really want to know that Paul and I spent yesterday finally removing the last of the former owner’s wall-to wall carpet from the staircase in our house? It was actually rather satisfying: slashing through thick ugly beige pile, disposing of the powdery black dirt that had accumulated (for years!) beneath it, wrenching thousands of little tiny deep staples out of what proved to be lovely oak treads, and above all, making a measurable, pleasurable difference.

In many ways, it’s very good to be home and centered and not living out of a suitcase for awhile, even though I will have to keep reaching for things to write about, while keeping a lid on the things that I’m excited about till they can’t be damaged.

Folks in Chicago are still talking about The Rain; chances are, if you run into someone you haven’t seen for a week or two, they’ll ask, “Did you flood?”  On Monday, while the waters receded and some streets were still closed, I had a good time installing more copies of (S)Edition, a work dealing with the covert spread of ideas, at the Noyes Center.

On Tuesday, I received some exciting e-mail, and a gift from the flooding: two gorgeous huge parasol fungi sprung up in the back yard, popping up just like a fantastic idea.  All week, they unfurled, grew to be eight and nine inches wide, fascinating me.

Yesterday, alas, I had to uproot them, so the overgrown grass could be cut.  I got to study them in detail, photograph them in ways that I don’t when I find fungi in the woods, because I rarely disturb those, due to respect for their environmental function. While doing that, the bad, bad rain suddenly gave me a beautiful answer to a problem I was having with one of the new artworks. At the same time answers to other uncomfortable, seeping situations began to form.  Life does imitate art. And that, alas, is all I can say, for now.

In Other Words

I liked curator Doug Stapleton’s wall text from The Leaf and The Page, quite a bit:

In Melissa Jay Craig’s sculptures, her compositional elements (books, trees, pages, leaves) are conflated into a visual and metaphorical cross-play of associations. Book spines become trunks, or, as in …a memoir in this exhibition, pages the rotting hollow of a tree with suggestions of regenerative growth.

Strength, rot and decay, and, notably, the next cycle of growth, are imaged in the silent, meditative orms of her sculptural books. In That’s Life, the decaying book/tree sprouts vivid pages of fungi that are reminiscent of a re-reading of a beloved volume, or a reminder of the power of text to rebound with fresh insight

There is another referent in Craig’s work implied by the titles that calls to mind our own life cycle: our memories, histories and physical changes over time. Craig’s investigations into that larger cultural narrative, our metaphoric reading of our human experience as mirrored in nature’s steady seasonal process, call to mind the first stanza of Dylan Thomas’ poem, ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower’:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Drives my green age; that blasts the

roots of trees

Is my destroyer.

And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose

My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

Sometimes Other’s Words can help, particularly when, like now, I’m so often feeling like this:

Oddly, it’s frequently other Other’s Words that produce the feeling of needing to live behind a wall, or of deliberately disappearing into the surroundings.  That occurs when offered words are blatantly false, syrupy words of “support”, thoroughly and consistently belied by actions.  Such dysfunctional dances can make us ill. Political lies are poisonous, and in the US, through November, we’ll be inundated with them on a meta-scale. Understand this: politicians really do believe we are stupid enough to swallow it whole. Maintaining an appearance of having heartily eaten, to keep from being arrested, fired, deported or otherwise “disappeared” can be as debilitating as actually swallowing.

I don’t know any way through it, other than to keep covertly moving forward against the tide, overtly speaking through making, and to always, always find reasons to laugh. Humor isn’t a cure, but it can chip away at facades, poke holes in a culture of fear and falseness.

O’ course, I could have it all wrong, and Doug’s lovely words could be reduced to “art by old fart”. That could be humor, or that could be a side effect of swallowing the pill, eh?



an article about Marilyn Sward

Sadly, I haven’t finished my memorial to Marilyn; it’s still coming. My slowness is due to a combination of busy-ness, big emotion when I do work on it, and wanting to get it exactly right. But here is a link to an article that appeared in the Columbia Chronicle, with a great photo. Suzanne Cohan-Lange gave Marilyn that cheerleading outfit when she retired as the founding Director of the Center for Book and Paper Arts.

Soggy Saga

The reception for The Leaf and The Page Friday night was lovely, just completely enjoyable.  The space is huge, so even though there was a very large crowd, it wasn’t  uncomfortably packed. I knew two of the other artists, Carolyn Ottmers and Andrew Young, from my grad school days, so it was a bit of a reunion, and I saw several more people from way back, and met many new folks.

I was kept pretty busy schmoozing, so I still haven’t gotten to see much of the completed show. I plan to make time for an extended visit. Curator Doug Stapleton did a fantastic job; his wall statement about my work was sooo much better than even the newest one I wrote for myself (that I have yet to publish on my site).

Paul went with me (I rarely ask him to endure openings, but he liked this one); we walked to the el under dual umbrellas, in steady rain which never ceased, and we stopped for a carryout dinner in the neighborhood on the way back.  We’d have eaten somewhere nicer in the loop, but we wanted to get back before the weekend el repair shutdown began.

The rain kept on, and Saturday turned out to be the wettest day Chicago has ever had.  Freeways have been flooded and shut down, and people have had to evacuate as rivers rise.  The O’Hare el tunnel flooded, and it was shut down. Today, we’ll get the remnants of hurricane Ike that devastated Galveston and Houston.  For us, that translated to some basement seepage, so parts of yesterday were spent addressing that, in my studio down there.  We’re fortunate to have only had that (knock on wood). I had left an empty 2½ gallon bucket on the back porch on Friday morning, and now, Sunday morning, the water level in it is ½ inch from the top.

I e-mailed folks in Texas, to check on them in relation to Ike.  The gallery folks replied to say that they were fine, and all that happened to Austin is that they got some much needed rain, and that they sold another one of my pieces, woohoo!

For me, selfishly, the rain is good.  It’s the first time I’ve been able to physically slow down since I hit Chicago after returning from Jentel, to hang out at home and write a long (and probably boring) blahg. Tomorrow, I’m installing the show in Evanston, booking an October trip to Toronto, and working on another quickly upcoming show in San Francisco, plus finishing a presentation for my Friday class and other school stuff.  It’s absolutely fantastic that my artwork is getting this attention.  But, after eight months of being on “my time” I’m finding it difficult to adjust to the pace of school, particularly of having a job plus a career.  It’s not devastating, not even close, and I’m not complaining. But when my mind has a few seconds free to wander, this is where it goes: 


…or to Lewis. And then, I’m jolted back to:

One more rainy-day detail that Aimee sent from Korea, that we both found hilarious.  She’d been corresponding with someone in the states who I haven’t met. Somehow, my blahg was mentioned, and the person asked her if I had written this book. I love it. (And now I’ve gotta buy the book).

And EVERYONE: click on Aimee’s name above, to see the EXCELLENT papermaking video she’s just made, on the making of traditional Hanji paper (and it’s captioned!)

The Name’s Spelled Right (thanks to the writer’s craft)

Thanks to Laurie for alerting me to this review of The Leaf and The Page.  Her e-mail said, “nice review”.  It is nice, though there are a couple of phrases in there that certain people may have a field day with (the reference to craft, for instance), but all in all, it’s good to get reviewed, and I’m happy to be cited for comic relief. (I just got another text message saying “WooHoo!” because it is good to be reviewed by this writer. So: woohoo and thanks, Mr. Artner.)

Austin “ball moss”.  It’s growing all over the trees there.  Eventually, it will kill them if too many balls form on a single tree, and I was also told by the UT students to be careful, because chiggers like to live in there.  Still, I liked it, and packed up one to bring back, along with some Mountain Laurel pods and a couple of other odd seedpods I found whose forms I liked.  But the TSA searched my checked bag, and removed the box that contained them… a September 11th legacy, which begs the question: what could someone possibly do that’s dangerous with moss and nicely-shaped seedpods?  Maybe make art that’s frighteningly well-crafted?


Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday tooooo Meeeee!

I will be spending it teaching, and in long meetings re: the future, so any celebrations will take place this weekend.  I think I’ll appropriate Friday’s reception for the Leaf and the Page as one of them, at least privately.  I’m really looking forward to it!

The rest of my Austin trip was jam-packed with a bit too much to write about within today’s crammed schedule.  I did indeed see The Bats, and it was an incredible sight.  But, they were moving too fast and it was too dark to photograph – all I came up with were blurry streaks in the sky.  So, here’s a video for you.

The class talks at UT were excellent; very engaged students, great faculty folk too.  The flight home was delayed, but because of that, I got to see a sunset from above the clouds, and another un-photograph-able but fascinating spectacle: it was stormy near Chicago. Lightning from above is truly mesmerizing.

Last but not least, this is one of those “if today is your birthday” horoscopes.  I really like the last sentence, so true:

This year’s gift from the planets is even more courage. You have the inner gumption to scale unprecedented heights, reach the untouchable people and dive into what others are running away from. New people come into your life. Career changes favor you.

Many people find you attractive. You’re very private, but you’re also fascinating and witty. People sense you have a hidden, introspective side. You never shrink from a challenge because you’re courageous.  Socially, you’re attracted to characters.