Perplexing Peregrinations


Detail of an installation by Cary Baker, one of the two residents who came for my final two weeks at I-Park.  There are several white, perfectly gesturing jointed figures walking on the highly reflective pond (which makes them difficult to shoot). From across the pond, their reflections make them look about four feet tall, but they are actually only 12″ high. It’s a nice piece.


Whew. I’m back in Chicago, got in late Wednesday and rested up a bit yesterday…it was a busy busy busy and odd few days there.

The I-Park Open Studio on the ninth went really well, in spite of the fact that for about the fifth time during this residency, I couldn’t sleep and saw the dawn before I drifted off.  It was lovely to see Karen J and meet the friend and colleague who came up from New Haven with her. It was a long day, though. Finally, that night, I actually got eight hours of sleep, for the first time in a long time.


I did stay at I-Park on Monday the tenth, along with three other residents. Packing up everything took almost the entire day, and there were other things and some long goodbyes happening as well, so Anneliese and I didn’t get to go be tourists in Mystic as we’d planned.  But that evening, we did make it to the Connecticut River, which leads to the Atlantic, so I waved east towards Scotland anyways.  We drove around map-less for awhile looking for somewhere to eat, and finally found a rather nice old-style hotel that was, oddly, right next to a crowded free concert happening in East Haddam.  We had a tasty meal and a lot of fun on a big noisy canvas-covered outdoor deck overlooking the river and even noisier  concert. The seafood was sweet and fresh, delivered daily by boat. Then we had a hilarious drive trying to find our way back in the dark, trying to remember where we’d turned, and then Anneliese helped me finish loading – or rather just tossing stuff into the back of the car.

CT river

I definitely plan to go back to I-Park, and I got quite a bit of encouragement to do that, from several of the lovely folks there, which felt very, very good.

Tuesday, up bright and early; booked a two-day stay at a motel in Cleveland and shot out the door to awful traffic all through Connecticut on interstates, and long periods of sitting still in jammed up traffic on I-84 just into eastern New York.  Finally I couldn’t take anymore, and got off at the Taconic and took a longer but much more pleasant route to Women’s Studio Workshop.

As soon as I walked into the WSW office, they asked me if I wanted to stay and teach, beginning immediately!  One of the summer institute classes had begun the day before, and that morning, the instructor had a sudden family emergency, and had to leave.  It was a class on ‘collage techniques’, which included some embroidery, which I know nothing about, but also included some book structures, which I can teach anytime, anywhere. The class ended Friday (today).  I was kind of blind-sided and road-dazed, and didn’t know what to do.  I really do want to teach there, and I also really wanted to help out WSW, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the class description, couldn’t imagine what to teach; I just drew a blank. Also, I absolutely needed to stop in Cleveland on the way back, so staying till Saturday would have meant only two days at home before Ragdale.

Finally, I went and spoke to the people in the class, to see what, if anything, I might be able to help them with.  They definitely did not want to learn any book structures, they wanted ‘Collage Techniques’. I kept thinking, “What the hell is that?  You cut things out and you glue them down: presto, collage.” In any case, they seemed to be quite fine with just having a week of studio time, and a couple of folks seemed decidedly unenthusiastic about me taking over, so I thought it was a bad fit and they’d be happier on their own. (One woman, though, said, “I love your work!  Can you stay and do a slide talk?”  That was nice. I wrote down my URL for her.)

So, I apologized profusely to WSW, rearranged everything much more efficiently in the back of the car, and Kristen and I loaded up my cutter, and I took off again, feeling a bit stunned.

Almost immediately, I had my first police encounter, a weird one.  There were two light-flashing cars randomly stopping people heading into or out of the town of High Falls, and they chose me.  I rolled down the window and the officer said, “Hey, Illinois!” Apparently he  wanted to talk about the state, because he was traveling there in the fall, and he asked me a series of ludicruous questions while a line of traffic piled up behind us.  It was bizarre, and punched up my dazed-ness factor a couple more notches.


Maybe two hours later, I was skirting the lower edge of the Catskills on NY 52,  a smaller road, a very nice drive for both beauty and amusement.  The landscape is gorgeous and the man-made bits still have that corny borscht-belt flavor, and I love it.  There’s a place called Loch Sheldrake, where there is a Stage Door Manor summer camp, and Hassidic vacationers in sober (hot!) black mix with their t-shirted ‘n’ flip-flopped counterparts. Shortly after getting on the more highway-like route 17, I stopped for gas and went across the road for a frozen yogurt in a 50’s-style stand that also served all the usual junk food like hotdogs and burgers and nachos…and knishes.

Maybe it was the sugar in the yogurt, but, back on the road, I suddenly began to think of things I could have taught the WSW class that could be used for collage: lifting images with acrylic mediums, solvent transfers, paste-paper technique, even woven longstitch embellishments to take the place of embroidery; I could have gotten some Lasertran FedExed in.  I started to feel extremely guilty…and also to wonder, sadly,  what has happened to my lifelong ability to think on my feet. Things seem to blind-side me so easily these days. A spontaneous class wouldn’t have been problematic even momentarily a few years ago, and I wouldn’t have let WSW down…

And so, preoccupied with that, I wasn’t paying much attention, and was doing 80 in a 55-mile-an-hour zone, which brought me my second police encounter.  He had me red-handed, but he wrote me a ticket for not putting my flashers on when I pulled over, instead of the moving violation, which would have messed up my insurance rates.

I decorously drove the entire rest of the way into Cleveland very near to the speed limit, which got me in well after midnight.

(next: The Morgan)