Interruption w/ Unavoidably Obtuse Rant

Ye gods, I have been entirely distraught all evening.  I finished all my casting late last night, slept way too late, and today I wanted to begin the color.  I got the studio partly reconfigured, and then the very world I most need to ignore blew in, in the form of a couple of e-mails, and crashed right down on my head. I’m writing this appeal, and then I hope, in the morning, to get back to the great place I was in…


A friend wrote on her blog today of thinking, “How did I get here?” during a recent event. I feel her, because I’ve thought that for a whole lot of the past two years.  I just began to believe it was now finally over, and I could return to who I actually am: this gardening, sort-of quiet, admittedly odd, kind of friendly, hopefully often funny, obsessively working visual artist who would rather be in the studio or out under the sky than anywhere else.  Instead, I seem to have become a symbol, or a repository for the vindication of some collective feelings about a situation I obviously (pretty damned obviously, I should think) had no control over.  I can’t blog about it directly, but I’ve just been accused of complicity in – no, actually, of masterminding – the ‘subversion’ of an ongoing event that I wasn’t even aware of until a few days ago. I do NOT need this.


Right now, some well-meaning people are trying, I think, to make a statement by campaigning on my behalf during this rather silly event.  Yesterday, when I thought this was nothing more than a weird little sideshow in my life, yes, I even posted a totally goofy Facebook message urging support for me. (This is something anyone and everyone else on the planet is encouraged to do in the context of this event, so I saw no harm in it).  But: I have just gotten a scathing message from someone I have never met, accusing me, in no uncertain terms, of maneuvering the entire event towards what are perceived as my own devious personal ends, described as my desire to ‘stick it to’ people.

cannot take this kind of shite anymore, folks.

How did I get here?

Granted, I am outspoken, and granted, I will fight, do fight, and most assuredly have fought (way too long) for what I believe in. And yes, granted, I am relieved that at least I seem to be symbolizing something good.  Even more than granted, I am very, very glad to know that I am liked so well, and I thank everyone (however much of a paradox thanks may seem to be in this context) for your well-intended support.  But, dear people, please: I would really, really, really rather not become the Poster Child For What Was. Truly. I’m so tired of exactly this kind of misinterpreted crap.

I lost something I once cared deeply about, but I did not lose myself, nor my art. I need to move on, and up, and away.  This silliness, though I am certain it sprang from the best, absolutely positive intentions, has just sucked me straight back into an atmosphere that was entirely toxic to me, right at the time when I am finally able to breathe some lovely clean fresh air again.


If you really want to support ME, the person, the artist (and of course I hope you do), then, hey: come out to my shows, or if you’re curating one, think of me, or if you’ve got money, buy some work, or if you teach, invite me to your class, or drop me a line when you’ve got a show or a performance going on, or invite me to your next party, or if you’ve read a book or see a great show or a residency or a grant you think I’d like, let me know, or let’s get together for lunch or coffee or wine or to look at art… or you can always (always!) bring me sushi or ginger or dark chocolate or a dram of good whiskey (might as well push it while I’m at it) – or even just shoot me an e-mail or FB message or Blahg comment now and again…but please: just let the part of all this that involved me go. I’m trying very hard to do just that, and I need your help.

Thank you. End of rant. Everything ends eventually, good things and bad.




When I mentioned to Roger that this was my favorite work on the land, he smiled and said, “I know her!” and gave me her name: Cornelia Konrads.  I immediately found her website: if you like this work, you ..MUST.. see.. it.  And…she makes books! Delicious sculptural books.  I e-mailed her and got an immediate reply, with her permission to post the link.  She’s coming back to I-Park; we will miss each other by one month. I will look forward eagerly to seeing what she does here next, that’s certain. (If you go to the site, click on ‘gallery’ – the site specific work is there, not in the site-specific link, which wasn’t functioning.  You’ll be very glad you did).


Yes!  It’s Luna III, or one of the first two after a rough night.


This piece is on its way back to Germany with Roger early tomorrow morning. He built a mini-version of his I-Park armature and together we carefully mounted one of my thinner overbeaten abaca sheets onto it. He will keep it for his own collection; and I have a four-and-a half-foot intact shed snakeskin he found in the woods.


This is a detail of a little wheeled cart with all sorts of rapidly decaying kinetic devices on it, built of scraps and found things, that sits in the big meadow.  I liked this bit, which is still functioning, spinning with a breeze, though missing a ‘blade’.


It’s been a busy busy few days, with a well-attended ‘mini open studio’ that let those of us who are staying know what to expect at ours on August 9th, a big potluck dinner, two writer residents and Roger departing, and two newly-arrived residents here tonight, whom I’ve just met briefly.  Also tonight, I finished making the final post of I-Park paper; I’ll spend the next two days casting and shaping those, then the whole studio gets reconfigured for dyeing and building. There’s a bandsaw. And, I’ve found two likely sites for my installed piece; the grouping of trees above is probably my favorite. Blahgs may get scarce again, but, as I hope you can tell, I’m loving it all.


Middle Earthiness

Roger 1

It’s exactly the midpoint of my residency today. There are three two-week residents (two writers and an environmental artist) who are leaving tomorrow and this afternoon, a ‘mini-open-studio’ open to the public, featuring their work.  Wednesday, three new two-week residents arrive, and  Sunday, August 9 is our open house, with seven of us, and if you are near here, please come!

Roger 2

I wanted to show you Roger Rigorth’s work (and have his permission to do so).  He is from Germany, part of I-Park’s 2009 Environmental Art program, and basically he travels the world building these things, though he does have a studio practice as well.  Check out his website.  (‘Galerie’ shows studio work, ‘Symposien’ shows the worldwide environmental pieces). It’s been fascinating to watch this work happen, and I’ve really enjoyed our conversations as well, and I love the piece…all sorts of associations form in its presence.  It’s huge, too – the individual structures are over ten feet tall.  The weaving is done with thick rope made of ‘manila hemp’ – the same fiber I am using as a fine, fine pulp. It’s incredibly solidly built as it is now, and Roger says that when it gets wet (it rained last night) it will contract as it dries, just like the overbeaten paper fiber does (not as intensely!), and further strengthen the structure.

Roger in progress2

I am trying very hard not to make any comparisons with the speed of Roger’s pace and my seemingly incredibly slow sheetmaking, hand-shaping and casting…but when I first went to look at his work, three days into the residency, he already had the long, ball-topped pieces cut and shaped, and one of the weaving armatures finished.  (Incredibly to me, all the Environmental Art program folks make their work in a two-week period – though, if you are here during the main sessions, you will have your dinners provided so as to facilitate your work). So, OK, yesterday I worked out a schedule to adhere to in order to finish both my studio work and the (smallish) outdoor installation, if it’s approved.  So now I’d better get out there and at it.  But I’ve been very, very glad to have met Roger. He’s given me a lot to think about. Next, he heads back to Korea.


(Roger’s on-site transport.)

Luna Tune Two


So, I got so excited about finally seeing a Luna, and then heard from a friend from Vermont who said she used to see one every night in the summers, sometimes two.  Sure enough, there was a second Luna yesterday, hanging out all day on the wind chimes just outside the studio back door.  It was a different one; the first had some dings in his feathery antennae and this one didn’t.  This, I am comfortably thinking, is more abundance.  And I finally saw some eastern deer yesterday, two does in their sleek summer red-copper coats.  I came around a bend and surprised them. We stared at each other for two heartbeats and then they fled from my two-legged-ness, white tails waving.


During this production stage in my work, I take my walks in the early evening because I love the light at that time, and inevitably feel as if I’m inhabiting a Maxfield Parrish landscape each time I approach the house or the reflective pond; it’s the further abundance of tall tall oaks, maples, black walnut, beech trees, dwarfing anything human-made: utterly, absolutely peaceful.


(The house is two stories tall plus attic…see what I mean?)


(One of the residents, Jefferson, is out in the canoe in the upper right…)

Amusing Award

Apparently, I am up for  (name, title of award, and link removed, 8/1/09 ) award, as part of her exhibition, “(show title also removed, 8/1/09)” – which I haven’t seen, but find, um, amusing, given the venue.  You see, the show is about her confrontations with exactly the type of ludicrous, entirely partisan practices routinely employed  by corporat…oh, hell, let’s just leave it at that. I’m having too good a time right now to bother.  I’m certain she’s completely unaware of any stupendous hypocrisy.  In any case, you’d have to go there to vote. But thanks to whoever nominated me; that’s sweet. And absolutely hilarious!  (I have also asked the artist to remove my name from the event blog, and she has done so 8/1/09).

Luna (no ticks)

Today, all day and late into the evening, I had a visitor. It was a dreary, rainy day, which was good because I am now in the laborious production stage.  We went for an early morning grocery run, and then I got to work. Even though there are double glass doors in the studio, each with a somewhat annoying (but probably necessary) big translucent white X in the middle, I had the lights on because it was so overcast.  At about noon, I looked up, and there he was, peering in at me.


It’s a Luna moth!  They’re huge, gorgeous things, and a rare sight.


When I was oh, about 9 or 10, and lived in a town in Ohio that was partly suburban development and partly old run-down family farms, I hung out for a summer with the neighborhood science geek, the skinny smart kid with a bad haircut, knobby knees and glasses held together with strapping tape.  We spent that whole summer obsessively searching for a Luna moth. He wanted to kill one with formaldehyde and stick a pin through it; he had a collection of mounted winged insect mummies containing just about every other species native to the area. Personally, I just really, really wanted to see one (OK, and hopefully scare it away before he got the jar on it).  It was an enchanting creature to me, and elusive enough to be a Quest. We stayed out very, very late almost every night (in a parental bow to science on his part, by the grace of alcoholic indifference on mine), running wild in the fields and woods, wading in creeks by moonlight, because Lunas only fly at night.  We never found one, but being out and free in the secret, scented dark had its own magic, a feeling which has never quite left  me.


I never did see a live Luna moth until today, just mounted ones in museums (where the kid probably ended up working).  My Luna stayed there all day and all night, barely moving, just seeming to stare at me.  I brought other residents to see him, we shot flash photos, and still he stayed. I left for dinner, turned the lights out, and he was there when I returned.  Finally, a little after midnight, I finished up; about twenty minutes later, I went back out of sheer curiosity, and he was gone.  He’ll only live for a few days, but I’m glad he escaped a pin. I’ve finally seen my Luna moth, and it was still enchanting.

Lunafull2 (I forgot to say: the day before, deep in the woods on top of a steep rocky ridge just before sunset, I saw a huge Great Horned Owl, also fascinating. But they eat Lunas).




One of the reasons I wanted to come here is that I-Park encourages and works with artists who engage in some way with nature (though not exclusively so).  This, I am quickly finding, makes for a swift empathy and connection with my fellow Fellows. I-Park also has a thriving and ambitious environmental art / land art program every other year (this year’s two focused sessions will begin just after I leave); but is also quite encouraging to its Enclave Fellows (that’s me) who wish to interact with the land.  It’s also broadly international and interdisciplinary. Some of the works are temporary, such as performance sites, and others stand the test of time.  This makes walking about the already fascinating 400 acres just delightful.  Here’s a small sampling of some of my favorite sites so far (I haven’t been on all the trails yet).  There’s no labeling, so I can’t give you artist’s names, only what I can remember from the initial two-hour tour. Yesterday, I went back over everything we were shown the day before , with camera, at my own pace (and for the moment, I’ll even spare you all the absolutely gorgeous fungi).

First, there is the work the I-Park folks have done and continue to do: creating the programs, building and outfitting the studios, maintaining excellent gardens, maintaining trails, planning, hauling in donated materials, rigging extensive outdoor lighting, and much, much more: here’s a tiny sampling. The ferns are not planted, they occur naturally in big patches throughout the woods; sturdy wooden pathways snake through marshy areas, and a number of studios are freestanding structures (this is the composer’s studio).




Below is my absolute favorite piece, which I am going to have to shoot at a different time of day; it’s in a small clearing and gorgeous against the sky. It’s a towering tree either disintegrating into the sky or being drawn down from it.  The artist is female, and German, and I am her newest fan:


A floating living room (shown docked) complete with functional lighting, reading material, and a glass-bottomed window.  I believe this artist is American, but am not sure I remember correctly.  I do definitely plan an afternoon float, though:

IP Livrm

A very recent (last session) work that reminds me of MaesHowe. Again, I think but am not certain that the artist is Canadian or maybe American:


“I-Park” in massive characters, by a Chinese artist:


Below is a small portion of an ongoing project by a Belgian artist; she’s created a series of connecting paths throughout the property, called Mie’s Trail, that follow and highlight some of the land’s unique characteristics. When she does intervene at different points on the pathway, she brings nothing in but subtly works with what is already there (I keep thinking of Suzi Gablik).  Here, she comes in yearly and cleans away everything but the red pine needles, in a perfect circle; in another place, she clears out invading plants from a beautiful velvety green area of undulating moss-covered rocks and earth.  It’s some of the most ephemeral, exquisite work on the place:


No, no, it’s not Patrick Dougherty, but (again, I think) a German artist:


I haven’t been up here yet, but this is a sturdily-mounted school desk and chair, I think by an American:


There are several sites by this woman, whose nationality I forget: she is ‘repairing’ trees and schisms in rocks with stitching, knitting and crocheting, some sites so huge that I couldn’t photograph them.  This photo does not do the intricacy of her work justice. At this site, there are several strips of peeling bark descending from a stitched up fallen tree whose edges have been neatly blanket-stitched, which just makes me smile:


A creature tree by a Russian artist, complete with ceramic fungus, and my favorite of the creatures, below it. Somehow it reminds me of walking straight into an Arthur Rackham illustration:



Yes, I am absolutely planning an outdoor site work of my own, and very likely,  a collaborative one as well, which is exciting. Now, off to more walks, and then the studio: last night’s freshly made abaca sheets await me.

Boomerang back east


I’m here at I-Park, on the day that I am supposed to be here!  After being late to Catwalk and Jentel last year, and WSW this year, I finally broke that disturbing trend. I even got here before several other folks; amazing. The studio’s unloaded and the room is all unpacked.

However, I am exhausted.  I confess that I did end up leaving between four and five hours after I had hoped to (with not much sleep the night before), causing my least favorite drive situation ever: I-80 across Pennsylvania at night. Usually I like driving mountains, no matter the time. But 80 is always insane at night because of all the trucks headed to New York city, masses of them.  And also because they are going up and down long steep foggy grades from the Alleghenies all the way across the state to the Poconos; they crawl up, and just let it rip on the way down; the highway patrol apparently ceases to exist in PA after sundown.  (During the day, they’re out, and the trucks gear down and even stay in the truck lanes. At night, they own that road). I clocked so many eighteen-wheelers doing well over a hundred mph downhill.  I was going to drive till 1:30 am exactly, but stopped about 45 minutes before that, after driving through a huge slippery patch of fresh, red gore on a long downgrade; one of them had hit a deer (or some deer) so hard and at such a velocity that it (they) basically exploded.  I’d had enough.


So I pulled off at the next exit with motels; Clearfield, PA, smack in the middle of the state.  The first place was full.  The second ‘only’ had a gigantic room with a king-sized bed and a whirlpool.  I blessed Paul once again for triple A; all that luxury was only $20 more than the bare-bones utilitarian place I stayed in on my way to WSW.  I only got about four hours sleep, but the time in the whirlpool counted for at least triple that.


Good-bye NY and PA; I just drove over those & miles and miles of them behind these, too…

But here I am at I-Park and I can already tell it’s great, even though I’m mightily fried.  The studio is small but entirely workable with great features like big double glass doors, a sink with a snazzy detachable spray head and lots of big ceiling fixtures with full-spectrum lights. The house is super-comfortable and loaded with conveniences, and the area and what I could see of the grounds are great…gardens gardens gardens and lots of sculpture and artist-made practical things like benches and picnic tables everywhere.  When I come out my bedroom door, the hallway light goes on automatically; nice touch. We’re right next to Devil’s Hopyard State Park, rocky cliffs, gorgeous views, lots of trails, some with waterfalls, and we’re also about 40 minutes from the Atlantic (Old Saybrook. Lyme, Katharine Hepburn’s Fenwick).

My favorite feature at first glance: right outside my studio is a spacious, private outdoor shower, complete with rows of sheltered candles for night-time atmosphere, and a gigantic mirror for daytime after-hike tick checks.  Here’s some random quickie photos.




These plants are way taller than me…

I should just barely make it through the welcome dinner in a few minutes, meeting the other residents, and then I am sleeping, sleeping, sleeping till my feet and legs stop vibrating as if they’re still in the car.



Detail, one of the front gardens

It’s been a quiet week at home, an interlude.  Paul took me out for a dinner date; we consumed some nice not-overloaded-with-cheese fresh Mexican food, with a lovely tasty ceviche and enough margaritas for me to sleep through that night’s thunderstorm.  I got some  necessary mundane things done, set some things in motion at a few meetings, but mostly, I stayed close to home and to Paul, quietly being present as he begins to recover from his months-long, sad, uncertain ordeal, seeing his beloved mom off on her final journey.

It’s been good to have this down time for me, too.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the work I made at WSW, what I will make at I-Park and Ragdale, and of course, about the still-not-quite-in-focus future.  One concrete thing I have decided towards that future is to actually not apply for any fall residencies.  Once my beater arrives, the downstairs studio will be reconfigured, and I want to work here for awhile, both on my own work, and on the house itself.

I’ve never really lived in this house for more than a few weeks (think winter break) on my own schedule, and I have only had even shorter bursts of working in my studios here that way. I want to see how it will be for me.  Also, I’ve been thinking that my residency schedule is likely to change: it may very well be that winter will become my traveling season, and my summers will be spent here. Think of it: I could actually enjoy my gardens instead of popping in to rip out five-foot-high weeds twice a season.


I did that all day today. I am proud to say that finally, after all these years, even with last year’s neglect, my perennial plants have finally begun to crowd out the weeds, instead of the other way around, except for two spots in the back garden. There was, however, an insanely intense infestation by a kudzu-like vine on the west side of the house; like an alien, it had also crawled under the siding in three places, and I pulled out twelve feet of  it transformed into a leafless, totally white creepy creeper in one location.  Regardless, it was a pleasant day…and there were enough volunteer plants scattered around the yard from annuals I had in last year to plug the two blank spaces left by the relentless genocide I committed on a couple of species of weed in the back.


Cleome at the end of the season last fall, over 7 feet tall.  Some of my all-time favorite annuals.  About 25 of them volunteered this year.

Chicago is a fine place to be in the summer, except for a few insanely hot days. It’s our compensation for enduring the winters, yet I haven’t spent a summer here for many years.  I’m going to enjoy that, and February is going to see me starting seeds for two new garden strips.

Tomorrow: two quick last-minute business-hour errands, packing and loading, and then I’m on the road again the next morning, heading towards Connecticut and I-Park, the ‘middle residency’.


Bee Balm, right now.


Yellow Coneflower, 2007 (with Russian Sage, Nigella, Korean Feather Grass, Hollyhocks, Purple Coneflower) – this is just getting ready to begin blooming this year.  In this photo, it was a bit over six feet tall, now it’s about 10.